Merlin and Arthur, the druid and the king
Merlin helps Uther Pendragon seduce Ygraine of Cornwall: from this union is born Arthur, the providential king. No sooner has Excalibur designated the sovereign than Merlin comes to guide him. Warlord, bard, physician, prophet, he masters the rain, the wind and the fire. He advises the king until his last mission, to send the knights in search of the Grail, their ultimate adventure. In the Middle Ages, Merlin is never referred to as a druid. I think that this notion is important today, because there is too much confusion on this subject. But his role with Arthur reproduces the division of powers between druid and king in ancient Celtic society: the king rules, the druid advises. Merlin enjoys absolute freedom of movement. He disappears into the forest, leaves to help other rulers without ever notifying the king.
Prophet and magician
Merlin interprets signs and reads the stars. He guesses what is hidden, and sees the future as well as the past. His powers sometimes lead him to laugh at appearances, with a laugh that is incomprehensible to ordinary people. Merlin knows the use of magic and teaches it. His magical students are all women, including Morgana and Vivian.
Beautiful and ugly, young and old, wise and foolish, Merlin always surprises by the extreme variety of aspects he adopts: old man, blind harper, elegant page, wild cowherd, woodcutter. Or white-footed stag, the deer that guides humans through the gates of the Netherworld.
The wild man of the forest
Merlin speaks the language of animals and even rides at the head of an army of stags. In Broceliande, he can be guessed behind the master of the angry bulls. The forests remain the place where Merlin takes refuge to become himself again after the madness of men. He lives as an animal, feeding on the fruits of the woods and the water of the springs. He draws from this osmosis with nature his strength and his prophetic power.
When Merlin delivers to Viviane the secret that will make him a prisoner, he knows the thoughts of the water fairy. He has known for a long time his own destiny: to live his eternity with his beloved, in the heart of the forest of Broceliande.
Text written by Claudine GLOT, Centre de l’imaginaire Arthurien (CIA)