Arthurian Literature: The Evolution of Merlin Essay

Arthurian Literature: The Evolution of Merlin Essay

Length: 2341 words (6.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Arthurian Literature: The Evolution of Merlin         

 
    In all the long history of literature, some fictional characters have loomed above others, written about again and again by various authors of various eras. Arthurian literature is one area of fiction that has always been popular for writers to recreate in new versions, and one of the most intriguing characters of all Arthurian literature is Merlin, the magician/ prophet who aids Arthur early in his reign. As the Arthurian saga develops, so does Merlin, changing from an aloof, druidical character into a more human, magical being, though always retaining some traces of his Welsh origins.

Merlin gains his first mention in eight ancient Welsh poems attributed to the Welsh bard Myrddin. (Bruce) Signs of his Welsh, druidical heritage are all through the verses. One poem invokes an apple-tree to hide Merlin from his pursuing enemies, and magical apple-trees are common in Welsh fairyland. Another of Merlin's purported poems is addressed to a little pig, and in another he mentions a wolf as one of his few companions. Both of these animals are common devotional cult-objects in Welsh druidism. One poem indicates that Merlin/Myrddin spends a great deal of his time with deer, perhaps even appearing in the form of a stag and living as one. This description is reminiscent of the Welsh stag-god Cernunnos, "The Horned One," who appears as a man with a stag's head and associates with deer. (Tolstoy) In the Welsh poem "Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin" ("The Dialogue of Merlin and Taliesin"), written down around 1050, we receive our first indication of Merlin's most prominent gift in later literature, that of prophecy. The poem ends with the lines "Since I, Myrdin, am next after ...


... middle of paper ...


...ne of the great and enigmatic characters of the Matter of Britain and, for that matter, of all literature.

  Works Cited

Bruce, Dr. James Douglas.

The Evolution of Arthurian Romance. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1958.

Loomis, Roger Sherman.

The Arthurian Romance. London: Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., 1963.

Loomis, Roger Sherman, ed.

Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History. Clarendon Press, 1959.

Ownbey, E. Sydnor.

Merlin and Arthur: A Study of Merlin's Character and Function in the Romances Dealing with the Early Life of Arthur. Vanderbilt University, 1932.

Paton, Dr. Lucy Allen.

Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance. New York: Burt Franklin, 1960.

Tatlock, J.S.P.

The Legendary History of Britain. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1950.

 

 

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Use of Magic in Medieval Literature Essay

- The Use of Magic in Medieval Literature The concept of magic and magical creatures has been around for a long time, however, in the time period ranging from Beowulf to Malory's Arthur, there has been an evolution in attitudes and the consequent treatment of magic in medieval literature. The discussion of magic involves not only the disparity between Christian and pagan tradition but also of gender roles, most notably in the Arthurian mythos. Beowulf, Marie De France's Bisclavret and Lanval, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sit Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur involve the concept of magic and magical creatures and consequently, illustrate the treatment of magic of their time....   [tags: Literature Essays Literary Criticism]

Powerful Essays
2855 words (8.2 pages)

Arthurian Folk Tales Essay

- The Arthurian tales are one of the many well known series of folk tales in our history of literature. The stories consist of adventure, romance and quest of King Arthur and other knights of the round table. Most of their quest are very specific to them, and only these specific knights are only person capable of accomplishing these task such as sword in the stone; where Arthur is the only man who can successfully pull the Excalibur from the stone that Merlin casted a spell on, thus beginning Arthur’s life as a king (sacred-text”drawing of the sword”, par 3)....   [tags: arthurian tales]

Powerful Essays
1203 words (3.4 pages)

The Sword in the Stone of the Arthurian Legend Essay

- The Sword in the Stone of the Arthurian Legend King Arthur and the knights of the round table belong to a long line of books and stories of the Arthurian legend. Merlin, Lancelot, The lady of the lake, King Arthur, and Excaliber are all very important in the Arthurian legend. In this essay we will talk about King Arthur, the knights of the round table, and Merlin in the famous story, The sword in the stone.      The Sword in the stone is a book about an adopted child named wart. He is of royal blood and does not know this....   [tags: Arthurian Legend Sword Stone Essays]

Powerful Essays
1762 words (5 pages)

The Real Merlin Essay

- From the shores of Avalon to the court of King Arthur, tales and accounts of the mystical Merlin abound. Did Merlin really exist, and if so, was he the dark magical wizard of legend or an image conjured up by superstitious townsfolk to explain occurrences they didn't understand. To answer this question, one should first look at the actual accomplishments of the figure Merlin. When was the character introduced and what did he do afterwards. What kinds of feats did this person accomplish to make him as well known as he is....   [tags: Myths Arthurian Papers]

Powerful Essays
2172 words (6.2 pages)

Geoffrey of Monmouth's Life of Merlin Essay

- Geoffrey of Monmouth's Life of Merlin Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Life of Merlin” is a text that makes its readers struggle with finding criteria for madness. What does it even mean to be “mad?” Madness seems to define a person only when he or she does something to stray from the normality of any given group of people. Breaking societal norms often leaves people open to criticism and suspicion. In order to be sane and mentally healthy, one has to abide by all explicit and implicit rules of society....   [tags: Geoffrey Monmouth Life Merlin Essays]

Powerful Essays
1833 words (5.2 pages)

Essay about MERLIN

- MERLIN There is bitter controversy among scholars and theologians alike as to whether of not Merlin was a real historical figure or a product of literary imagination. Much of the earlier poetry attributed to him in Welsh manuscripts, it seems, comes from authentic prophetic verse that Merlin himself spoke. Merlin was first seen in Geoffrey of Monmouthís History of the Kings of Britain written c. 1136. Many people do not accept Geoffreyís words as truth. Many say that Geoffrey wrote Merlinís legendary Prophecy referring to twelfth-century politics of King Henry IIí court....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Free Essays
593 words (1.7 pages)

Tennyson's Merlin and Vivien Essay

- Tennyson's Merlin and Vivien Known as one of Victorian England's finest poets, Lord Alfred Tennyson epitomized the agony and despondency of the degradation of one's character. His masterpiece, The Idylls of the King, explicates the grand scheme of corruption of the Authurian age while simultaneously paralleling Tennyson's own internal struggles. A most intriguing chapter of The Idylls, "Merlin and Vivien" portrays the manipulative Vivien, identified as pure evil and hatred, as her corruptive beauty leads to Merlin's self-destruction....   [tags: Lord Alfred Tennyson Papers]

Powerful Essays
1648 words (4.7 pages)

Essay on Women in Beowulf and Arthurian Legend

- Women in Beowulf and Arthurian Legend A common theme in the stories we have read is that glory, happiness, and success come in cycles (this theme is commonly represented as "the wheel of fortune"). This theme is present in the Arthurian tales, as well as in Beowulf. Each story tells a tale (or part of a tale) of a rise to glory, and the proceeding fall to disarray. The men always were the kings and warriors, but the women played different roles in the different stories. The women of Beowulf were used to bind up peace (or were peaceful women), whereas the women of Arthurian legend tended to disturb the peace and cause strife....   [tags: Females Beowulf Arthurian Legend Essays]

Powerful Essays
1281 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Arthurian Legend

- Arthurian Legend Even though the Arthur legend is hundreds of years old, our culture today is still fascinated with the idea of the Round Table and the love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere. There are movies and books galore to read about the different takes on the legend of Arthur. However, it makes one wonder if our culture really understands the Arthurian legend. Especially in the movies the central idea of a literary work can be lost. Compared to Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur have movies lost sight of what the Arthurian legend tries to teach....   [tags: Arthur Malory Le Morte Essays]

Powerful Essays
1500 words (4.3 pages)

Merlin Essay

- Merlin Throughout the ages Merlin has been depicted as a druid, bard, necromancer, magician and prophet. Though we may never know if any of his fictitious interpretations are truthful, we speculate he was nothing more than a Celtic bard who lived in the 500's near Solway Frith. It is said that this strange poet, going under the alias of Myrddin, was a madman and a prophet. Myrddin's claim to fame was creating so much tension between the British chieftains of his time that they fought each other in the Battle of Arderydd....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
802 words (2.3 pages)