Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/483

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425
The Legend of Merlin.

Merlin legend has in common with the Oriental traditions which cluster originally round Solomon and which have been elaborated in the course of time and in many recensions, the latest of which stands nearest to the Merlin legend.

What then is more natural than to assume that these latest versions lie at the bottom of the legend as elaborated in England by Geoffrey or any of his immediate predecessors, who had, as we have seen, ready access to these masses of legends and tales. They are an essential and highly prized part of the vast religious legendary material, that formed the storehouse of information in those times. Given the practice of assimilating old legends to new surroundings and spelling the past in the letters and ideas of the present, of substituting better known names for less known ones and making a romance out of the ancient tales of Greece and Palestine, then this legend can only be the reflex of the oriental tales and motives, not even skilfully worked up. One can easily detect the seams in the coat. The latter part of the Merlin legend entirely belies the first. There is absolutely no connection between the later adventures of Merlin at the courts of Vortigern, Uter, and his son, and the incidents at the beginning of the tale.

The Lives of the Saints and the tales of pious anchorites, the Bible with its apocryphal additions, suffice completely to explain the origin of the legend and I therefore do not see why we should go outside the immediately possible and probable and venture upon hypothetical assumptions of Celtic or other tales, the existence and higher antiquity of which have still to be proved. Above all it must be shown how any religious writer came tc know of such legends and mythical tales, which to his eyes must have appeared as heathen abominations, which he was bound to suppress and to banish, being the work of the Evil Spirit, and not to be supported by his religious zeal