Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/474

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The Legend of Merlin.

substituted for another now efifaced. In the Slavonic version of the history of the Sibylla,[1] we find another parallel to this peculiar miraculous birth. She is the daughter of King David begotten in a supernatural way, and this origin explains in both cases the ulterior prophetic wisdom of the offspring. (Incidentally I remark here that the Sibylla has been identified with the Queen of Sheba.) In the latter case the child becomes the prophesying Sibylla, and in the former the history goes on to tell marvellous adventures which bring the Sira story in closer similarity still to the Merlin legend. For Sira or Sirach speaks to his mother immediately after birth and comforts her, protecting her against the abuse of the world, almost with the same words as used by Merlin, who also protects his mother and proves her innocence. Sira's wisdom spreads far and wide and excites the envy and animosity of the astrologers and magicians at the court of king Nebuchadnezzar. They decide therefore on his destruction, and induce the king to send armed messengers to bring him, and to put to him such questions as he would be unable to answer; and thus hope to compass his death. The messengers find him, and after some trouble bring him to the king. He is then just seven years old, exactly the same age as Merlin when he appears before King Vortigern. At the court he easily discomfits his adversaries and causes their death instead of his by means of clever riddles. After that a discussion arises between the king and the child, who answers all the questions put to him, as well as cures the daughter of the king who is suffering from a strange disease. He then remains as the trusted counsellor of the king. His further fate is left as mysterious as his birth, and no mention of his death occurs.

We have in this legend a late and modified version of a much older tale, in which the principal actors are on the

  1. V, Gaster, Literatura poptilara romana (Bucuresti), p. 338; L. Miletici, Stornikǔre (Sofia, 1893), vol. ix. pp. 177-180.