The Buried Giant


Kazuo Ishiguro

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Merlin is a legendary wizard who practiced alchemy and magic in Arthurian England. Merlin was a valued friend of King Arthur and was highly respected by Arthur’s knights. During one of the bloodiest battles between the Saxons and Britons, Arthur ordered Merlin to take Sir Gawain and a group of knights to find Querig, cast a spell on her, and trap her on the mountain. Merlin conjured a special spell on Querig that gave her breath the ability to make any who breathes it in forget their pasts. After his success, it is unclear where Merlin goes or what happens to him, but Sir Gawain insists that Merlin was never a “dark” man, but had followed both the will of God and King Arthur by agreeing to enchant Querig’s breath.

Merlin Quotes in The Buried Giant

The The Buried Giant 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:
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Buried Giant published in 2015.
Chapter 15 Quotes

“A dark man he may have been, but in this he did God’s will, not only Arthur’s. Without this she-dragon’s breath, would peace ever have come? Look how we live now, sir! Old foes as cousins, village by village. Master Wistan, you fall silent before this sight. […] Her breath isn’t what it was, yet holds the magic even now. Think, sir, once that breath should cease, what might be awoken across this land even after these years! Yes, we slaughtered plenty, I admit it, caring not who was strong and who weak. God may not have smiled at us, but we cleansed the land of war. Leave this place, sir, I beg you.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Wistan, King Arthur, Querig, Merlin
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

“Foolishness, sir. How can old wounds heal while maggots linger so richly? Or a peace hold for ever built on slaughter and a magician’s trickery? I see how devoutly you wish it, for your old horrors to crumble as dust. Yet they await in the soil as white bones for men to uncover.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Sir Gawain, Merlin
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
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Merlin Character Timeline in The Buried Giant

The timeline below shows where the character Merlin appears in The Buried Giant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Gawain’s Second Reverie
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...on Horace” and looks around at the trees, which grow oddly and remind Gawain of Merlin, who had been such a brave help when they had first come up the mountain... (full context)
Chapter 15
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...that as “long as she’s breath left, she does her duty.” Axl says he remembers Merlin’s work and calls it “dark.” Sir Gawain rejects this idea and points out that, because... (full context)