It happens sometimes that an important discovery is result of something random or a stroke of luck. Extremely lucky was Michael Richardson, librarian of the Special Collection from Bristol University, who was examining 4 volumes of the theologian Jean Gerson (1363-1429), published around 1500, when  he discovered something sensational, which maybe will rewrite how we see part of the Medieval legend of King Arthur and Camelot.

7 fragments of parchment from the 13th century talks about the adventure of Merlin, key figure of the mythical stories of the Kingdom of Camelot

Richardson, by studying the pieces, noticed some names linked to the Arthurian cycle. He immediately linked them to the mythical British kind who tried to push away the Anglo-Saxon invaders at the fall of the Roman Empire, hence he got in touch with Doctor Leah Tether, president of the English section of the International Arthurian Society.

The association deals with research on legends, the story and literature connected to the figure of King Arthur.

Doctor Tether gathered up a squad of experts to examine the fragments which excited them all:

“These fragments of the Story Of Merlin are a wonderfully exciting find, which may have implications for the study not just of this text but also of other related and later texts that have shaped our modern understanding of the Arthurian legend.”

“How Arthur, thanks to Merlin, takes Excalibur, the sword of the Lady of the Lake”

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It is hypothesised that the fragments comes from ancient French texts known as “Vulgate Cycle” or “Lancelot-Graal Cycle”, a series of tales which probably inspired the English writer Thomas Malory (1415-1471) for his book “The Death of Arthur”, published posthumous in 1485 and become basic text for many following books on the King of Camelot, the magical Excalibur and his knights.

Merlin which recites his poetry

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The 7 fragments seem to me connected to the story of Merlin with “subtle but significant” differences from the traditional story”. The fragments of the manuscript provide more details than all the other existent books, like the fundamental one by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 12th century, talking about the adventures of the wizard. In the parchments recently found, the death of some characters is described in a different manner than the traditional tales, and some battles are described in a way more detailed way.

Merlin and the knight

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It is said how Merlin ideated a strategy of attack in the battles of Trebes, against King Claudas, and how the wizard encouraged Arthur’s warriors, who were going through a tough time, and led the change with the banner that Sir Kay had given to the King of Camelot, a magical banner with a fire breathing dragon on it.

There are narrations about the knight Ban and his wife Elaine, that conceived a child right in the night following the battle in the castle of Trebes. Then their odd dreams and the interpretation that Merlin gives to them; the week that the wizard spent with Vivien and a new battle won by Claudas.

Merlin and Vivien

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Sadly the fragments are highly damaged and it will take time to decipher them , even with the aid of infrared rays. Once the work will be done, probably, it will be possible to know something more about the origin of the legends on King Arthur and his mythical Kingdom in Camelot, on Merlin and Vivien, the Lady of the Lake that, in some stories, seduces his and imprisons him:

symbol-characters of an enchanted and lost world that still after centuries, doesn’t stop to fascinates.

Vivien and Merlin

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