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Merlin Helps Vortigern Understand the Falling Tower and the Dragons

Mythology is a wonderful world that Phyllis can escape to when her mind needs a break from daily life.

Dinas Emrys, Where There be Dragons

Dinas Emrys in Gwynedd Wales.

Dinas Emrys in Gwynedd Wales.

Lludd and Llevelys

Did you ever read how Merlin helps Vortigern understand the falling tower and the Dragons?

Well, to understand the legend of Merlin, Vortigern and the two dragons one may want to go further back in time before Merlin and Vortigern meet, in fact five centuries earlier, to the time when the dragons were imprisoned at Dinas Emrys in Snowdon by Lludd on the advice of Llevelys.

It is with the sons of Beli the Great where the story of the dragons start. You see, Beli had four sons, Lludd, Caswallawn, Nynyaw and Llevelys. Lludd, being the oldest, inherited his father's kingdom, which was the Island of Britain. Lludd was a mighty warrior and his rule was very prosperous. He had the whole of London rebuilt with walls around the entire city, including towers in great numbers. He then deemed that all his subjects should build great houses, greater than others in any kingdom. Lludd treated the citizens very well, with kindness and all the food and drink they needed.

Although Lludd had many castles in other cities, he loved his castle in London best and spent most of his time there. Of his three brothers, Lludd loved Llevelys the most as he was very wise and discreet. Llevelys, when he heard that the king of France had died and left all his kingdom and all within it to his only heir and daughter, he went to his brother Lludd and bade his permission to go to France and court the young maiden. This, he explained, would not only be for his own joy and happiness, but would benefit the kingdom of Lludd.

Lludd saw the wisdom in this merging of two great kingdoms and countries and gave his full blessings to Llevelys, whereupon Llevelys sent an embassy of ships with his armed knights to France to meet with the nobles and the princess. After conferring, the agreement to give the princess and the crown of the kingdom to Llevelys was sealed. Llevelys thenceforth became the ruler of France. His rule was much like that his brother Lludd had success with. Llevelys ruled there wisely, remaining happy to the end of his life.


The Enchanter Merlin, by Howard Pyle, 1903

The Enchanter Merlin, by Howard Pyle, 1903

Three Plagues on the Island of Britain

Now, there came a time when three plagues came upon the Island of Britain. The first plague was a race of people so advanced that they knew all that was spoken within the kingdom, whether a shout or even a whisper, as the wind carried all voices to them. They were called the Coranians and great was their knowledge. They were always safe from all harm, for they knew everything they might encounter.

The second plague was a mysterious and horrible shriek that came from parts unknown and occurred every May Eve throughout the Island of Britain. It touched everyone with fear. So strong was this fear that men lost their strength, their wives and even the younger generations lost their senses. All was left barren -- animals, trees, waters, the very earth, all were left barren.

The third plague was that regardless of how much food was prepared in the courts, none could be found except what was consumed at the beginning of a meal, the rest of the provisions just vanished.

Great sorrow fell upon King Lludd, for he knew not the source of these plagues and knew not how to free his kingdom from them.

Wisdom and Advice From Llevelys

Lludd conferred with his nobles and a decision was made to seek the wisdom and advice of Llevelys. This the king and nobles somehow managed to do in great secrecy and silence so as not to alert the Coranians.

Lludd thereupon made ready a great fleet and in silence left for France. When the two brothers met, Lludd told of the plagues and Llevelys said he knew the cause of these plagues that came upon the Island of Britain. Thus, he built a long brass horn they could converse through so as not to let the wind carry their words to the Coranians.

Firstly, Lludd was to take home some special insects that would destroy the Coranians. Llevelys cautioned Lludd to save some of the insects to breed in case the affliction returned. The rest of the insects were to be bruised in water. Lludd was to call all the people together, his own people and the Coranians. Once all were gathered, the water was to be thrown on all present. The water would destroy the Coranians, but not harm Lludd's own people.

Now here is where the dragons come in. Llevelys said that the second plague is a dragon and another dragon of foreign race is fighting to overcome and control the first dragon. They fight ferociously in the air. Thus, the first dragon, which is Lludd's own, shrieks with anger and torment, causing all the people to lose their senses.

When Lludd returns home he is to have the entire island measured from side to side and top to bottom to find the exact center. At this center, a deep pit must be dug. A massive cauldron is to be placed in the pit and filled with mead then a silk cloth is to be placed over the cauldron. Lludd then was to stand near the pit and watch for the dragons fighting in the air.

When the dragons became exhausted from their warring, they would fall onto the silk cloth, sink to the bottom of the cauldron and drink all the mead, thereby, falling into a deep sleep. The cauldron and dragons would sink to the bottom of the pit and then Lludd was to have them covered with the cloth and buried deeply in a pit in his kingdom that is the strongest of places.

The third plague, Llevelys explained, is caused by a man who knows powerful magic. He charms all the people into a deep sleep then steals all the food that had not yet consumed. Lludd is to keep a very large cauldron filled with water near his seat at the table and when he feels the sleep coming on, he was to plunge himself into the cold water, thereby staying alert.

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Lludd so Loved Llevelys, for Llevelys was Very Wise.

Lludd Overcomes the Plagues

When Lludd returned to London, he did all that Llevelys had instructed him to do. The Coranians were destroyed by the water, yet it did no harm to Lludd and his own people. The dragons fell, were buried in Snowdon at Dinas Emrys and the shrieking stopped so that all the people returned to their strengths and senses.

Lludd then had an enormous banquet prepared for all. He had his men prepare the large cauldron of cold water to set by his side at the table. Every time Lludd felt the sleep coming on, he plunged into the cold water and stayed alert. Afore long, a huge man with a huge hamper came in and began gathering up all the food. Lludd rose up and confronted the man, telling him he must stop these thefts and insults unless he could best Lludd in battle.

The giant of a man put down the hamper and a fierce battle between him and Lludd commenced. Lludd overcame the man, who begged for mercy. When Lludd asked the man how he would atone for the devastation and theft, the man vowed to restore all he had taken and more, to stop the sleeping charm, to be Lludd's faithful servant and pay homage to Lludd. King Lludd accepted this from the man and all was well thereafter.

Thus did Lludd break free from the plagues and ruled again in prosperity the Island of Britain for the rest of his life.


We now fast forward 500 centuries to meet King Vortigern, a man of many problems. Currently he is having a major problem. You see, Vortigern has gone to huge expense and much time to have a magnificent castle built for himself. Every day there is much work done on the castle by hundreds of workers. Yet every night, the great tower shakes and crumbles down to a pile of debris which has to be cleared for a new tower to be constructed.

Vortigern had gone to great lengths to escape from the sons of their dearly departed father, Constantine. Vortigern, through his treachery and deeds, had finally settled in Snowden in hopes of being safe. However, this is a whole story in itself which does not permit time and space in this article.

Vortigern becomes very angered by the failure of a tower being built and demands answers from his architect. The architect is just as perplexed as Vortigern and has no answers as to why the tower keeps trembling and falling.

In desperation, Vortigern calls together all his prophets and demands some clarification from them as to what should be done to proceed in building a tower that would withstand the test of time. After much conferring among themselves, the prophets return to Vortigern, pleased with the solution they came upon.

They told Vortigern that he must send out warriors to seek and find a child of no father and bring him forth to Vortigern. The child, the prophets declared, must then be killed and his blood sprinkled on the foundation of the tower, thereby destroying all mishaps and curses on the tower.

Merlin is Brought to Vortigern

At the time that Merlin was found by Vortigern’s army, he was about eight years old. Merlin, along with his mother, was taken to Vortigern, not being told the reason why he and his mother were summoned. When Merlin stood before Vortigern, he demanded to know why he and his mother were brought forth.

Surprised at the seemingly great wisdom and manner that the child possessed, Vortigern explains with pleasure what his prophets had told him. Meanwhile, the prophets stood by Vortigern, hands clasped upon their chest and faces showing great pride in their prophetic revelations.

Vortigern knew that the mother of Merlin was a lady of noble birth and asked her to explain the birth of the child. She explained:

"As my soul liveth and thine, O my lord the King, none know I that was his father.... one appeared unto me in the shape of a right comely youth ... and after that he had abided with me some little time and did suddenly vanish away so that nought more did I see of him. Natheless, many a time and oft did he speak unto me when that I was sitting alone, albeit at never once did I catch sight of him. But after that he had thus haunted me of a long time I did conceive and bear a child."

Vortigern called forth his chief prophet and asked if this was true what the lady had said. The prophet admitted that what the lady said confirmed that it was an incubus demon, a being of the place betwixt the moon and the Earth, according to the wisdom of the great Socrates. It was the demon who fathered the child.

Merlin asked respectfully if Vortigern would first allow him to speak at length before a decision was made. He wished to speak on the failure of the tower and the reason why it could not be built on the spot Vortigern wanted it to be. Vortigern, amazed and quite curious, agreed to listen to the boy.

Now, dear reader, can you guess what it is with that particular spot on a pleasant hillside and why it will not hold a tower? Let us find out from Merlin.

The two Dragons in the pit

Merlin, explains that an underground fight between red and white dragons is causing Vortigern's fortress to collapse

Merlin, explains that an underground fight between red and white dragons is causing Vortigern's fortress to collapse

Merlin Debunks the Prophets

Merlin first proceeds by telling Vortigern to bid his wizards come before him. Amused, Vortigern calls the "wizards" to come before the child. Merlin then asks questions of the prophets. He asked them if they knew what was under the foundation of the tower and they were perplexed for not have the knowledge of this.

The wizards had no answer as to why the tower would not stand. Merlin tells Vortigern to call his workers to dig down deep under the foundation of the tower where they will find a pool that prevents the tower from standing. The workers dug and found a pool that made the soil very unstable. Merlin then says to the wizards that they are liars and asks them what is under the pool. Again, the wizards had no answers and were perplexed.

Merlin told Vortigern to order the pool drained and in the bottom he would find two hollow stones and within the stones there be two dragons asleep. Vortigern marvelled that Merlin again spoke the truth, for they did find the stones and dragons. All who heard Merlin were astonished and said that he was possessed of "some spirit of God".

Merlin called the wizards liars and that he, Merlin, only knew the truth.

The two Dragons

The mound on top of that pleasant hill was Dinas Emrys where Lludd, 500 centuries before, had buried the dragons.

As Vortigern, King of the Britons, sat upon a rock with Merlin near the pool, the two dragons, one red and one white, awoke and breathing fire began fighting fiercely. First the red dragon was winning then the white dragon gained more power and overcame the red one. Vortigern asked Merlin to tell him what was the meaning of the fighting dragons.

Tears issued forth from Merlin as he explained that the red dragon is Briton and will be destroyed by the white dragon, which is the Saxons. Vortigern had invited the Saxons to live in the land and help him defeat Briton's royalty. Merlin told Vortigern that the mountains, valley and plains of the Island of Briton will flow with blood under the oppression of the Saxons.

Merlin then recites his entire prophesies to Vortigern, which tells of the fall of the Britons, the death of Vortigern, the rise of Aurelius Ambrosius as King of the Britons, and that Vortigern should flee if he can, for the Britons under Aurelius Ambrosius were even at that moment on their journey to lay waste to Vortigern's lands and Vortigern himself.

Well, needless to say, Vortigern did not have much time to escape far. As dawn approached, the Britons were scaling the walls of the castle of Genoreu in the land of Hergin where Vortigern had fled to. The army of Aurelius Ambrosius set fire to the castle. The fire found dry tinder and blazed the day long, with Vortigern, for all his evil deeds against the people and royalty of the Britons, was trapped inside going down with the blaze.

Welsh Red Dragon

The Prophecy of Merlin which features the enduring legend of the Red Dragon is centred on Dinas Emrys in Northwest Wales.

The Prophecy of Merlin which features the enduring legend of the Red Dragon is centred on Dinas Emrys in Northwest Wales.

The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion is a collection of prose from medieval Welsh manuscripts. It contains eleven stories on pre-Christian Celtic mythology. It is the earliest prose literature of Britain.

Lady Charlotte Guest was the first to translate and publish in English the Mabinogion in 1877. In her notes on Lludd and Llevelys, she states:

"The imprisonment of the Dragons in Dinas Emrys in Snowdon, is one of the most curious legends of romantic fiction. Their combats, five centuries later, led to the discovery of the enchanter Merlin, with which opens the great drama of Arthurian Romance. This story being related by Geoffrey of Monmouth, has by many been considered as the fabrication of that writer; but it must be noticed that it is also found in Nennius, who wrote in the eighth century, and of whose works, some copies as old as the tenth, are still extant."

If it can be proven by dates that the Mabinogion was written before Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the Historia Regum Britanniae and the romances that Chretien de Troyes, a 12th century French poet, wrote on Arthurian legends, then the importance of the Welsh Mabinogion and the information therein is of great importance to the history of Merlin and all the Arthurian legends.

Archaeological Evidence

Dinas Emrys (fortress of Ambrosius) is the site where Merlin gave the prophecy to Vortigern. It is well known that there is definitely an underground pool in the fort. Between 1954 and 1956 Dr. H. N. Savory, archaeologist, discovered the fort was built during the time frame of Ambrosius and Vortigern.

Savory also discovered that the walls of the fort were not built properly and had to be re-built two or three times. In the legend, Vortigern was frustrated and asked Merlin why did the tower keep collapsing. Merlin explained about the underground pool which made that site too weak to support the tower.

Is this archaeological evidence that the legends of Merlin are factual?

Dinas Emrys. Site of Vortigern's Tower and the pit With the Dragons

The platform above the "pool" where archaeologists speculate the prophecy may have been revealed.

The platform above the "pool" where archaeologists speculate the prophecy may have been revealed.

Consider to be ruins of a tower from 11th century.

Consider to be ruins of a tower from 11th century.

Dinas Emrys

Note From Author

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

Blessings and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor

© 2014 Phyllis Doyle Burns


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on June 01, 2014:

I had to change videos because the old one is no longer available. This video is music for relaxation. Relax and allow "Merlin's Magic" to work for you. Enjoy.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on May 21, 2014:

WA - thank you for this version of the story -- how interesting. There are other versions I have read, too. The learning center that is now there must be a great place to attend, with its history attached to it. It is great that you will be returning there, how wonderful to be adding to your skills and learning more.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on Merlin and Vortigern, and for giving another version.

Krys W from Abertawe, Cymru on May 21, 2014:

There is another variant ending to the legend, namely that Vortigern (or Gwrtheyrn as he is known in Welsh) fled Dinas Emrys and took refuge in a secluded bay at the bottom of a steep mountain on the Llyn Peninsula. The stories then diverge yet again. One version says that Gwrtheyrn was killed by lightning as divine punishment. The other claims he went insane and roamed the mountains, eventually leaping off a nearby headland to drown in the sea.

Nant Gwrtheyrn later became a fishing settlement, and then a village of slate quarrymen, before being totally abandoned and subsequently almost destroyed by a hippy colony.

Finally, thanks to the vision of a GP, who set up practice in the region, it was renovated and is now the national learning centre for the Welsh language. I was fortunate to attend a 3-day course there in Welsh on the Mabinogi just a couple of weeks ago, and will be returning in October for week's course to boost my Welsh skills a little more.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 29, 2014:

Jackie, thank you for your very kind comment. Merlin is a favorite subject of mine and I enjoy writing about him.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 29, 2014:

Another outstanding work Phyllis, you are so thorough and complete in your work. Something to be very proud of. I hope HP is rating you as you deserve on these! ^+

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 28, 2014:

Well, sujaya venkatesh, then it would be quite interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 28, 2014:

Hi Frank. Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it. I have a lot of fun working on Merlin legends. There are so many, so I am sure I will be doing more, a lot more over time. Have a great day.

sujaya venkatesh on March 28, 2014:

what if dragons came alive phyl

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 28, 2014:

Phyllis what a thorough hub.. followed it slowly as to not miss a thing I never heard of these types of legends, but so glad you continue publishing hubs like these

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 27, 2014:

Hi Anne - you are most welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting. I have known the story of Vortigern and the dragons for years because of the Prophecies of Merlin. Recently I was digging through some old Arthurian books and came across the story again and began to wonder how the dragons got in the pit, so did some deep research and found out about Lludd and Llevelys. I had great fun writing this hub. Thanks again, Anne.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 27, 2014:

Kevin ! always good to hear from you. I am so glad you enjoyed the story. I appreciate your comment, vote and share. Thank you so much.

Anne Harrison from Australia on March 27, 2014:

Thank you for this hub. I read a lot of the Arthurian legends as a teenager, yet I have never come across this tale. Thank you for sharing it and explaining the story so well

The Examiner-1 on March 27, 2014:

Neat Phyllis! I started reading this and I could not stop. Voted up and shared.


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 27, 2014:

Thank you very much, Eddy. Your kind words and love from Wales are a nice way to start my day. Have a wonderful evening. Hugs and blessings to you.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 27, 2014:

This story is a new one for me also and you are one wonderful story teller Phyllis and here's to so many more from you.

Enjoy your day and lots of love from wales.


Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 26, 2014:

Hi grand old lady. Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, Merlin goes back to the 12th century, when created by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the mid 1100s. Fascinating character Merlin is. Thanks again for your visit, I appreciate it.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 26, 2014:

All I ever knew of Merlin was from the movie, Camelot. It's nice to know that his legend goes even further back. Loved the ending about Vortigern drowning in the blaze.

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 26, 2014:

Thanks, Nell. Have a great day.

Nell Rose from England on March 26, 2014:

I am sure there are many places near me that I haven't visited, its silly really because I learn something new every day, and I should know this stuff! lol! have a great evening Phyllis!

Phyllis Doyle Burns (author) from High desert of Nevada. on March 26, 2014:

Hi Nell, thank you very much. I am forever grateful to people like Lady Charlotte Guest who transferred ancient manuscripts into English. Lol, don't be concerned about not hearing the story before, people here in America have not heard about some of our stories. I once wrote an article on a resort spa, in North Carolina, USA and a reader who live less than 20 miles from the area had never heard about it before. It happens. Thanks again, Nell, for reading and commenting, I appreciate it very much.

Nell Rose from England on March 26, 2014:

Hi Phyllis, I never knew this story at all! being English you would have thought I would wouldn't you? lol! what a great read! and fascinating story, nell

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