Merlin, pion des pouvoirs superieurs: Étude du manuscrit huth
Chiquoine, Nancy Klein
Master of Arts
The thirteenth-century Huth Manuscript, published in 1886 by Gaston Paris and Jacob Ulrich, combines the prose version of Robert de Boron's Merlin (ca. 1129), and the work of an anonymous continuator, to provide a complete account of the life of this medieval prophet, from the satanic plotting which resulted in his conception, to his death by enchantment at the hands of his successor. Criticism aimed at analyzing this composite work generally has approached the task from an historical perspective, and the resulting studies have uncovered all manner of wouldbe origins for specific episodes. This method, albeit demanding, has an over-all disintegrating effect on the work as a literary entity: the story of Merlin is treated as an accumulation of detached, often contradictory episodes, never as a structural whole, a single coherent portrayal of the protagonist. Our thesis, contrary to that of the historical approach, is that the manuscript does present a cohesive narrative whose connecting thread is found in the very character of Merlin. When several demons confer in Hell, they decide that the only "defense” against the influence of the forgiving Christ figure lies in the creation of an Anti-Christ. A representative is subsequently selected to inseminate a mortal virgin. The damsel, however, is smiled upon by God, and the hybrid fruit of this sexual union is Merlin, a being endowed by the Devil with the power to know and remember all past events, and blessed by God with the very prophetic vision which Satan lacks. Merlin, unlike Man whose character is a moderate blend of divine and satanic qualities, is thus, in a very physical sense, half evil and half virtuous. The manichean forces, ever at odds, wage a battle for complete control of Merlin. As a result, this unusual character is no more than a pawn manipulated now by God, now by the Devil. Our thesis describes this struggle with the aim of discerning an ultimate victor. The ever-changing status in this close contest for supremacy manifests itself in three different ways. The Devil’s strong influence is illustrated when Merlin is transformed into a variety of characters with no other intention than to intimidate or deceive. However, these machinations, like the Enchanter’s very composition, are both good and evil. While the satanic side is more obvious, God’s influence shows itself through the prophecies this agent delivers while in disguise. Furthermore, the divine forces are predominant when Merlin tears away his mask to reveal himself to Pandragon. Here, he clearly rejects the deceitful qualities, and the battle shifts toward the Good. Merlin’s laugh, too, is a blend of the virtuous and the satanic, and also through this laugh, an equilibrium of the influences seems to be achieved; Merlin is humanised. For Merlin, this human outburst is at once ironic -- a cruel sign of superior knowledge -- and mortal -- a manifestation of his affirmation of social mores. Finally, the dynamic struggle gives way to divine supremacy as Merlin is used by God to set the stage upon which His plan, the Quest for the Holy Grail, is to be played out. However, when the seer attempts to use his God-given powers to gain the love of Niviene, he is blinded to God’s mission and thus, of no further use to Him. Merlin’s apprentice, Niviene, becomes his Nemesis, enchanting him into an eternal sleep. Merlin is blessed with a total loss of memory and the Devil, in this way is annihilated. The spirit of the Prophet is the trophy of God’s victory.