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Merlin the wizard's hut in the woods


You might expect the world’s most famous magician to live in a mighty tower or a sprawling castle, but Merlin’s hut is a simple one–made from wood and thatch and nestled in among the trees—as if it, too, had grown up from the forest floor.

I am standing in the middle of the deep forest. A sign on the hut’s door reads “No Solicitors: Magical or Otherwise,” and after I knock lightly, I hear some muffled grumbling on the other side. The door swings inward surprisingly quickly, and there he stands: Merlin himself–a bit stooped, but still tall, with his flowing white beard and his piercing blue eyes. “Come in. Come in,” he smiled. “I’ve been expecting you.”

The hut is cluttered with thousands of books and parchment rolls, and the whole thing smells like old leaves, piles of which fill several corners of it. The skeleton of some unidentifiable creature hangs from the ceiling, and a small, purple dragon (alive, I realize) eyes me distrustfully from its perch in the corner. “Don’t mind Singe there,” says Merlin. “He’s a thornback, and friendliness doesn’t come easily to them.”

Merlin directs me to a table in the midst of the room. The table seems to have grown upward out of the network of roots that form the hut’s floor. “I can offer you tea...and peaches. The tea will be ready in a minute, but I'm afraid the peaches won’t be ready for months. Not in season, you know.” 

Merlin the wizard writing a book

Merlin’s bones snap and crack a bit as he sits down. “Now I bet you’re surprised that I anticipated your visit, aren’t you?” he asks.

“Not really. You invited me here,” I reply. “When I received your letter, I came right away.”

“Oh yes. Quite right.” He fidgets with his beard. “Before we proceed further, my boy, I must reveal my identity to you. I am…”

“Merlin the Magician. I know.”

I might have been a bit overeager. I was in the presence of one of my heroes–the very teacher of King Arthur himself.

“How did–?”

“You’re an old, bearded man living in a cottage in the woods. Your letter was delivered by a raven. Half of it was written in Old English. It’s a bit of a no-brainer.”

“Apparently.” The wizard seems annoyed as he pours himself some tea. “Anyway, most of the world believes I am currently locked away in a magical cave and have been for quite some time…”

“Nearly a thousand years, I’d say,” I add.

“Yes, thank you. I have spent the last few hundred years doing a bit of research. I have been tracking down the world’s most elusive mythical creatures one by one.”

I can barely contain my excitement. “And you want me to join you on your continuing quest?”

Merlin about spits his tea across the room. “That definitely won’t be necessary. The quest is over. I have compiled my research.” Then he addresses the air around him. “Papers!”

A mountain of parchment materializes two feet above the table and comes crashing down. “As you can see, I’m not exactly the most organized. I need you to compile all of this information."

I stare in wonder at the centuries of information piled before me.

“I have seen things you wouldn’t believe," the magician continues. "I have invaded the hidden sanctuaries of the unicorn, locked horns with the Minotaur, and ridden bareback on the kelpie and lived to tell the tale.”

He rolls up one of his sleeves to reveal a thin, white scar. "Manticore bite." Then he points to the other arm, covered in tiny indentions. “Leprechauns. Nasty little boogers." He gestures grandly to the pile of parchment. "My boy, these pages are the culmination of my life's work—my greatest accomplishment...apart from that whole saving Britain from certain destruction thing."

“So you need a ghost writer?” I ask eagerly.

“Bah! Ghosts make poor writers. Trust me. I’ve tried. I want you to write down the information I have discovered! If these findings are not recorded, these moments will be lost–like…like…”

"Tears in rain?"

“Exactly! See? That’s why you’re the writer.”

He points to a dangerously precarious tower of moldering books behind them.

“Now, I am not so conceited that I don’t realize the vast mountain of knowledge that has existed before me–lore and legends going back centuries.”

“Even before your time!”

“Yes, even back that far. So all of that must be incorporated as well. I want you to put all of that into a book–a guide so that those who wish to know, can know for themselves. Those who wish to seek, can seek.”

Before I know it, Merlin is sharing stories of his encounters with mythical creatures—griffins, mermaids, wendigos. With each story, my excitement grows, and I feverishly take notes, eager to capture every detail.

The book has begun.

Stay tuned for more information about Merlin's forthcoming book!

Merlin's Guide to Mythical Creatures from Many Lands