The Story of Merlin by Unknown
Merlin was a King in early Britain; he was
also an Enchanter. No one knows who were
his parents, or where he was born; but it is said
that he was brought in by the white waves of the
sea, and that, at the last, to the sea he returned.
When Merlin was King of Britain, it was a
delightful island of flowery meadows. His subjects
were fairies, and they spent their lives in
singing, playing, and enjoyment. The Prime
Minister of Merlin was a tame wolf. Part of
his kingdom was beneath the waves, and his subjects
there were the mermaids. Here, too, everyone
was happy, and the only want they ever felt
was of the full light of the sun, which, coming
to them through the water, was but faint and cast
no shadow. Here was Merlin’s workshop, where
he forged the enchanted sword Excalibur. This
was given to King Arthur when he began to
reign, and after his life was through it was flung
into the ocean again, where it will remain until
he returns to rule over a better kingdom.
Merlin was King Arthur’s trusted counselor.
He knew the past, present, and the future; he
could foretell the result of a battle, and he had
courage to rebuke even the bravest Knights for
cowardice. On one occasion, when the battle
seemed to be lost, he rode in among the enemy
on a great white horse, carrying a banner with
a golden dragon, which poured forth flaming fire
from its throat. Because of this dragon, which
became King Arthur’s emblem, Arthur was known
as Pendragon, and always wore a golden dragon
on the front of his helmet.
Merlin was always fond of elfin tricks. He
would disguise himself—now as a blind boy,
again as an old witch, and once more as a dwarf.
There was a song about him all over Britain,
which began as follows:
“Merlin, Merlin, where art thou going
So early in the day, with thy black dog?
Oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi! oi!
Oi! oi! oi! oi! oi!”
This is the way the early British explained the
gathering and arrangement of the vast stones
of Stonehenge. After a famous battle had been
won there, Merlin said: “I will now cause a
thing to be done that will endure to the world’s
end.” So he bade the King, who was the father
of King Arthur, to send ships and men to Ireland.
Here he showed him stones so great that
no man could handle, but by his magic art he
placed them upon the boats and they were borne
to England. Again by his magic he showed how
to transport them across the land; and after they
were gathered he had them set on end, “because,”
he said, “they would look fairer than as if they
were lying down.”
Now, strange to say, the greatest friend of
Merlin was a little girl. Her name was Vivian;
she was twelve years old, and she was the daughter
of King Dionas. In order to make her acquaintance,
Merlin changed himself into a young
Squire, and when she asked him who was his
master, he said: “It is one who has taught me so
much that I could here erect for you a castle,
and I could make many people outside to attack
it and inside to defend it.”
“I wish I could thus disport myself,” answered
Vivian. “I would always love you if you could
show me such wonders.”
Then Merlin described a circle with his wand,
and went back and sat down beside her. Within
a few hours the castle was before her in the
wood, Knights and ladies were singing in its
courtyard, and an orchard in blossom grew about.
“Have I done what I promised?” asked Merlin.
“Fair, sweet friend,” said she, “you have done
so much for me that I am always yours.”
Vivian became like a daughter to the old magician,
and he taught her many of the most wonderful
things that any mortal heart could think
of—things past, things that were done, and part
of what was to come.
You have been told in Tennyson that Vivian
learned so many of Merlin’s enchantments that
in his old age she took advantage of him and put
him to sleep forever in the hollow of a tree. But
the older legend gives us better news. He showed
her how to make a tower without walls so they
might dwell there together alone in peace. This
tower was “so strong that it may never be undone
while the world endures.” After it was
finished he fell asleep with his head in her lap,
and she wove a spell nine times around his head
so that he might rest more peacefully.
But the old enchanter does not sleep forever.
Here in the forest of Broceliande, on a magic
island, Merlin dwells with his nine bards, and
only Vivian can come or go through the magic
walls. It was toward this tower, so the legends
say, that, after the passing of King Arthur, Merlin
was last seen by some Irish monks, sailing
away westward, with the maiden Vivian, in a
boat of crystal, beneath the sunset sky.