About Merlin 2018-03-26T17:04:35+00:00

About Merlin

Merlin the Man

Merlin is known the world over as the wizard of Arthurian legend. But behind the fiction was a real man who lived in Southern Scotland in the late 6th century.

He was of royal blood, a man of learning, one of the last of the great druids living in comfort and luxury until the genocide of his clan brought his way of life to a cataclysmic end. Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from the horrors of the mass slaughter, he fled into the forest. For over a decade, he survived the elements, hiding in a mountain cave and living off what the forest could provide.

This story is played out against a web of political intrigue. In just a few decades, momentous changes revolutionised the structure and the culture of the land we now call Scotland. The traditional Celtic order was crumbling in the face of Angle occupation and a new religion. As a champion of traditional belief, Merlin represented a threat to the incoming army of Christian missionaries who hunted high and low to find him and bring him into captivity. In a final confrontation he had the choice of converting or remaining true to his beliefs.

Merlin the Legend

in the 6th century, Southern Scotland was Welsh speaking. Oral memory was considercd more important than the written word, but eventually a body of 6th century Welsh poems telling the story of Merlin were written.

In the 9th century, in the face of Viking invasions, the records were shipped from Dumbarton to Wales for safekeeping. In Scotland the English language gradually replaced Welsh but in Wales the stories lived on. In time events became transposed to the North Welsh landscape and history began to become legend.

Welsh was also spoken in Cornwall and Galicia, and wherever Welsh people travelled the yarns went with them as evening entertainment – particularly on pilgrimages, first mainly to Compostella and then, with the First Crusade, to the Holy Land.

In 1136, a Norman monk of Breton origin drew on the stories to write a best seller. Set in Cornwall it introduced King Arthur with Merlin as his wizard advisor. At this time the English empire covered not only England and most of Wales but half of Ireland and the whole of western France and a diversity of nationalities. Arthur and Merlin introduced a unifying ideal of ‘Britishness’, composite characters with whom all the diverse peoples of the Empire could identify. Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, encouraged French writers to build on the story and from there the troubadours took Merlin and Arthur to the courts of Europe with new characters and adventures developing in Holland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany. There was even a Hebrew version. Each successive age adapted events to match the times and the legend has become one of the longest running soap operas in history.

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The History behind the Legend

This is the true story behind the legend of Merlin. Born of a royal family to a life of privilege and luxury, his place in society was ordained until he lost everything in a bloodbath of pillage and genocide. Forced to live on the run he survived as an outlaw hiding out in a cave, living off what the forest could provide.

It is the story of the clash between Christianity and traditional belief – a duel between St Mungo the priest and Merlin the pagan, played out against a webs of late 6th century political intrigue and the strife of a land tearing itself apart.

Until now, our Early Dark Age heritage has been largely ignored by historians because of the lack of cross-checkable written data. This book combines history, archaeology, etymology, topography, botany and folk memory in a giant jigsaw. With nearly 150 colour illustrations and maps, the book is accompanied by a gazetteer of 28 Dark Age sites. It presents the evidence, suggests various interpretations and invites the reader to be the historical detective.

For further information: contact Robin Crichton – Email robin@merlintrail.com

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