Yeah, I know, I’ve been really going off on the Ladies of the Lake for a while, now. But they change the entire landscape of the stories. Not only that, they’re not in Monmouth’s account. The Ladies of the Lake come into their own in Mallory’s story, and they’re huge. How huge? Killing Merlin huge.
Of course, Merlin should have known better than to get involved with them. He had already warned Arthur to be nice in order to get Excalibur. He knew they were trouble, and yet, and yet, he had to go and do it anyway.
By it I mean fall in love.
It seems Merlin was quite taken with one of the damsels—she’s never given a name—and proceeds to go all creepy stalker on her. He followed her everywhere, and even tried to use magic to enchant her into sleeping with him. She made him swear not to do this, but he was still creepy stalker guy, so she trapped him under a rock.
Okay, I guess, technically, he may not be dead. It doesn’t say that he died, but he’s stuck there, forever. At this point, I don’t care about Merlin that much. He crossed quite a few lines by going creepy stalker. There are a couple of things about this, though.
First, Merlin was not able to enchant her into sleeping with him. No explanation is given as to why, though we could probably infer that Merlin’s powers don’t really work on the Ladies of the Lake. It would explain why he cautioned Arthur to be nice to get Excalibur.
And while we look at Merlin as being creepy stalker, that may not be how the medieval person would have read it. There’s a high probability that it would have been seen as Merlin being a good suitor, and she betrayed him. Yes, I know that doesn’t sit well with a modern audience, but this is what I’m saying. It’s not a modern audience. The whole episode foreshadows and reinforces one of the major themes of the legend, that of female betrayal. This lady, Guinevere, and Morgan le Fay.
Yes there are other women in the story, and they are not all bad, but Guinevere and Morgan at least are major players. The Lady in the Lake is included because she disposed of Merlin, who would have been able to continue counseling Arthur.
On a different level, it’s cautioning men against falling in love, too. Merlin was robbed of his wits because he followed the Lady around like a sick puppy. He couldn’t be objective, couldn’t see the big picture, any longer. We’ll play a little more with the theme of women as we go. It’s definitely something to keep in mind with this story.