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King Arthur and Merlin

The Eternal Saga

Excalibur sword of King Arthur

The Arthurian epic or tales of King Arthur is a fable of Welsh chivalry that began to spread during the first millennium in the regions of Great Britain. Arthurian legend reports that warrior leader Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, has a mythical sword enthrusted in the rocks, Excalibur, which only the most virtuous pretender to the throne can retrench. Arthur, an enlightened young nobleman, succeeds in seizing Excalibur and thus accede to the throne of Brittany.

Uther Pendragon

Now king, Arthur moves with his wife Guinevere in his castle of Camelot where he builds a large Round Table. Surrounded by Merlin and twelve knightly knights, the Knights of the Round Table, the benevolent King Arthur sets out to bring justice to his new kingdom and to defeat his eternal opponents, the Saxons. Arthurian legend is very interesting because it is a fable of chivalrous utopia entwined with religious themes as the eternal quest for the Holy Grail led by the Knights of the Round Table and the fight between good and evil.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
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The legendary Excalibur sword

Excalibur

According to the classic version of King Arthur's legend, the Excalibur is a magical sword with fabulous powers. Embedded in the rock by Uther Pendragon, whoever manages to seize it will also be crowned King of Brittany. A second version relates that King Arthur received Excalibur as a gift from the Lady of the Lake (fairy Nimue) and that the sheath of the sword protects its owner from any wounds inflicted during combat. Poetic texts from medieval era claim that King Arthur would actually keep two swords: Clarent and Excalibur. It is with Clarent that Mordred, born of the incestuous union between Arthur and Morgan le Fay, would have mortally pierced his father. The story claims that Excalibur is then returned to the Lady of the Lake at the last sigh of King Arthur.

Enchanter Merlin

Merlin the wizard

Appearing for the first time in Arthurian chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Enchanter Merlin is a main character in the tales of King Arthur. Son of the bond between a princess and a spirit, Merlin begins at a very young age to demonstrate abilities for clairvoyance and witchcraft. Monmouth's stories tell us that Uther Pendragon, aided by the powers of Enchanter Merlin, takes on the appearance of the Duke of Cornwall to infiltrate Tintagel's palace and marry Igraine. King Arthur, born of this marriage, is then kidnapped by Merlin who raises him with the sole intention of allowing him to one day seize Excalibur. Creator of King Arthur but also his counselor at the court of Camelot, Merlin works with Morgan le Fay, also a magician and powerful enchantress. First portrayed as benevolent, Morgan le Fay is then depicted as an evil entity whose thirst for powers caused the loss of Merlin. The character of Enchanter Merlin is frequently associated with that of bard Taliesin, Celtic emblem and true incarnation of the famous magician who lived in the sixth century.

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A historical reality?

Arthurian legend comes from many Welsh traditions gathered by monks and romantically embellished by famous Middle Ages authors of chivalric epics like Chrétien de Troyes and Geoffrey of Monmouth. The existence of the characters of Arthurian legend and their real life counterparts remain mysterious. Thus, the legend of King Arthur is associated with many personalities of the Breton and Roman military royalty: Riothamus, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Lucius Artorius Castus ... Some say that the myth would be even older and would go back to ancient times, several millennia BC.

The first mention of an Arthur in ancient texts dates from 594 when he appears in a poetic work of bard Aneurin, the Gododdin. Then, around 830, Nennius publishes Historia Brittonum and portrays Arthur as a great warrior. Then comes the chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1135 followed by the publication of Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin), a work of interest in the spread of the tales of King Arthur and Merlin the Wizard.

Avalon

King Arthur and Avalon

Avalon is a mythical island of Arthurian legend and it was there that King Arthur was buried after his death at the Battle of Camlann. It is also in Avalon that several Celtic gods elected residence. As soon as it was mentioned in Monmouth's tales, the island of Avalon aroused curiosity and many people tried to trace it. Possibly located in Glastonbury, some tracks nevertheless lead to Italy where legends evoke a sword embedded in the rock and the vision of a Round Table seated by the Christ and its twelve apostles. Anyway, the true origins of this Welsh legend will probably be lost forever in the old days.

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