tombeau de Merlintombeau de Aurélie Poilvet
©Aurélie Poilvet
Merlin's Tomb Neolithic remains

Merlin’s Tomb

The three red shale slabs of Merlin’s Tomb have been planted in the earth of Broceliande, in the northeastern part of the forest, for a few thousand years. Thousands of visitors come here each year, hoping to find a bit of the Enchanter’s spirit there, imploring him – or thanking him for his benevolent help.


Even if Arthurian legends are multiple, the Armorican tradition places the tomb of Merlin in the forest of Broceliande. Beyond this certainty, the form of his prison varies.
Merlin would be locked in a richly decorated cave, where he would sleep an eternal sleep. A thick fog veils him from passers-by, he is enclosed in a tower of air, or in a stone that turns on itself. But Merlin may be elsewhere, locked in the trunk of the oldest tree in the forest. Unless the entire forest is his prison and he continues to wander there, Vivian at his side. Watchmen of the magical world, invisible or metamorphosed they metamorphose at will: deer and doe, birds, butterflies, entwined trees. They are lovers from all eternity.


So why do these three stones bear the name of Merlin’s Tomb? The cave, you can guess it around the stones, here and there, where the ground sounds hollow. Behind the monument, a hawthorn grows. Now, in the legend, it is under a hawthorn in bloom that Viviane caught Merlin in the trap of the spell that cannot be undone and that he was willing to give her. As for the stones, turning or not, they are there, under our eyes. It does not seem much? But this Enchanter operates without gesticulation, without trickery, without formulas, without song: and that is the sign of a very powerful magician. And it is the same with Merlin as with Broceliande: the most invincible charms are not the most spectacular. But their magic acts imperturbably, everywhere and always.


Let us remember how mysterious these stones seemed until very recently. No man, it was thought then, could have built them. They were then quite naturally attributed to characters from a distant past, whose names evoked supernatural deeds. And let’s not forget that in the Neolithic period, more than 5,000 years ago, these stones served as funerary monuments. A long covered walkway stood where three stones remain, the only survivors of an untimely dynamiting at the end of the 19th century. When archaeology and legend speak of a tomb, they do not contradict each other. And it is undoubtedly what inspired Mr. Poignant, magistrate in Montfort 2 centuries ago when he saw in these stones the last stay of the Enchanter…


In front of these stones invested with the aura of Merlin, the faithful deposit daily little words, small gifts, wreaths and bouquets of flowers. So, is it a covered walkway, a false tomb or a real mailbox? It doesn’t really matter. Just one detail, which should be mentioned here: Merlin did not write. He left this task to his old friend and adviser Blaise. So perhaps it is enough to think very hard about your wish and to send it to Merlin, the ever-present guardian of the old land of Broceliande…

Text written by Claudine GLOT, Centre de l’imaginaire Arthurien (CIA)