Myrddin Wyltt - the basis of Arthurian magician Merlin!
Myrddin Wyltt was a bard who lived in the sixth century, on which the Arthurian myth of the wizard Merlin is reputedly heavily based. His character has been described as madman, prophet and mystic, and many tales have been told about him.
He ended his days in the forests of Tweeddale in the Scottish Borders.
It is recorded that Myrddin Wyllt was bard to Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio, a British king who ruled Arfderydd, a kingdom including parts of what are now Scotland and England in the area around Carlisle. The story has it that Wyltt was awarded a golden torc (symbolising high rank) for his musical account of the 577 Battle of Airdrie, in which King Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio died. It is said that Wyltt then spent time at the new King Rhydderch Hael's fortress at Dumbarton Castle, before going mad, and living as a prophet and recluse in the Tweeddale forests.
It is thought that Wyltt later encountered St Mungo, near what is now Stobo Kirk, and converted from Druidism to Christianity. Then he prophesised his own death - envisioning dying by falling, stabbing and drowning. On the very same day, it is believed that Wyltt was chased by shepherds, fell off a cliff into a river and was impaled on a stake and drowned. He was allegedly buried by a thorn tree at Drumelzier, close to a tiny settlement called Merlindale.
Chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth began a modern depiction of 'Merlin' with a 12th-century collection called Prophetiae Merlini - intended as a collection of the prophecies of the figure of Myrddin (who he called Merlin). In a later work Historia Regum Britanniae, Geoffrey of Monmouth placed Merlin in the time of Aurelius Ambrosius and King Arthur, which was decades before Myrddin Wyltt's lifetime. This proved hugely popular, and influenced most later accounts of the character.
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