Merlin is one of the most well-known and fascinating figures in the Arthurian legends. There are many different stories about him but each one emphasizes his great prowess in magic. His most prominent role is as an advisor to four successive kings, and he is well remembered for the part he played in the conception of King Arthur. After King Uther, Arthur’s father, fell in love with Gorlois’ wife, Igraine, Merlin disguised the king to look like her husband. Arthur was conceived through their union and, when Gorlois died, the two were married.
Merlin was also known for his accurate predictions of the future. In his youth, he foretold the birth of a king who would lead the Britons to victory against the Saxons. When Uther Pendragon died, Merlin advised the barons of Logres that the rightful heir would be the man who could draw the sword from the stone. Many of the barons resented the role Merlin played in ensuring Arthur would become king. The magician continued to guide King Arthur during his reign, providing him with the strategy to win the war against the rebel barons.
After Arthur broke his sword in a fight with King Pellinor, Merlin escorted Arthur to the lake. Here he received a new sword, as well as a scabbard, from the Lady of the Lake. The magician told him this was the true Excalibur and emphasized the value of the scabbard, as it would stop Arthur from bleeding from his wounds. Arthur’s great reign ended in a battle against Mordred, and it is believed that Merlin outlived the king as well as the Knights of the Round table.
Like many other great men, Merlin’s demise came at the hands of the woman he loved. He reportedly fell in love with Nimue, The Lady of the Lake, who was a young and incredibly beautiful sorceress. Many believed that she had seduced him to access his vast magical knowledge. Merlin became obsessed with Nimue and she pretended to return the magician’s affections. She was determined to learn all the secrets she could about the art of magic, and Merlin taught her endlessly.
One day she asked her lover to accompany her on a trip to the forest, where he would be able to continue his tutelage. Although the magician knew this would lead to his end, he could not resist and followed his beloved. On the journey they arrived at a cave that Merlin claimed to be a place of great power, which he offered to show to Nimue. She accepted, insisting that he enter first. When Merlin was in the cave, she used one of his most powerful spells against him, sealing it permanently shut. Despite expelling all the power he possessed, Merlin could not open the cave, and legend has it that he may still be trapped here.