"Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

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"Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

from WalesOnline.co.uk...
A TUG-OF-WAR has broken out between officials at Glasgow and Carmarthen over which of the areas can truly call itself the home of legendary wizard Merlin.
CLICK HERE to read the article.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scotts (there's a shock)

Post by simonwheeler »

Merlin is best known as the wizard featured in the Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a North British madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius.
Taken from wikipedia Full article here
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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scotts (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

I wouldn't trust Wikipedia as a source for this type of thing especially as this article has been rated as "Start-Class" or "B-class" on the discussion page.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scotts (there's a shock)

Post by simonwheeler »

I know- I never trust Wikipedia...however the linked article summarises & epitomises some of the theories on Merlin's "origin" that exist elsewhere & are listed on the web. Surely it is the case that Geoffrey of Monmouth may have been the first recorded to ...for want of a better word..."popularise" Merlin, but to say that Merlin was Welsh (or Scottish for that matter) because of what he writes is like trusting all of Shakespeare's plays to be historically correct?
I also suspect that Jungian psychology is at play with the whole notion of Merlin.
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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scotts (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

One should probably trust Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae even less than Wikipedia !

:mrgreen:

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scotts (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

Here's how the BBC reported this book by Adam Ardrey:
Merlin 'from Glasgow not Camelot'

Legendary wizard Merlin lived in the Partick area of Glasgow and not in Camelot, a new book has claimed.
CLICK HERE to read the article.


And here's a recent satirical spoof...
Glaswegians scrape the barrel for famous people to honour

At a meeting of Glasgow City Council yesterday, a large barrel full of holes was brought out of a cupboard, and councillors began scraping at the bottom of its insides to try and find famous people connected with their city.
CLICK HERE to read the article.

As an aside, a few years ago there was very nearly a Parliamentary debate on what part of the UK King Arthur really came from, with MPs from various constituencies all pitching for their own respective back-yards. This was kicked off when Steven Spielberg wanted to film an Arthurian series over here. However, the summer recess came along and the matter was dropped (as far as I can tell).
(link broken)


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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Grahame »

Ian Pegler wrote:I wouldn't trust Wikipedia as a source for this type of thing especially as this article has been rated as "Start-Class" or "B-class" on the discussion page.
Would you trust an Oxford University Press publication any better, Ian?
Lailoken
A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology | 2004 | JAMES MacKILLOP | © A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology 2004, originally published by Oxford University Press 2004.

Lailoken. Naked, hairy wild man of the woods who demonstrates prophetic powers at the court of Rhydderch Hael in Strathclyde, the 6th-century Welsh-speaking kingdom (emphasis added) of the Old North, i.e. the Scottish Lowlands. By critical consensus, much of the legend of Lailoken's life contributes to Geoffrey of Monmouth's conception of Merlin in the Vita Merlini (c.1149). In the 15th-century Scottish story known as ‘Lailoken and Kentigern’, the hairy wild man confesses to St Kentigern that he is the cause of the deaths of those who perished at the battle of Arfderydd (573/575). Myrddin (Merlin) is recorded as having gone mad after this defeat.
from here (link broken)


BTW, I also edited your spelling of 'Scots' in the title. Do we say 'Welshh'? :mrgreen:
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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

Would you trust an Oxford University Press publication any better, Ian?
I have no problems with that at all.

However, to quote A. O. H. Jarman:
We do not posseess a prose version of the Myrddin legend in Middle Welsh, but a general idea of its content may be deduced from a number of allusions found in half a dozen mediaeval poems. Combined with supplementary material from the Scottish and Irish versions of the tale these make possible a feasible reconstruction both of its main outline and probable development, though many details remain obscure. The poems are (1) Yr Afallenau ("The Apple-trees"); (2) Yr Oianau ("The Greetings"); (3) Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin ("The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin"); (4) Cyfoesi Myrddin a Gwenddydd ei Chwaer ("The Conversation of Myrddin and his Sister Gwenddydd"); (5) Gwasgargerdd Fyrddin yn y Bedd ("The Diffused Song of Myrddin in the Grave"); and (6) Peirian Faban ('Commanding Youth'). Texts of the first three are found in the Black Book of Carmarthen, written c. 1250, and of the remaining three in manuscripts dating from the two succeeding centuries. All of the poems contain matter which is older, and in many cases considerably older, than the dates of the written texts. (my emphasis added)
(from The Arthur of the Welsh, University of Wales Press, 1991)

So Merlin's strongest links with Carmarthen are primarily literary. There are folk-traditions and place-names etc. etc. but put that to one side. What matters to the Welsh is not the geographical location within Britain but the language and culture to which that person belonged.

And as you correctly pointed out yourself, the language spoken in the Scottish lowlands was Welsh ! The Old North is referred to as Hen Gogledd which is where Cunedda invaded Wales from. Cunedda was the king who drove out the "Scotti" (i.e. the Irish) from Wales, according to the tradition.

You may view the manuscript of the Black Book of Carmarthen by clicking HERE. It is the oldest surviving manuscript written completely in Welsh and the first words are Merlin's, or more correctly Myrddin's. This makes it very important, psychologically, because it links Myrddin with the language.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

More on the UK parliament debate on King Arthur, which nearly happened in 2002:
Paul Flynn (Newport, West): I ask my right hon. Friend for a debate on early-day motion 1637.

[That this House welcomes the intention of film producer Steven Spielberg to create a television series recreating the life and battles of King Arthur, including British actors in the production; notes the success of the series 'Band of Brothers' filmed in England; recognises the historical and mythological connections of King

18 Jul 2002 : Column 433

Arthur with Somerset, the identification of Camelot with Cadbury Castle and of the Isle of Avalon with Glastonbury; believes the beautiful and unspoilt countryside of Somerset would therefore be an ideal location for filming such a series; and calls on the Department of Culture Media and Sport to do everything possible to attract the production to Britain and to support the rural economy.]


That contains the dastardly and preposterous suggestion that the court of King Arthur was located at a site other than Caerleon in the city of Newport. A thousand years ago, the Mabinogion and the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Caerleon as Camelot. That was confirmed by Tennyson, who wrote his Arthurian poems in Caerleon, and by the Loyal Knights of the Round Table, who funded the excavation of the round table in the village in 1928.

Now that Steven Spielberg is thinking of making a film about Arthur, is it not wrong and opportunist of certain other areas to claim that their towns were the site of Arthur's round table? Can we have a debate on the matter? Not only might the claim threaten an opportunity for further jobs and prosperity in the beautiful town of Newport, but it is a terrible attempt to steal part of Welsh history.

Mr. [Robin] Cook: Of course, many Scots scholars maintain that Arthur was a prince of Strathclyde, and the legends recount the way in which he defeated the Angles of Northumbria. I therefore conclude that the whole of Britain has a good claim to sharing in Arthur's legend, exploits and success.
CLICK HERE (link broken)
to read the report.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Revles »

Wherever he came from seems to make little difference to Tintagel in Cornwall where a good living is made by many selling items connected with him.....the trouble with historical figures, whether factual or mythological, is that the two so often get confused.I think thats great.It adds to the debate and a good debate keeps it all alive. I think I met a guy who thought he was Merlin on a recent trip to Tintagel and he is forever popping up in Glastonbury, another of my haunts.On a more serious note, he belongs to an era where Mystics were allowed for.there are, sadly, few about these days....genuine ones I mean.
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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

Revles wrote:Wherever he came from seems to make little difference to Tintagel in Cornwall where a good living is made by many selling items connected with him.....the trouble with historical figures, whether factual or mythological, is that the two so often get confused.I think thats great.It adds to the debate and a good debate keeps it all alive. I think I met a guy who thought he was Merlin on a recent trip to Tintagel and he is forever popping up in Glastonbury, another of my haunts.On a more serious note, he belongs to an era where Mystics were allowed for.there are, sadly, few about these days....genuine ones I mean.
I'd be happier if the debate wasn't influenced by ulterior motives such as the tourist dollar, or the desire to boost the local economy by bringing a famous film-maker to one's own patch.

On the other hand it is obvious that MP Paul Flynn, whom I gather to be always a passionate and outspoken speaker, is under the impression that the others are out to "steal Welsh history" and I'm in no doubt that that emotion is genuine.

The trouble is, this emotion leads to a tendency to make tendentious arguments, to quote one's own favourite sources and not others.

Paul Flynn, for example cites Geoffrey of Monmouth's mentioning Caerleon (on Usk)as being the location of Camelot. In fact Camelot is first mentioned in the French romances, not Geoffrey's HRB. As a location of King Arthur's court, Geoffrey was the first to mention Caerleon and other writers, including Welsh and French writers simply copied his example, thus it gets mentioned in the Mabinogion and also the French romances.

However, the Mabinogion is just a collection of tales and some are older than others. The oldest complete Arthurian Tale is Culhwch and Olwen, (part of the Mabinogion) and this cites Celli-Wig in Kernyw as the location of Arthur's court. Kernyw refers to Cornwall, (although the authors of Keys to Avalon relocated it to the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales).

Neither does Geoffrey mention the Round Table, which in any case was never a feature of Speilberg's planned film.

Besides, there is no relationship between the history of a place and its appropriateness as a film-location. Part of one of the Lara Croft films was shot in North Wales because they wanted somewhere that looked like China ! So what a complete waste of time, but it does underscore the passion people have about the legend.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

Poor Adam Ardrey, his book has had some quite poor reviews on Amazon, including this one...
*____ HE WAS WELSH, 2 Jun 2009
Mr. S. Felix

A poorly revised book. Arthur was Welsh as the name Arthur Pendragon insists. But Adam ardrey tells us that he was a scotish warlord? He then goes on to say that Merlin (Merddyn) lived in Scotland and died in Scotland,He even insists that Merlin is buried in Scotland.

He also says that he has Proff [sic] that his Surname Ardrey is linked with the legendery Arthur. He does not say where this proff [sic] comes from. Might i add that he had no prior knowledge when writing this book. He is not an historian just a person with a mad thesis.

This book is insulting to wales,her people and her history.

Cymru am byth!
(from HERE)

It told you it was emotive! I get the feeling that the reviewer doesn't know his onions any better though.

I've now read a translation of the Vita Merlini and and am currently working my way through Geoffrey's History.

It seems to me that the "Scottish" Merlin, known as Merlin Sylvester or Myrddin Wyllt has more in common with the character of the Black Book of Carmarthen and the Vita Merlini whilst the Merlin of the Historia and the Prophesies (Merlin Ambrosius or Myrddyn Emrys) is a somewhat different character. It has even been suggested that there were two Merlins, one based in Carmarthen, the other roaming the woods of Caledonia.

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Geoff Stuttaford »

Did a bit of dowsing on this and got that Merlin was born in mid-Wales and visited Scotland twice.

Also got that Arthur's main base was located somewhere in the present Herefordshire.
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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Ian Pegler »

I've finished reading Geoffrey's History now. Although it is sympathetic to the Welsh/British it serves ultimately as a piece of propaganda aimed at justifying the Saxon invasion of Logres/England as an act of Divine Providence - this becomes very apparent towards the end.

Contained with the History are the Prophecies of Merlin featuring the story of Vortigern and the boy seer, called Ambrosius in the earlier Nennius version and Merlin Ambrosius by Geoffrey. In the Welsh tradition the boy was known as An ap y lleian meaning the "mishap of a nun" or "son of the nun" until he was discovered by Vortigern's men and subsequently called Myrddyn after the town where he was found - Carmarthen.

The Glastonbury scholar Geoffrey Ashe is very dismissive of the Prophecies:
Geoffrey Ashe, The Book of Prophecy wrote:Why compose this farrago, and what is more, why force it in as a digression? ...
So far as can be made out, most of the Prophecies are not prophecies at all. They are inventions by Geoffrey, and this complex exercise is a mystification.
Other authors such as R. J. Stewart wrote that Merlin prophesied way beyond his time, like a sort of Dark Age Nostradamus.

Ashe suggests that the gap in time between the Scottish Merlin Sylvester and the Welsh Merlin Ambrosius "is so wide that they cannot have been the same person" (The Book of Prophecy, again, p.94).

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Re: "Merlin was Scottish" say Scots (there's a shock)

Post by Grahame »

There has been considerably more grist to the mill since the last post on this subject...

Tim Clarkson produced an exceedingly well-researched academic study called 'Scotland's Merlin; a Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins', which certainly seems to provide conclusive proof that all the literary sources for the Merlin figure can be traced back to the Scottish story of Lailoken.

Then earlier this year, Nikolai Tolstoy (the Quest for Merlin) and former film producer Robin Crichton launched The Merlin Trail, a lengthy tour incorporating many sites associated with Merlin/Lailoken in Southern Scotland. The website has an interactive map, and of course there's a book too.

Both are recommended.
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