For today’s post, I have decided to discuss the story of Morgan le Fay and Merlin’s affair. This is seen in several variants of the Arthurian legends. In some variants, Merlin only had an affair with Nimue, one of the Ladies of the Lake. But there are versions where this affair was with Morgana, or with both!
One thing is for sure, Morgan and Merlin both shared magical abilities that set them apart within the Arthuriad. Merlin’s magic is used to cement the rule of Kings, making him a figure of positive magic. In contrast, Morgan is seen as a wicked sorceress in the medieval and later texts. We must remember that she began as a great healer and Queen of Avalon. Her earliest role was that of Faery Queen and Goddess who was to heal Arthur of his mortal wounds in her enchanted Isle of Avalon!
It is later where we see her as a sister to Arthur and as a lover of knights. This is also when we begin to get information about her becoming a lover of Merlin. Much like Nimue, Morgan is said to have used Merlin’s infatuation with her to gain his knowledge and experience. There are even some who theorize that it was Morgan, not Nimue or Vivienne, that would trap Merlin using magic that he taught to her. I personally think that this may be a conflation of both her story and the story of Merlin’s betrayal. I feel that Morgan’s Val Sans Retour, where she trapped knights, may have been the true inspiration behind the thought that she may have been the one to beguile and betray the great wizard!
When we look at more modern versions of the Arthurian legends, it becomes more clear that Merlin and Morgan may have a romantic link. In particular, I can see this in the story of the BBC television series Merlin. In that version most viewers always rooted for them to become lovers, but alas it was not meant to be! This version shows the two as the unique ones born with magic and had Merlin confessed to having powers also, they may have formed a bond that led to romance. Morgana’s going to the dark side of magic in this tale can even be seen as a result of Merlin never being honest with her. She found companionship and acceptance with people who hated Camelot, making her an enemy of the Kingdom. If she had a confidant in Merlin, this may have been avoided!
In any case, I think that I have shown that the relationship between Merlin and Morgan, whether as lovers or something else, is always a great impact on the Arthuriad. I hope that you have enjoyed this short look at their relationship in the legends and television. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a painting of the Beguiling of Merlin. Technically it is titled Merlin and Vivian, but I thought it fitting for the possibility that Morgan was the Enchantress that trapped Merlin! I found the image on https://paintingandframe.com/prints/eleanor_fortescue_brickdale_merlin_and_vivien-52671.html.
- Merlin (2009)
- Vita Merlini by Geoffrey of Monmouth
- Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
- Vulgate Cycle by Anonymous
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory