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Merlin's Thorn

"Merlin and Nimue", Edward Burne-Jones, 1861 ​

Festival Du Roi (Arthur)

Aug 25

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“So wondrous wild, the whole might seem the scenery of a fairy dream” ~ Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake, 1810

Arthurian legends recount the downfall and demise of the sorcerer, Merlin, in various ways, with several characters. Additionally, many places in claim the location of the enchanted forest of Brocéliande and Merlin's final resting place. Local legend states that Drumelzier, in the Tweed Valley is the site where Merlin was imprisoned inside a riverbank tree by the enchantress Morgan le Fay, one of the nine sorceresses of Avalon.

Merlin's Thorn

The Festival du Roi (Arthur), a music festival held in Bréal-sous-Montfort, France over 2 days, near the Paimpoint forest, said to be the enchanted Brocéliande forest of Arthurian legends, the haunt of King Arthur, Merlin, and Viviane the fairy, also known as variously as Nimue, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne, and the Lady of the Lake.

Nimue is the beautiful young woman responsible for Merlin's downfall, although in some legends, Morgan Le Fay, a sorceress is responsible, plotting the downfall of King Arthur as well.  These female characters have been conflated in the various retellings.


In some versions of the legend, Nimue traded her love for lessons in sorcery. Although Merlin foresees his own death, he is so smitten with Nimue that he is helpless to avert his own tragic end.

Merlin's downfall and imprisonment is recounted differently in various versions of the narrative; the enchanted prison is variously described as a cave, a large rock, an invisible tower, or a hawtorn tree, where his voice is still sometimes heard.  


The legendary Brocéliande, is often identified as the real-life Paimpont forest in Brittany, France.  But other purported sites of Merlin's burial include Drumelzier in Tweeddale, Scotland and Carmarthen on Ynys Enlli off the coast of Wales.

​The place in Drumelzier where Merlin is said to be buried is marked modestly by a thorn tree, near where a burn joins onto the River Tweed. The town has placed a plaque at the bottom of the tree acknowledging “the wizard Merlin’s grave”, and where it also states that the present tree is not the original one, which was swept away in a flood sometime in the late 1920s.

For more on the Merlin and Lady of the Lake, click the famous painting of "The Beguiling of Merlin" showing Nimue, The Lady of the Lake, holding the infatuated Merlin trapped in a hawthorn bush and reading from a book of spells, (1872–1877) by Edward Burne-Jones.

And for a video of the dance performed by the Waikanae SCD Club, 2014, see below.

Merlin's Thorn

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Merlin's Thorn

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