Daily Archives: August 9th, 2007

Marvellous Merlin: Knowledge and Power

I went to a seminar given by Stephen Knight on Merlin a few weeks ago, and it was great. I’ve liked Knight ever since I did an essay on Robin Hood, in about third year, and I read bits of his book on said bandit. I didn’t realise that he was Australian! – I should have, since my lecturer Stephanie knew him, but it just didn’t occur to me that someone so prestigious could be an Aussie. Dreadful, no?

The focus – my take-home message, if you like, which might not have been the intended theme, but was talked about a lot – was Merlin’s relationship to power. He doesn’t often hold it, but he relates to it and talks to or at it; sometimes it’s a positive, sometimes negative, relationship.

The seminar started by talking about the Myrddin (‘Welsh’, or original at least, name for Merlin). From 493, in Cumbria, comes a poem that talks of a man who was traumatised by a battle, who consequently lives in a forest and mocks his own culture, and particularly the court. He becomes, a few centuries later, something of a prophet: in the poems of 1000 or so, he is speaking for Welsh power – where before he had been challenging that power. Interesting…

He went on to mention Merlin in Geoffrey of Monmouth (only helps with Arthur’s conception, no other involvement – he also collapses Merlin with Ambrosius. He’s also the one to coin Merlin, since merdinus in Latin means shitty!); various French poems, Robert de Boron and Layamon… Merlin, as knowledge, speaks to power, in the person of Arthur or similar. He might be an archbishop or grand vizier-type figure. But knowledge doesn’t always speak of truth, or share its knowledge; often, he’s just telling power to shut the hell up and get on with it already.

There’s a great picture from the Renaissance, in which the cave is more like a grand hall, and it shows Merlin as an artificer and an artist. Playing, of course, on contemporary desires and wishes and preferences.

Knight continued by talking about Dryden – King Arthur: The British Worthy – and other C18 plays and poems. Merlin is used in various ways in these places, but generally to do with power. In fact, the name ‘merlin’ comes to mean little almanacs – full of knowledge, of course. Merlin hasn’t always been portrayed as old, as those of us who are fans of The Sword in the Stone will always regard him; this is a relatively late development. The wrinkles, the beard – they’re all code for knowledge. This, by the way, led to an interesting discussion about whether figures such as Gandalf – also with white beard etc – are incarnations of Merlin, or if they’re just using the same codes.

It was a really fascinating talk, and I’m really glad I went. It was after this that I decided I would start reading more academic stuff, because really, it was so much fun stretching my brain! Apparently Knight went on to talk at a medieval conference, and talked about similar things; my friend AB went to the conference, but I haven’t caught up with her to talk about it.

I know how they make Flakes

… and it’s one of my more momentous discoveries of recent times.

So it seems that chocolate that reaches its expiry date gets sent back to the manufacturer. Fine. It gets melted down. OK….

And then it gets re-used.

The highest cocoa-percentage dark chocolate has not had this treatment. But milk chocolate is, at least partly, dark chocolate that has been melted down, the other bits sieved out, and then… turned into different chocolate.

This process gets repeated a few times. Eventually, the chocolate gets to the point where it loses elasticity, it won’t stick together very well, and it’s not even good enough for Easter eggs because it won’t work that thin.

You got it. That’s what gets turned into Flakes. Pretty clever propaganda, and use of resources, eh?

Dead angel

My Monster Angel has died.

He’s been on the way out for a year or so, I think: he got sick about a year ago, and I thought he would die then, but he kicked on. Today, though… on his side, all of a sudden; then, 30 minutes or so later, gone. Fallen off the perch.

The tank looks much emptier without him. He was three times as big as any of the others…