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Merlin

Illustrator Peter Stevenson, who has illustrated Arthur and Me tells us about his version of Merlin:

Arthur and Me by Sarah Todd Taylor is the story of Tomos, who wakes up the sleeping King Arthur and his knights. They tell Tomos the real stories about Camelot, including stories of Merlin, where nothing is the same as his teachers described it...

Peter:  On page 26 of Arthur and Me is a drawing of an old stubbly chinned man wearing a waistcoat and a bowler hat, who is waving his walking stick nervously at a small black chicken. This is a depiction of the great battle between Merlin and the mighty dragon. So why isn't Merlin the Magician dressed in his usual pointy hat and flowing cloak, with his long grey beard blowing in the west Welsh wind? And who was Merlin, anyway?

     Wales has a long tradition of magicians weaving their magic up in the hills. Whenever cattle fell ill, or people needed protection from curses, they would call upon the dyn hysbys, the conjurer, the wise man. There was Sir Dafydd Llwyd form Ysbyty Ystwyth, an 18th Century defrocked clergyman who had a book of spells that enabled him to summon demons, who once ordered a rampaging bull to gore to death a conjurer from Lampeter. Dick Spot from Llanrwst, named after a black mark near his nose, once caused an old couple and their servant girl to dance wildly around their kitchen by leaving a written spell on a piece of paper,stuck beneath their table. One of the favourite words the conjurers wrote on these pieces of paper was 'abracadabra.' Henry Harries and his father John of Cwrt y Cadno could charm away pain, detect thieves, read fortunes, advise couples whether to marry, and counteract witchcraft. One of the last of the dynion hysbys was Evan Griffiths of Llangurig, who once gave a blue stone to his friend, the writer Caradoc Evans, who in turn gave it to his wife Margueritte, who invited the poet Dylan Thomas to make a wish on it. Dylan wished for fame, wealth and money. Well, the first two came true.


     And there is a photograph of Evan Griffiths. He's unshaven, and he's wearing a waistcoat and a bowler hat.