Angus Archive finds literary link to Merlin story

Angus archivists have made an exciting discovery in an Arbroath Abbey register held in the county records.

Mark Dowie
Friday, 19th January 2024, 3:59pm
Angus Archive finds literary link to Merlin story

A scrap of recycled vellum, which was used to bind the volume, was found to contain text in medieval French which, on closer examination was found to include the word ‘Merlin’.

This led Angus Archives to believe it may have been part of a story relating to King Arthur. A consultation with medieval language experts at the Sorbonne in Paris confirmed that the fragment is part of the beginning of the Merlin en Prose, believed to date from the latter half of the 13th century.

The work focuses on the seer’s origins and describes King Vertigier's dispatch of 12 messengers to find the fatherless child, Merlin, who were tasked with bringing back Merlin's blood to reinforce the foundations of Vertigier's deteriorating tower.

It begins with the clerics informing the king of their answer and taking precautions against the child they foresee as a threat. The narrative then follows the messengers’ search while he second part of the fragments details four messengers encountering Merlin, who signals them to follow him to his mother's house.

He leads them to the house of Nonnains, introducing them to Blaise, and asking for the truth without deception.

Craig Pearson, ANGUSalive’s archives lead, said: “The discovery is an amazing find. Unearthed in the records of Arbroath Abbey, it is uncertain if this document once belonged in the library of the abbey, but to find a story from Arthurian legend in Angus is very special.”

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