According to Breton legend, the tomb of the great magician Merlin lies in the forest of Brocéliande in Brittany, France.
Merlin in Brittany
The Bretons tell many legends of King Arthur and his great magician, Merlin, whose events take place in the ancient forest of Brocéliande (now called the Forest of Paimpont) and the surrounding area. It is in this forest, at the fountain of Barenton, that Merlin first met and fell in love with the fairy Viviane, the Lady of the Lake who raised Sir Lancelot. It is also stated that Merlin’s tomb can be found in the heart of the forest, hiding the ‘prison of air’ in which Viviane incarcerated him to prevent his return to Arthur’s court.
The Legend of Merlin’s Fate
According to legend, whenever he could get away from affairs of state at the court of King Arthur, Merlin would return to his lover, Viviane, in the forest of Brocéliande. Viviane implored him to teach her his magical arts and gradually she learned all his magic. It is this knowledge that she used finally to imprison Merlin in nine invisible rings – a prison of air – to keep him from leaving her again to return to his duties at Arthur’s court. It is said that Merlin’s Tomb hides this prison of air.
Merlin’s Tomb in Brittany
At one time, Merlin’s Tomb lay at the end of a covered avenue of megaliths but, centuries ago, treasure hunters toppled the stones, removing and dismantling the avenue. What remains is a small mound with two large stones erected side by side. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is charged with a sense of presence or power. This may derive from lines of magnetic force passing close to the surface of the ground. The megalithic builders in Western Europe would customarily build structures, where such lines intersected or were very noticeable so the original structure may predate Merlin’s time by a couple of millennia and have been subsequently adopted.
Votive offerings, such as stuffed animals and other types of offerings can often be seen on the tomb and pieces of paper with prayers or requests are inserted into cracks in the rocks.
Other Claimants to Merlin’s Tomb
Other locations in Britain, such as Merlin’s Hill near Carmarthen and Merlin’s Mound in Wiltshire, also claim to be the site of Merlin’s grave but the strength of this Breton claim is that the tomb lies in the heart of an area redolent with Arthurian legends, not far from the fountain of Barenton, the spring where the couple is reputed to have met. Some Bretons maintain, however, that the site is just a monument and that the location of Merlin’s prison of air lies even deeper in the forest, waiting to be discovered when the time is right.
Directions to Merlin’s Tomb in Brittany
The Forest is Brocéliende is now called the Forest of Paimpont, in Brittany.
From Concoret, take the road to the castle of Comper, which you will pass on the right. Continue along the edge of the forest and turn right. At the crossroads, turn right again and follow the signs to the Tomb of Merlin (Tombeau de Merlin). The parking area is just off the road in the middle of the forest (pay attention: you can easily miss the sign). Cross the road to find the track leading to Merlin’s Tomb.
From Paimpont, take the road to St Malon sur Mel on the D71. Merlin’s Tomb is signposted. The parking area is just off the road in the middle of the forest (pay attention: you can easily miss the sign). Cross the road to find the track leading to Merlin’s Tomb.
Other Arthurian Sites in the Forest of Brocéliande, Brittany
• The Fountain of Barenton (where Merlin met Viviane, the Lady of the Lake)
• The Château of Comper (home of the Lady of the Lake and the site of an exhibition on the Arthurian legends)
• The Church of the Holy Grail (a church dedicated to the legends of the Holy Grail)
• The Valley of No Return (where Morgaine-Le-Fey, Arthur’s sister, imprisoned false lovers)