Iuvenis Sine Patre: Merlin, the Magical Key of Prophecy and Love

  • Tzu-Yu Liu

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Ever since his debut in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Prophetiae Merlini, Merlin has taken on multifarious images. While acknowledging there are different Merlins, we recognize that all of them are in some ways representations of the same Merlin. It seems that prophecy and magic that facilitates erotic love are the two kinds of magic that shape the Merlin behind all Merlins. As the creator of Merlin, Geoffrey makes the character a fatherless, prophetic youth living on the margins of the world in his Historia Regum Britanniae. While the incubus, Merlin’s non-human father, begets Merlin by utilizing its enchanting words, it also passes down its extraordinary soothsaying power, along with other occult powers, to Merlin. With his supernatural abilities, Merlin is able to generate and actively participate in realizing the prophetic blueprint of bringing about King Arthur expressed in the Prophetiae Merlini. Merlin’s prophecies also function as a speculum principis, which helps to establish his role as the advisor of Arthur, one of the ideal rulers of Britain. While Merlin is able to use his magical abilities to fulfill his prognostications, prophecy and magic that manipulates erotic love are also what lead him to his ambiguous denouement. As the Prose Merlin illustrates, the talented prophet eventually ends up ensnared by a trap woven by such love magic—an end which Merlin has foreseen. The fact that Merlin can only continue his existence in the magical space created by the magic that manipulates erotic love highlights his identity as an incarnation of prophecy and such a love magic. Through prophetic words, Merlin establishes his prominence; likewise, the enticing words of love are what give flesh and bone to the prophet. Indeed, prophecy and erotic love facilitated by magic are the two kinds of magic that shape Merlin’s identity.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCarolyn F. Scott (Supervisor)

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