College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Robert de Boron, Merlin, trinity, grail, cauldrons


Before I wrote about Robert de Boron’s text, a purpose of this paper was to examine the literary background of Merlin’s character to search for his connection with any mystical powers, which would validate his commanding role as a facilitator in Robert’s Merlin section of his romance, a role in which I claim he has been given the powers of the Holy Trinity by God. I also wanted to explore the history of cauldrons and other ancient vessels to link determine if I could find any literary base to the Grail Robert assigns to Jesus Christ. I wanted to further investigate the life and times of Robert as well. Because he wrote at the end of the Twelfth Century, not much is known about the man, so I hoped to consider how his life and times may have impacted his work. With the text itself, I wanted to emphasize Merlin’s central role as narrator and facilitator assigned to provide a safe transition for the Grail from keeper to keeper to prove my claim about Merlin’s power. The results of my research proved beyond my expectations that Merlin’s literary ancestor, Myrddin from Celtic tales did, in fact, hold developing mystical talents such as levitation and invisibility, the exact type of precursor that would validate his service. Discovering how cauldrons and other containers were used in ancient religious rites of people from lands that extended far beyond Robert’s home in France proved to be rather surprising. These containers referenced in myths suggest life-giving forces of rebirth, some having agency to choose those who are worthy to eat or drink from the vessel. Finally, a study of Robert’s home brought the research to the time of the Crusades when many lives were lost, a time when his audience would be joyous to accept a holy relic like the Grail of Jesus as their own. With this human history providing background for the story of the Grail itself, its value to Christianity becomes palpable as Robert brings the story to England and to the lands of King Arthur under the guidance of Merlin who worked through the grace of God.