Le Morte d’Arthur

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A sorcerer who arranges for Arthur to be brought up outside the royal court, in exchange for providing Uther with the means of attaining Igraine as his wife. Merlin’s powers include foretelling the future and enchanting mortals to follow his command. But his powers are also partial and limited, and ultimately he succumbs to the very mortal weakness of desire, which leads to his death.

Merlin Quotes in Le Morte d’Arthur

The Le Morte d’Arthur quotes below are all either spoken by Merlin or refer to Merlin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Le Morte d’Arthur published in 1970.
Book 14 Quotes

Merlin made the Round Table in tokening of roundness of the world, for by the Round Table is the world signified by right, for all the world, Christian and heathen, repair unto the Round Table; and when they are chosen to be of the fellowship of the Round Table they think them more blessed and more in worship than if they had gotten half the world; and yet have seen that they have lost their fathers and their mothers, and all their kin, and their wives and their children, for to be of your fellowship.

Related Characters: King Arthur, Merlin
Related Symbols: The Round Table
Page Number: Vol 2, 276
Explanation and Analysis:

Merlin has been rather absent in the story for a long while, since he was trapped in a cave by a woman’s magic. Now a bit of background information clarifies the origin of the Round Table, which was created by Merlin. The narrator explains the importance of the symbolism of the table, which is meant to represent not just a particular corner of England and the fellowship of the knights, but the entire world. The Round Table is technically limited to those who are Christian and who show enough prowess to prove themselves worthy of being a part of this limited group; however, part of their task in joining the Round Table is to defend all who need defending, and thus to truly represent all others who are absent from the Table.

In addition, the narrator stresses that despite all that the knights of the Round Table gain from their fellowship, they also lose a great deal as well. They must abandon their parents and their wives and children in order to live a life that is in some ways more artificial, restricted to the purely physical challenges of battle and jousting.

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Merlin Character Timeline in Le Morte d’Arthur

The timeline below shows where the character Merlin appears in Le Morte d’Arthur. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...from anger and lust. A knight named Sir Ulfius offers to seek out the wizard Merlin to help him. Ulfius comes across Merlin, who is disguised as a beggar. Merlin reveals... (full context)
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 2 Ulfius returns, with Merlin not far behind him. Merlin asks Uther to swear to fulfill Merlin’s desire, and he... (full context)
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Merlin knows that Igraine is at Tintagil, so he and Uther travel there. The Duke of... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Merlin comes to Uther to remind him of his promise. Merlin says that he knows a... (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...years King Uther falls ill, and his enemies take advantage of this to wage war. Merlin advises Uther to come to the battlefield even if on a stretcher. Uther does so,... (full context)
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Chapter 5 Despite the king’s last words, many want to be king after Uther’s death. Merlin tells the Archbishop of Canterbury to gather all the lords of the kingdom to London... (full context)
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...and that Arthur is of a higher kinship. Ector then tells him the story of Merlin. Arthur is sorry to learn that Ector is not his true father, and swears to... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
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...to a stronghold, where they defend themselves against many of these kings. After two weeks, Merlin speaks to the kings, telling them about Arthur’s holy birth and lineage from Uther and... (full context)
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...force, they grow angry again and re-arm themselves. Arthur retreats back to the tower, and Merlin admonishes the kings that they were wrong to be angry, since they will never prevail... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Chapter 10 When King Arthur returns to London, he gathers his barons and asks Merlin to come advise them. Merlin warns them that the rival kings are recouping and preparing... (full context)
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...continue, and Sir Kay receives the prize for best knight. Then Arthur decides to send Merlin to King Ban and King Bors’s subjects across the sea to update them on how... (full context)
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...followed by a huge flood. All believe this is a sign of a great battle. Merlin warns Arthur’s alliance of the approaching enemies, and they prepare to fight. (full context)
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...and King Bors lead the charge, but 10,000 men are killed on the first day. Merlin suggests that Ban and Bors lie in wait with their men the second day, so... (full context)
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...King Ban and King Bors enter into battle, and King Lot, one enemy, marvels, realizing Merlin must have spirited them into the country. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...again. Ban and Bors are at one point driven back over a small river. Then Merlin arrives on a black horse and asks if Arthur has not had enough: only 15,000... (full context)
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Then Merlin disguises himself in sheepskins, boots, and a bow and arrow and goes to see Arthur.... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...do in his own land. They say they’ll call upon him if they ever need. Merlin foretells that the eleven kings shall all die in one day by the hand of... (full context)
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Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...a horse. Lost in thought about what he has seen, Arthur sees a 14-year-old child (Merlin disguised) come to him and ask why he is so pensive. Arthur says he’s seen... (full context)
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Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Then Merlin returns in the likeness of an 80-year-old man, who seems wise to Arthur. Arthur confides... (full context)
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Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...She tells the story of Ulfius coming to her disguised in Tintagil, and says that Merlin took her son away and she never saw him. Ulfius says that Merlin is thus... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Chapter 22 A young squire named Griflet asks Arthur to make him a knight, and Merlin advises him that Griflet will become a strong fighter, so Arthur does. Griflet goes out... (full context)
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
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...under threat of war. Arthur refuses and pledges to fight. He rides out to find Merlin, and they go to sit by a fountain, where Arthur sees an armed knight in... (full context)
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Chapter 24 Merlin arrives and tells Pellinore not to kill his enemy, revealing that it is Arthur. Merlin... (full context)
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Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 25 Arthur goes to a hermit who cures his wounds, then returns to Merlin. Merlin gives Arthur a new sword. They ride together to a clear lake, in the... (full context)
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Arthur decides to return to avenge himself against Pellinore, but Merlin tells him not to, as Pellinore is weary of fighting, and besides, he will do... (full context)
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Chapter 27 Merlin tells Arthur that he should destroy all children born on May-Day, as this is the... (full context)
Book 2
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...so he asks permission from Arthur to avenge himself. Arthur, still angry at Balin, agrees. Merlin comes to court, and explains that the lady who brought the sword to court was... (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...telling her that whoever succeeded in pulling it out would kill the grieving lady’s brother. Merlin says he pities Balin for drawing the sword, because whoever do so will be destroyed... (full context)
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Chapter 8 Merlin comes to see King Mark and prophesies that in this place there will be a... (full context)
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Balin and Balan ride towards King Rience and meet Merlin, who is disguised. Merlin refuses to tell Balin his name, but Balin guesses, and asks... (full context)
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Chapter 9 Merlin shows the brothers how to find King Rience, who is riding. They meet him and... (full context)
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...than all. Balin and Balan do better than anyone, and Arthur marvels at them. Meanwhile Merlin distracts King Lot through sorcery, keeping him from helping Nero until a knight comes to... (full context)
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...four sons, as well as King Uriens and his wife Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s sister. Merlin through magic covers the tombs with golden images and a taper of burning wax. He... (full context)
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Chapter 26 Merlin arrives and saves Balin. But the damsel is dead, and King Pellam will lie wounded... (full context)
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Chapter 29 The next morning Merlin writes Balin’s name on the tomb, since the lady had only known Balan’s. Merlin takes... (full context)
Book 3
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Chapter 1 After some time as king, Arthur asks Merlin for counsel, since his barons are harassing him to choose a wife. Merlin asks if... (full context)
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Merlin goes to King Leodegrance to tell him of Arthur’s love for the king’s daughter. Leodegrance... (full context)
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Chapter 2 Arthur is overjoyed to hear that Guenever is on her way. He asks Merlin to collect 50 of the most skilled knights in the land, but Merlin can find... (full context)
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Merlin says that Tor will be a great knight, since he is of kings’ blood: Aries... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...two empty places among the knights’ seats at the table, and when Arthur asks why, Merlin says that only the most worthy men shall sit there. He takes Pellinore by the... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
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...An armed knight rides in and steals away the lady, crying. When she is gone, Merlin advises Arthur to call Gawaine to bring back the white hart, and call Tor to... (full context)
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...after, where he is greeted with joy and shares his adventures with the court. Following Merlin’s counsel, Arthur gives Tor an earldom. (full context)
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Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...a so-called friend of Arthur’s will feed to him. The Camelot knight warns him of Merlin’s all-knowing powers. The two knights depart, and Pellinore continues on. He comes across the lady... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...and he tells his adventures. Guenever laments that Pellinore didn’t save the other lady’s life. Merlin says the lady was Pellinore’s own daughter, Elaine. Since Pellinore would not help him, his... (full context)
Book 4
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Chapter 1 After these quests, Merlin falls in love with one of the ladies of the lake, Nimue. He follows her... (full context)
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Nimue makes Merlin swear that he’ll never enchant her with his magic, and he does so. Merlin travels... (full context)
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Bagdemagus rides out and comes across the cave where Merlin is trapped. He tries to lift up the stone but cannot, and Merlin tells him... (full context)
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Chapter 9 The two men fight strenuously against each other. Nimue, who had enchanted Merlin arrives for love of Arthur and to save his life through her magic. Arthur, seeing... (full context)
Book 8
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Chapter 2 Merlin delivers Meliodas out of prison the morning after Elizabeth’s death. In mourning, the king prepares... (full context)
Book 10
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...Camelot, to the place where Balin slew Lanceor and where Lanceor’s lover was buried, where Merlin had prophesied that the best knights in the land would fight one day. Tristram waits... (full context)
Book 14
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Chapter 2 Here we learn that Merlin made the Round Table shaped like the world, since it reflects and signifies the world.... (full context)