Illustrator: Li Ming
Published by Dutton on September 1, 1995
Genres: Picture Books
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One dark night young King Arthur goes to the old magician, Merlin, and hears the story about Merlin's childhood--a story of dragons, the cruel King Vortigern, and Uther Pendragon, the High King before Arthur. Young Arthur comes away knowing that he can rightfully place the crown on his own head. A touching story illustrated with stunning oil paintings. Full color.
I have loved the Arthurian legends since I was a child. In high school and college, that love blossomed into fan-obsession. I read everything I could get my hands on in those pre-internet years: modern retellings, Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, medieval French versions, and some of the earliest sources, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Nennius, and Welsh myths, as well as scholarly books about post-Roman Britain and the (possible) historicity of the legends. And of course, I love dragons, and I enjoy Jane Yolen’s childrens books. So when I saw this book in my local used bookshop, I snapped it up.
In Merlin and the Dragons, Yolen recounts much of Merlin’s origin story, as the aged wizard tells it to a sleepless young Arthur. Emrys (Merlin) grows up fatherless, shunned by the villagers. There are hints of future magic, but also of scientific knowledge. When cruel High King Vortigern attempts to build a fortress nearby, the walls collapse until Emrys tells him to dig beneath the foundations. There they find two stones from which hatch two dragons. The dragons’ fight presages Vortigern’s fate… and the rest, as they say, is history. Or rather, legend.
Ms. Yolen tells Merlin’s story in simple but evocative language which at times seems to ring like poetry. Li Ming’s gorgeous illustrations enhance the story and heighten the dramatic tension. Merlin and the Dragons is a book for all ages, and especially for lovers of the Arthurian myths.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2020