Appendix 16
The Irish influence on the Vita Merlini comes from the Bhuile Suibhne Geilt.
The Madness of Suibhne is about a legendary King in Ireland. It seems likely
that Henry Blois used this source for narrative ideas. There are several
coincidences mutual to both the VM and The Madness of Suibhne.The
madness of Merlin in the Vita is slightly confusing. It is not developed as
one would expect as part of the narrative. It appears that Henry Blois
started with the idea from the Irish source and forgot to develop it. Merlin’s
madness comes across as incidental because as we have noted, Henry’s
primary aims in the Vita are to provide new prophecies for his audience to
puzzle over and to re-educate his readers upon certain facts related in the
A coincidence with the Irish story has Eorann, wife of Suibhne, taking a
new mate in much the same fashion as Guendoloena does in the Vita. In the
same story we find Suibhne speaking of his herd of stags and Merlin rides
one in the VM. Also Suibhne has his madness softened in a very similar
way by Loingreachan who played upon the harp and sang to him of his
family, and finally persuaded him to return home just as Merlin returns.
The story line below from the VM is too close to be Coincidental:
The messenger heard the prophet and broke off his lament with cadences
on the cither he had brought with him that with it he might attract and soften
the madman. Therefore making plaintive sounds with his fingers and striking
the strings in order, he lay hidden behind him and sang in a low voice…. The
messenger sang thus to his plaintive lyre, and with his music soothed the ears
of the prophet that he might become more gentle and rejoice with the singer.
Quickly the prophet arose and addressed the young man with pleasant words,
and begged him to touch once more the strings with his fingers and to sing
again his former song. The latter therefore set his fingers to the lyre and
played over again the song that was asked for, and by his playing compelled
the man, little by little, to put aside his madness, captivated by the sweetness
of the lute. So Merlin became mindful of himself, and he recalled what he used
to be, and he wondered at his madness and he hated it. His former mind
returned and his sense came back to him, and, moved by affection, he groaned
at the names of his sister and of his wife, since his mind was now restored to
him, and he asked to be led to the court of King Rhydderch.