Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

Merlin appeared before King Arthur as a child of fourteen, departed and then returned again in the likeness of an old man of eighty years of age.

King Arthur instructed some men to fetch him another horse and as he sat thinking, Merlin approached as a child of fourteen years of age. The child greeted the King and asked why he seemed so pensive.

'I have seen the most marvellous thing I ever saw,' replied the King.

'I know,' said Merlin. 'I know it as well as you. But you are a fool to worry about something that won’t help you in any way. You see, I know who your father was, and your mother. Your father was Uther Pendragon and your mother Igraine.'

'You lie!' exclaimed the King. 'How can you, a mere child, have ever known my father?'

'I know these things better than any man living.'

'You are telling me lies,' said King Arthur angrily. So Merlin departed, and returned again in the likeness of an old man of eighty years of age. The King looked up hopefully, expecting to hear some wisdom.

'Why are you so sad?' asked the old man.

'For many reasons,' replied the king. 'And a child a short while ago told me things he shouldn’t have had any knowledge about, for he was not old enough to have known my father.'

'The child told you the truth,' said the old man, 'and he would have told you much more besides if you had let him.'

Story fragment retold from: Vinaver, Eugene, 1971, reprinted in paperback, 1977. Malory: Works. Oxford University Press. The Tale of King Arthur. I. Merlin, p 29.

See for yourself

Sir Thomas Malory – Wikipedia

Le Morte d'Arthur – Wikipedia

Merlin – Wikipedia

Sir Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur' – British Library, online exhibition

King Arthur – Wikipedia


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