Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Merlin’s Tomb

French: Tombeau de Merlin

The Tomb of Merlin is situated in the Brocéliande Forest in Brittany, France.

According to Arthurian legend, Merlin was imprisoned, entombed, or trapped by various means, often by his own lover, Viviane. It is said that his final resting place was in the depths of the Brocéliande Forest.

The exact location of the Tomb of Merlin is a matter of debate and remains shrouded in mystery. This adds to the allure of the site, as it invites speculation and imagination. Some sources suggest that it is in the Paimpont Forest (part of the Brocéliande Forest), while others propose different locations within the broader forested region.

According to one version of the legend of Merlin’s imprisonment, he was buried in a neolithic formation of stones leading to an antechamber within the earth.

The famous writer Félix Bellamy spoke of it quite often. He described a covered alleyway, in ruins, of which there still existed eight stones up until 1892. At that date, the owner of the land on which it was located, attracted by the scent of the possible treasure waiting beneath the soil, decided to dig up whatever he could find, scientific discovery be damned. There are few words to describe the effect of this dynamiting, but the evil has been done, irreversibly.

Today, the Tombeau de Merlin is now composed of only two perpendicular slabs of red schist, separated by an old holly tree – a monument which fails to enchant all visitors, a number of whom find it difficult to believe that the mage or archdruid would be content with such a modest tomb!

People come from all over the world to visit this site and sometimes hang wreathes upon the holly tree. It is also noticed that many people had taken clippings of holly from the branches as souvenirs, and the tree is in serious danger of dying.

Located scarcely a few steps away is the Fontaine de Jouvence, where children were presented to the priests to have them washed and entered into the “marith” (register).

Malory puts the place of Merlin’s imprisonment under a stone in Cornwall. I continue to find it unconvincing that the mighty Merlin could not free himself from a spell woven by one of his own students. Other, older versions of the tale have Nimue (or Viviane) retiring Merlin through affection, giving him a retreat of comfort and cheer. It is interesting that White, who loves Merlin and makes him endearing, puts him in cozy retirement in a tumulus on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, although Nimue is not in evidence to share his society (The Book of Merlyn). Perhaps Merlin requested Nimue to take over the mentorship of Arthur’s court for him; she does appear from time to time in this role throughout much of Malory’s work.

In Vulgate VII, I found what appeared to be a prophecy that either Percivale or Galahad was to rescue Merlin after achieving the Grail, but nowhere else did I uncover a hint of any such deed.

Merlin’s Tomb is the name formerly given a bank of earth at the Camp du Tournoi in Brittany. There are also Merlin’s tombs in Ille-et-Vilaine and Hotie de Viviane.

See also
Bardsey Island | The Legend of King Arthur