Until it is recognised that Geoffrey of Monmouth was a nom de plume used by Henry Blois, commentators will find it difficult to understand the inconsistencies found in Merlin’s predictions. We should understand that Henry conflates his source material with the sole purpose of anchoring his supposed prophecies as if they were made in Merlin’s era, providing contemporaneity for them by events which records show transpired in the sixth century.
This gambit is also used in association with a location and its history. For ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’ Dumbarton represented the Brythonic Britons which was the Kingdom of Strathclyde and its northern half occupied by the Damnonii, belonging to the Cornish variety of the British race, but its first King Rhydderch Hael, (Columba’s and Kentigern’s friend) is the real reason it is mentioned because Henry has set VM in the court Rhydderch. In HRB, Merlin was of no known location, whereas in VM ‘Geoffrey’ tried to provide some substance to the new Merlin Sylvestir or Caledonean Merlin so that he appears in time and place as opposed to Merlin Ambrosius.
Dumbarton (from Dùn Breatann or Dùn Breatainn means “fort of the Britons” and therefore links for ‘Geoffrey’ the Britons of Wales to the Strathclyde area and therefore merits attention in his prophecies. The inhabitants, (as he indicates not being rebuilt) are the wretched souls taken into slavery to Ireland where we again witness later on in the Vita where wretched people cross the water. In 869 AD, when Olaf the White, the Norse King of Dublin, brought a raiding army to plunder Scotland, Olaf and his brother Ivarr laid siege to the formidable rock fortress of Dumbarton. For four months starving the Britons out, until the fortress’ well dried up.
They ferried a ‘great host’ of Britons to Ireland as slaves on a fleet of 200 ships. The real reason that Henry concerns himself with Dumbarton is to place Merlin Caledonius in the North and predict occurrences about the north to establish the new northern Merlin. Merlin was of course corroborated as hailing from the north also through Blaise and Merlin being in Northumberland…. as presented in Robert de Boron’s work.
Geoffrey, unconcerned with exactitude in his concoction of the VM, has Rhydderch and Merlin with Taliesin and so indicates Taliesin as a partial source. Taliesin’s poem is a first-person eyewitness account (as Merlin’s presence on the battlefield pretends to be) and glorifies a victory by Urien, prince of Rheged, in which he led his warriors in defence against a host of invaders at a site in Gwen Ystrad.
The Battle of Argoed Llwyfain, details of which Henry Blois also conflates as witnessed at the end of the VM comes from the early Welsh poem Gwaith Argoed Llwyfain also by Taliesin. The main purpose of the inclusion of a prophecy regarding Dumbarton is to make his audience believe that, unlike the Merlin Ambrosius of HRB, this Merlin actually did make predictions concerning the north…. in the area he is seemingly being portrayed to have lived in. This is a very complicated subject when analysing the Merlin prophecies because they are changed at times during Henry Blois life.
Many interested people commented and were suspicious of the high relevance of the previous prophecies concerning the prevalence and high relevance to Norman aspects; the concentration of prophecies highly meaningful in the period when they were first exposed. Also, there was high relevance to Henry’s family and to Winchester and there were concerns with the numbering of Kings only up to King Stephen originally in the Libellus Merlini.
The suspicion came when suddenly the updated Merlin prophecies were being expanded up to six Kings in the Leonine line of kings where previously there had only been four. To avoid suspicion, Henry relocates Merlin in VM, while at the same time linking him to Taliesin and Rhydderch…. because people have asked questions about the prophecies and in this exposé in progression, we will see Henry Blois covering ‘Geoffrey’s’ tracks. Sceptics must have enquired how it was that none had heard of Merlin before or in what area he lived. It is for this reason the northern Merlin persona is created in VM.