Every child is taught of the great wizard Merlin; the sorcerer to King Arthur, but did you know that many of the tales of Merlin are relatively unknown?
In one tale, Merlin is traveling by night, and he stops at the cottage of a kindly couple. They take him in and feed him and Merlin is very touched by their kindness. Yet he cannot fail to notice that they seem to be rather in a state of despair. When he questions them about their sadness the couple tells Merlin that their despair is due to the fact that they have no child. The woman even goes as far as to say “if we but had a child, I would not even mind if he were no bigger than my thumb.”
Merlin, intrigued with the idea of a child as tiny as thumb, goes to visit the Faery Queen. He tells her of the plight of this kindly couple. The Faery Queen, deciding that this couple were very deserving of having a child of their own, decided it would be a fine idea to take one of the faery babies and give it to them. This child turned out to be none other than Tom Thumb.
In another tale, Merlin is fighting in a battle with the Britons against the Scottish. Several of his companions are killed in this battle, and Merlin, feeling such great pain at their deaths, actually looses his mind, and runs into the woods, where he lives until a traveler finds him and recognizes him. The traveler is unable to convince Merlin to return home with him. He then sings a song to Merlin about how much his wife and sister miss him (I’ll bet you didn’t know that Merlin was married) so Merlin finally relents and goes with him.
You may know that it was also Merlin who foretold of the birth of King Arthur. But did you know that Merlin enchanted Arthur’s parents, Uther Pendragon and the Lady Igraine, to ensure Arthur’s conception?
It is also said that Merlin was actually exiled from King Arthur’s court for conspiring with the knight Mador against the knight Orlando, who was the beloved of Arthur’s daughter Melora (yes, ‘tis true, in some tales Arthur has a daughter).
Some say that Merlin spent the rest of his days in the company of a faery woman known as Vivienne (or Nimue), to whom he taught all his secrets of magic. When Vivienne tired of his company, she trapped him in a underground cave of wonders, where he dwells to this day awaiting the return of King Arthur.
One of my absolute favorite movies is John Boorman’s 1981 film “Excalibur”. The role of Merlin is brilliantly played by Nicol Williamson. Many of the actors appearing in this film went on to prominent careers, including Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, and Liam Neeson.