Merlin in Wales. Legend of King Vortigern.

Cotton Claudius B VII f.224 Merlin Vortigern
Merlin Giving the
prophecies to
King Vortigern

King Vortigern was a warlord that lived in the 5th century AD just after the Romans had left the British Isles to fight invaders back in Europe. It is suggested that he historically existed, but that Votigern was his title rather than his name. What follows in this story has not been proven as historical fact so considered to be a legend of betrayal and sorcery.


Briefly the legend goes that Vortigern was not very popular with his people because he arranged for the Saxons to migrate into Britain to help drive back the Picts and the Scots that were a threat to England, This the Saxons did but then one day, they turned on the English at a conference with Vortigern attacking them with hidden knives. Vortigern managed in one way or another to get away with his life, but his arrangement with the Saxons had backfired on him.

 There is a story that the Saxons got him drunk, seduced him with one of their women, and tricked him into getting lands. I don’t know the truth of this, but I guess it sounds more interesting than to say that the Saxons just merely went out and grab the lands and set up their own kingdoms. From here the story enters the magical world of Arthurian legend.

 King Vortigern had a group of magicians or wise men who advised him, and he called them together and asked them what he should do next. They told him how treacherous these Saxons whom he had invited into the lands of Britain really were and that they would probably stop at nothing to kill the King and take even more of his lands. The best thing he could do was to move to the far reaches of his kingdom and build himself a fortress to wage war on the Saxons.

It was probably months or maybe years they travelled looking for a suitable place in which to erect a citadel, but eventually came to the Mountainous land of Snowdonia, known in Welsh as the mountains of Eryri. They came to a high peak, Dinas Emrys an ideal place to build a fort, but then strange forces began to thwart the building of the fortress.

Some stories say that any building erected by the end of the day, mysterious collapsed over night, and other stories claimed that all material collected and stored to begin the build, vanished without trace. Whatever happened there was obviously some sort of sorcery at work, so the magicians were consulted once again.

 This time the sorcerers told Vortigern that the site would need the sacrifice of a young boy who had no father and his blood sprinkled over the ground to kill the spell that was thwarting Vortigern’s plans of a new fortified city. The king ordered them to go and find such a boy and the search was soon underway.

Eventually they found a fatherless boy in Bassaleg, a town existing in North Wales to this very day, but fate was not to be kind to the King’s magicians, as their magic would prove not to be near as powerful as the boy they intended to kill. For this boy was destined to be known as Myrddin Emrys – Merlin in England, the greatest magician who ever lived. If the King’s magicians had realised the power of this boy, they would have left him well alone!

Merlin strongly suspected his fate at the hands of his captor and asked Vortigern what was to happen to him. Vortigern told him the truth, that he needed this fortress and that the boy was to die there to destroy the curse that was obviously on the site.

 Merlin asked to speak to the magicians and question them about the wisdom of what they were doing. His first question was “what was under the ground that is thwarting all attempt to build the citadel?” The magicians could not answer. Merlin asked then if they would dig into the site and find out, and the King ordered them to do this.

welsh dragon versus saxon dragonWhat they found was two sleeping dragons. A white one and a red one. The dragons immediately awakened and began a ferocious fight. Both fighting for all they were worth. The red dragon which seemed the weaker was almost overcome, but then the red dragon found a huge surge of strength and defeated the other which just vanished, never to be seen again.

Merlin asked the king’s magicians to explain the meaning of such an awesome and magical event. They were dumbstruck and had no idea what had gone on.


Merlin explained to the King that the red dragon was the Welsh dragon and would become a great symbol of the power of Wales. The white dragon was the Saxon Dragon that was defeated and banished. He then said that the site was not meant to be used as a citadel, as it was the sacred home of the red dragon who had now successfully driven the enemy away. Vortigern would need to build his citadel elsewhere in the mountains.

Vortigern was not pleased at the deceit and treachery of his magicians and so ordered their execution and burial on the mountains of Snowdonia. Merlin’s life was spared, and the mountain where these magical happenings took place became known as Dinas Emrys.

Dinas (city) of Emrys. Emrys also a name given to Merlin’s means immortal). Myrddin Emrys, Merlin’s other Welsh name means Sea fortress in Welsh – so we can add the meaning as immortal sea fortress. A man of many names. All powerfully magical.


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