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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Merlin loses it all to lovely enchantress

Adapted by Amy Friedman

Jillian Gilliland

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"The Wizard's Love" is a British legend.

Long ago, the goddess Diana made a prediction as she stood over the cradle of Niniane, the mortal child of Diana's godson.

"You, Niniane, will win the heart of the wisest man in all the land," said Diana, goddess of the forest, "and he will teach you all he knows, so you will become even more powerful than he."

Some must have laughed at this, for Niniane was only a mortal girl, and the wisest man in all the land was far more than that. Merlin was his name, and though he was born to an ordinary woman, his father was said to be a powerful demon who created his son to carry on his darkest dreams.

Merlin did possess not only wisdom but also magical powers. To his father's dismay, Merlin claimed he had received from his father the knowledge of the past with all its darkness, but that his knowledge of the future came from God. "In the future," Merlin said, "I will help to bring good into this world."

And this he did.

When Merlin was very young, long before Niniane's time, Vortigen ruled what is now Great Britain, and it was Vortigen who first tested Merlin's wizardry. Vortigen was attempting to build a tower near Mount Snowdonia in Wales. Every day his men worked feverishly to build the tower, but every night it collapsed.

No one could explain what was wrong, until the king's counselors sent for Merlin.

Merlin had a vision of what was wrong. "Beneath the foundation of this tower," he told the king, "two dragons are engaged in a life-and-death battle. Their struggle collapses your tower and symbolizes your own collapse."

The workers dug beneath the foundation, and there, true enough, they discovered two dragons fighting fiercely, toppling the tower each night.

"These are but symbols of the battle for this land," Merlin told the king, and as he had known would happen, the death of one dragon came, and with it came the collapse of Vortigen's rule and the rise of King Aurelius.

Aurelius' reign was followed by the reign of the great King Uther, and still later by the rule of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

Merlin was responsible for many of the greatest deeds of all four of these kings. It was Merlin who cared for the young Arthur, and it was Merlin who secretly arranged the test of the sword in the stone and the revelation of Britain's rightful king.

Merlin first met Niniane near her home in the Briosque forest. The moment he saw her, he fell in love, but with his powers of prophecy, he understood that this girl would be his undoing. With a heavy heart he walked away.

They met again years later, when Niniane was a young woman, and the power of the passion Merlin felt for her left him weak. "This woman is my doom," he whispered, but only the trees and flowers heard, and soon love overwhelmed the wizard's wisdom.

No matter where Niniane walked, Merlin followed as if he were tied by an invisible string to her side. Whenever she was near, he lost his will to do anything but obey her wishes.

"Tell me," he said, "anything you want, and I shall give it to you."

"I wish to learn all that you know," she answered, and so, just as Diana had predicted, the lessons began.

Naturally Merlin hoped that one day his beloved might return his love. True, he could see the future, but like so many lovers before and after him, he let his love blind him. "Perhaps I am wrong," he told himself.

He built for his beloved an exquisite palace, invisible to everyone but himself and Niniane. Others who passed by saw only a lake, and only those who knew to look ever saw beneath its surface the lovely lady of the lake, Merlin's beloved.

Merlin taught her every trick, every potion and vision he knew. When Niniane had learned all she needed, she turned to her teacher. "I wish to return home now," she said.

"Let me accompany you, good lady, and I will teach you more magic as we walk," Merlin said, for he still hoped that one day she would love him.

As Merlin and Niniane were walking, they came upon King Ban and his wife, who shared the forest with Niniane's family. They were carrying their infant son, Lancelot.

When they had passed, Merlin turned to Niniane and said, "That lad will become the greatest knight who ever lived," and Niniane smiled, for now that she possessed the power to know the future, she knew she would play a key role in the child's life.

As they entered the forest, Niniane turned to Merlin. "We are finished," she said, and using his magical powers against the great wizard, she ended his reign by trapping him in a castle of air from which he could never escape.

When Arthur learned the news, he was heartbroken, but Niniane took Merlin's place as the king's trusted adviser. Many times Niniane saved the king from death and betrayal, and when King Ban died, it was she who raised Lancelot, refusing to tell him his own name or the name of his parents until the day he would become the best knight in the land.

Niniane taught Lancelot about courtly love and the duties of a knight. She sent Lancelot to King Arthur to be knighted, and knew her foster son would fall in love with Guinevere, the queen. Perhaps it was she, like Diana, who truly understood the power of love.