For today’s post I would like to look at the origins of Merlin. In many of the medieval sources he is said to be the son of a human woman and either a demon or an incubus. So this gives Merlin the origins of having an evil magical being as a father.
This is an interesting thing, especially given the dichotomy that is so common in the modern era, of Merlin being all good and Morgan Le Fay being all evil! While looking back we see that Merlin’s origins may point to someone who is not as stereotypical of a good guy as we may assume. He has much murkier origins than many people would be incredibly surprised by. In fact I think that this may be why J.K. Rowling has confirmed that Merlin attended Hogwarts and was in Slytherin!
That confirmation surprised many Harry Potter fans, however, those of us that know the oldest versions of his story it is not crazy to think he is a Slytherin. In truth Merlin was cunning and manipulative in the extreme, even while doing things to help the Pendragon line, and that shows someone who would not be a Gryffindor, but instead an ideal Slytherin!
Merlin’s father is one of the murkiest figures in the Arthurian mythos. We know nothing about his parentage, only that his mother was human, and his father was magical. In all, Merlin became a great wizard because he already had magic within his blood, and that is why he was able to do everything he did to ensure the birth of Arthur.
If not for his demonic parentage it is unlikely that he would have so excelled at the craft of magic. He had his gift of prophecy from the beginning of life. Could demon blood be to blame for this ability to predict the future. Can his incredible amount of knowledge by chocked up to his having a demon or an incubus for a father? I think that this is likely the case. However, we must remember that Merlin was a great character who toed the line between being good and bad. He was not the kindly mage we are often taught, or at least not that alone! He was also a cunning manipulator who helped Uther rape Igraine (let us not pretend it was anything other than rape here) in order to make sure she would beget Arthur.
This murky grey area of Merlin’s person needs to be remembered, as it was much of what made him so powerful. One way or another he became the leading cause of Arthur gaining his rule of the land, and he helped prepare Arthur for leading the masses after Merlin left. We should remember him as the complex figure the earliest sources made him to be, instead of whitewashing his history!
I hope you have enjoyed this look at the dark side of Merlin. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a Merlin image. I found the image on https://www.medievalists.net/2020/10/merlin-demons/.
- Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth
- Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
- Post-Vulgate Cycle by anonymous
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory