Saturday, March 16, 2013

Summaries of Tales from Mammoth Book of Merlin

 by Minnie Apolis

The Horse Who Would Be King” a humorous take on Sword-in-the-Stone Tale
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
If you need a bit of a break from too-serious or too-doomed tales from the King Arthur oeuvre, may I recommend the above story from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)?
Horse-lovers will find it entirely fitting that Merlin's magical steed engineers a way to not only create a sword, but fix it so that our humble and hapless sap, I mean hero, is the one to pull out said sword from said stone.
The noble sword Excalibur is created from the broad blaze on Merlin's horse – which I find entirely fitting. Only a noble animal like a horse could possibly create a noble sword like Excalibur! A sword named after the horse, of course.
And needless to say, our Artie pulls out the sword and then hands it over Kay without letting anyone know a thing about it, and then Kay goes around claiming to be The Rightwise Born King of England, so that Merlin (and his horse) have to finagle a way to get the sword BACK in the dang stone and gather everyone around once more for another go at pulling it out. I mean, it must have been exasperating! Artie, listen up! You are the Rightwise Born King, so if you have any objections, you can just stuff it!
So by now you have gathered that this is a light-hearted take on the old fable of the Sword in the Stone thing. Arthuriana nuts of all ages can enjoy this one, but especially those of the female persuasion since many of us fall in love with horses as young girls, even if they've never ridden one.

Dream Reader” introduces readers to a young Merlin just learning his craft
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
One of my favorite tales from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (aka TMBOM) is this one by Jane Yolen called Dream Reader, which portrays a very young boy who falls in with a troupe of magicians and other entertainers who help him develop the skills he later became famous for.
Primary among them are the gift of dreams that come true. Young Merlin needs help in learning not only how to interpret the dreams that come to him in the night, but how much of that interpretation to pass on to The Powers That Be (TPTB).
The dream is the one about the two dragons who are fighting beneath where a duke tries to build his new tower. The dragons cause each day's building efforts to fall down.
The elder mage who interprets the dream for young Merlin offers the ruling family a logical explanation: “Most likely the Romans built their conduits for their baths there. With the construction, there has been a leakage underground. The natural outflow has been damaged further by armies fighting. And so there has been a pooling under the foundation. Open up the work, drain the pool, remove or reconstruct the Roman pipes, and the building will stand.”
The portraits of the dreamy and starving youth formerly known as Merrillin, of the mage Ambrosius, the singer Viviane, of the town where the newly-married duke is building a tower, are all well-drawn. It seems like a very credible introduction to the young Merlin that ties in smoothly with later tales.

The Temptations of Merlin” a fine tale of a young wizard trying to find himself and his destiny
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
One of the more satisfying tales from TMBOM is this one by Peter Tremayne, of a young Myrddin who departs from a ravaged abbey where he had taken shelter for the night. He is on a quest to discover the meaning of the curious knot woven into the scrap of cloth which is the only clue to his real parentage and clan.
While on this quest he meets several tests and temptations, most of which he flunks. Among other things, he fails to recognize a young Artio (bear) as the future king who will unite Britain.
I don't mean to make Merlin sound like a fumbler and bumbler. He does have several skills or talents. Among them are a high tolerance for pain and cold, fighting skills both with and without a sword, a working knowledge of the Druid arts including healing, horsemanship which includes fighting while on horseback, a mastery of riddles, gallantry, a kindness to the weak and injured.
However the poor befuddled wiz fails to listen to the sounds of nature when he gets lost in his own thoughts. You know what they say, Merlin, you mustn't let your mind wander, it's too little to be out on its own. And his adoration of women makes him too-easy prey for the duplicitous machinations of characters like Lowri, Centwine's sister.
This flawed character is entirely believable and sympathetic as he gropes his way through various encounters once he leaves the shelter of his Druidic brotherhood.

Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood” brings Merlin as Green Man within sight
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
Childhood friends look back on a time when in one's innocence, one could sit by a tree and actually hear the Green Man – a trapped Merlin – talking to you. What did he say?, Julie asks. Sara replies, I can't remember.
Sara was orphaned at a young age by her parents' death, and went to live with an uncle in a large, rambling house on a wooded lot. Frequently awaking in the night with panic attacks, Sara would sneak out the next day to nap under the oaks. In her dreams while she napped, she saw a red-haired boy who lived in the tree. He said his name was Merlin.
Her uncle encouraged her interest in Merlin by giving her copies of Le Morte d'Arthur and The Sword in the Stone.
Eventually, after some months of “tree therapy” Sara's night terrors grew less frequent and disappeared completely.
Also eventually she forgets all about her tree friend – until one day, years later, he again appears in her thoughts.
What if we befriended a tree, a nice elder gentlemanly tree, and talked to him (or her) in our dreams? What would we learn from nature in this unconventional way, that reading books could never tell us?  

No comments: