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Other Characters in Arthurian Legend
Merlin the Magician
MERLIN, Arthur's adviser, prophet and magician, is basically the creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who in his twelfth-century History of the Kings of Britain combined the Welsh traditions about a bard and prophet named Myrddin with the story that the ninth-century chronicler Nennius tells about Ambrosius (that he had no human father and that he prophesied the defeat of the British by the Saxons).
Merlin and Vivien
Merlin falls victim to the spells of his own apprentice, Vivien, who may have been the Lady of the Lake.

Geoffrey gave his character the name Merlinus rather than Merdinus (the normal Latinization of Myrddin) because the latter might have suggested to his Anglo-Norman audience the vulgar word "merde." In Geoffrey's book, Merlin assists Uther Pendragon and is responsible for transporting the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland, but he is not associated with Arthur. Geoffrey also wrote a book of "Prophecies of Merlin" before his History. The Prophecies were then incorporated into the History as its seventh book. These led to a tradition that is manifested in other medieval works, in eighteenth-century almanac writers who made predictions under such names as Merlinus Anglicus, and in the presentaion of Merlin in later literature.




Merlin became very popular in the Middle Ages. He is central to a major text of the thirteenth-century French Vulgate cycle, and he figures in a number of other French and English romances. Sir Thomas Malory, in the Le Morte d'Arthur presents him as the adviser and guide to Arthur. In the modern period Merlin's popularity has remained constant. He figures in works from the Renaissance to the modern period. In The Idylls of the King, Tennyson makes him the architect of Camelot. Mark Twain, parodying Tennyson's Arthurian world, makes Merlin a villain, and in one of the illustrations to the first edition of Twain's work illustrator Dan Beard's Merlin has Tennyson's face. Numerous novels, poems and plays center around Merlin. In American literature and popular culture, Merlin is perhaps the most frequently portrayed Arthurian character.

© The Camelot Project, The University of Rochester


Other Characters
Merlin
The Lady of the Lake
Guinevere
King Mark
Constantine
Ector
Fisher King
The Green Knight
Gwion
Igraine
Iseult
Joseph of Arimathea
King Lot
Mordred
Morgan Le Fay
Morgause
Uther Pendragon
Vortigern

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