Medieval Arthurian Legend

Old French Vulgate Cycle: Merlin

13th century, Old French: 15th century Middle English translation, Cambridge University Library.

King Uther Pendragon, whom Merlin has cast into the shape of Igraine's husband the Duke of Cornwall, lies with Igraine all night, and the future King Arthur is conceived.

And so thei wenten forth alle thre till thei com ner at Tintagell – as the three of them approached Tintagel, Merlin turned to King Uther Pendragon and said: 'Stay here,' and then he rode off with Ulfin and performed his spells and found a plant and shortly returned to the king and said: 'Rub this herb into your face and your hands,'

The king rubbed the plant into his face and his hands and his feet, and immediately he took on the appearance of the Duke of Cornwall.

'Have you ever seen Jordan?' asked Merlin.

'Yes, I know him well,' replied the king. And Merlin went to Ulfin and made him look exactly like Jordan and sent him to the king. And when Uther Pendragon saw Ulfin he was delighted.'God have mercy!' he exclaimed to Merlin. ‘How do you do it?’ And turning to Ulfin he said: 'And how about me?'

'You are clearly the Duke himself!' replied Ulfin in astonishment. And then suddenly, in place of Merlin they saw Bretel standing there.

They all waited until it was dark and then made their way to the castle gateway. Merlin, as Bretel, called to the gatekeeper and when all those in the gatehouse came and recognised their lord they cried: 'Open the gates to our lord!' There was no shortage of people willing to hurry off to tell the Duchess of Cornwall who had arrived. Merlin took the king aside and advised him to give himself free rein. Then all three of them came to the room where Igraine was lying and as quickly as they could they made the king ready for bed.

And so King Uther Pendragon went to bed with Igraine. And from that night’s pleasure King Arthur was conceived.

Story fragment recounted from: Conlee, John (Ed), 1998. Prose Merlin. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University for TEAMS. Medieval Institute Publications. The Middle English text of the PROSE MERLIN from Cambridge University Library MS Ff.3.11.

See for yourself

Prose Merlin – TEAMS Middle English text with introduction.

Vulgate Cycle – Wikipedia

Uther Pendragon – Wikipedia

Merlin – Wikipedia

Medieval Institute Publications &ndash – Conlee, John (Ed), 1998. Prose Merlin. TEAMS Middle English text series

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