The Story Of Merlin

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf

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.


The plate of which this is a photograph was brought to America from

England about 1875; it had at that time been in the possession of one

family for a hundred years.]