What about when a 900-year old myth is up for vindication? And one which involves the wizard Merlin in it? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Set among heavy, recent news, this story was almost too good to be true.
Geoffrey of Monmouth has a lot to answer for. His 11th century book, The History of the Kings of Britain, was responsible for popularising the tales of King Arthur. Even then his book was an instant hit – translated into many languages from its orginal Latin. On the medieval bestseller list for an unspecified hundreds of years.
Oh Geoffrey, you cheeky chappy. Even though he was born in 1095, already by the 1190s, his book was being torn apart. By the sound of it, William of Newburgh didn’t enjoy King Arthur’s stories at all. Oh well. Move over, William. Geoffrey of Monmouth hadn’t finished influencing people’s minds about British history. After all, The Sword and the Stone hadn’t been made yet.
By the 1500s, Geoffrey’s book about British kings was no longer used as a historical source. It had been accepted by then that Geoffrey had been describing myth. Indeed, one of the myths tells of the wizard Merlin leading men to Ireland to capture a magical stone circle called the Giants’ Dance. They rebuilt it in England as a memorial to the dead. Important side note: Wales included Ireland at this time. In name anyway.
As history progressed, no one in scholarly circles thought the story was really real. Except archaeologists have discovered a site very close to where Stonehenge’s Welsh-quarried stones, the bluestones, were unearthed. They’ve found the stone holes of an ancient stone circle site which exactly matches the bluestone formation in Stonehenge. Even the imprinting shape of the stones on the earth match up. As I was reading this part, my arm hairs took note. This bit got exciting.
Turns out that the stone holes are adjacent to four other stones – which are still standing. They’re the Waun Mawn standing stones. By some freaky coincidence, I know where they are. They stand just off the country road, the B4329 we take to drive to Pembrokeshire. We’ve driven it many times over the years. First to go scuba diving in Pembrokeshire when we were younger (and braver). More recently, driving down to Questie, whose home port was down in Milford Haven. Especially right before we left on her, we drove down this road a lot.
It’s a mountain road – as many Welsh roads are. Literally have to cross some ancient mountain range to get anywhere. And this is no exception. You go over the Preseli mountains. This particular stretch of road has always struck me – Welsh visitor which I will always be, as absolutely beautiful. I’ve always half-held my breath at this stretch. Twisty and turney and gorgeous.
Knee-deep in the article now, my arm hairs were fully erect. Turns out it was visited by Merlin too – before it officially became the B4329 anyhow. As the story says, he liked it so much, he took most of the original stone circle. Stonehenge’s site is at least partly second-hand. Seems the original, the Giants’ Dance has been finally found.
Geoffrey of Monmouth has got to be somewhere right now. Smiling.