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Myrddin


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[W myr/mor, sea; ddin, hill].

Fictional 6th-century Welsh poet and prophet, antecedent of and counterpart to Merlin, whose Arthurian conception begins with Geoffrey of Monmouth (12th cent.). A member of the court of Gwenddolou fab Ceido, Myrddin was so traumatized by his patron's death at the battle of Arfderydd (573/5) that he fled to the Caledonian forests [W Celyddon, Scotland], where he became a wild man of the wood for half a century, communing with animals and living in fear of Rhydderch Hael, Gwenddolou's enemy; at the end of this torment, he received the gift of prophecy. A number of early mantic poems are attributed to Myrddin, including Afallenau [The Apple Trees]. Myrddin's exile, madness, and poetic gifts sometimes gain him the epithet Gwyllt or Wyllt [mad], and link him with the Irish figure Suibne Geilt [Ir., mad Suibne/Sweeney] of Buile Shuibhne [The Frenzy of Suibne]. The oldest text referring to Myrddin comes in the 10th-century Armes Prydain [The Prophecy of Britain]. For most of Welsh Arthuriana after Geoffrey of Monmouth, Myrddin is often indistinguishable from Merlin, the most important difference being Myrddin's ongoing dialogue with another Old North figure inflated into a magical prophet, Taliesin; this culminates in the 12th-century Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin [The Colloquy between Myrddin/Merlin and Taliesin] in which the two impart arcane knowledge to each other. See EMRYS WLEDIG; LAILOKEN; SENCHA MAC AILELLA. See also A. O. H. Jarman, The Legend of Merlin (Cardiff, 1960); ‘The Welsh Myrddin Poems’, in R. S. Loomis (ed.), Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1959), 20–30; Basil Clarke, Life of Merlin (Cardiff, 1972); Nikolai Tolstoy, The Quest for Merlin (London and Boston, 1985).

Subjects: Religion.


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