University of Rochester

EVENT: "Merlin the Magician in Literature and Culture," an exhibition of books and memorabilia

TIME, DATE, AND PLACE: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, now through Tuesday, Oct. 25 (closed Labor Day, Sept. 4), in the Robbins Library, located on the fourth floor of Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester’s River Campus.

ADMISSION: Free and open to the public

July 15, 2005

Over the centuries, the character of Merlin has reflected different roles in stories about King Arthur.

"There are different characterizations of Merlin because different people writing about him in different ages have their own agendas and their own ideas of what the story of Arthur and those surrounding him is really about," explains Alan Lupack, director of the Rossell Hope Robbins Library at the University of Rochester and an Arthurian scholar.

Lupack has drawn on his collection of Arthurian books and memorabilia to create an exhibition, “Merlin the Magician in Literature and Culture,” exploring various presentations of Merlin as a wizard, a prophet, and a lover. Books, original artwork, comic books, and film pictures show Merlin’s prominence and popularity in the tales of King Arthur.

The exhibition includes a 1641 book, The Life of Merlin, which uses Merlin’s prophecies to trace the history of Britain. Jonathan Swift taps the magician in a satirical comment on current events in his 1711 text, Famous Predictions of Merlin the British Wizard. Even health and spirituality author Deepak Chopra incorporates Merlin in his works, both for his novel The Return of Merlin and for his self-help book The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons for Creating the Life You Want.

Movie stills and posters show the ways Merlin has been depicted on the screen, from the cartoon character in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963) to his portrayal by noted actor Nicol Williamson in Excalibur (1981). Two prints, including one by Alan Lee, the conceptual designer for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, illustrate the two different versions of Merlin’s imprisonment by the enchantress Vivien, one in a tree and one in a cave.

The exhibition also includes popular culture items such as comic books, Merlin nesting dolls, a paperback based on the 1981 television series Mr. Merlin, and a brochure from the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas.

“Merlin the Magician in Literature and Culture” can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday now through Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the Robbins Library, located on the fourth floor of Rush Rhees Library on the University’s River Campus. The library will be closed on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4. For more information, contact (585) 275-0110.