[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/merlin_1265.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:350: Merlin, the classic, legendary wizard.]]

Before there was [[Franchise/HarryPotter Dumbledore]]... before there was [[TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms Elminster]]... before there was [[Literature/TheLordOfTheRings Gandalf]]... there was '''Merlin'''. The [[UrExample original]] [[WizardClassic bearded old wizard]] (unless you're counting [[NorseMythology Odin]]), this PublicDomainCharacter was added to the Arthurian mythos around 1100 AD. Merlin was the trusted advisor and surrogate parental figure to KingArthur.

In one legend, Merlin was intended to be an [[TheAntichrist Antichrist]] figure, begotten on a virgin by the [[{{Satan}} Devil]]. His mother, however, had the boy baptized at birth, [[AntiAntiChrist freeing him from the Devil's influence]]. His demonic heritage gave him the ability to see into the past and future, a gift that is often carried over to myths that do not include this origin story. In other myths, his father is an angel, [[TheFairFolk a fae]], or even no one. He is also frequently depicted as a shapeshifter and with a [[TricksterMentor trickster's personality]].

In most legends, Merlin's magic helped Uther Pendragon seduce and bed another man's wife (Igraine), leading to the conception of Arthur Pendragon, who he prophesized would be a great king. Merlin was given care of the boy, whom he raised as his son and prepared for kingship. In some myths, Merlin created the magical sword Excalibur and the Round Table of Knights.

Merlin's final fate varies from telling to telling. In some recountings, he [[DespairEventHorizon loses his wits]] when Arthur is slain. In others, [[MerlinAndNimue he is tricked and imprisoned by the witch Niviane (or Nimue)]], whom he deeply loved and taught magic.

For the 2008 British TV series, see ''{{Series/Merlin}}''. For the 1998 miniseries, see ''[[Series/{{Merlin-1998}} Merlin]]''.
----
!!Tropes usually displayed by Merlin:
* AdaptationDisplacement: Merlin is based on the now almost unknown Welsh figure Myrddin, who has his own set of legends.
* TheAntiChrist: In some stories, Merlin was the antichrist but instead of destroying the world, [[AntiAntiChrist became good]] and decided to help Arthur become the [[KingArthur King of Britain]].
** AntiAntiChrist: Merlin's mother was raped/seduced by either the Devil or some random demon, but she had Merlin baptized as soon as he was born. This relieved him of his Antichrist status but still let him keep his nifty magical powers. Since Medieval Christianity generally thought any sort of power must come from either [[HijackedByJesus God]] or {{Satan}}, this story explained how Merlin performed his magical acts without being a saint.
* TheArchmage: Depending on the version of the tale.
* [[{{Badass}} BADASS]]: Merlin is the most powerful wizard and sorcerer to ever exist on Earth.
** BadassBeard
** BadassLongRobe
* BecauseDestinySaysSo: In this case, "destiny" goes by "Merlin."
* {{Bowdlerise}}: As Christianity gained more influence, Merlin became less of a trickster and mage and more of a wise old mentor. His demonic parentage, however, became a part of the story ''because'' of Christian influence. The point was to explain why a heroic character was able to use godless magic. His moral ambiguity was likewise explained as the goodness of his mother and evil of his father struggling in him.
* CanonForeigner: Merlin did not appear in the original myths, although he's been around longer than Lancelot and the Holy Grail.
* CelticMythology: Merlin's legend comes from Welsh roots.
* TheChessmaster: Oh so much. He's behind so much of what happens in Arthurian legend.
* TheChooserOfTheOne: Merlin is basically behind the creation of King Arthur and why Arthur becomes king. Not to mention he's basically behind many of the factors and events in Arthurian legend, such as the creation of the Knights at the Round Table, Excalibur, the Sword in the Stone, etc.
* CoolOldGuy: In some incarnations.
* CourtMage
* DependingOnTheWriter: There are so many different depictions of Merlin that it's hard to reconcile them as the same person.
* DivineParentage: According to some myths, Merlin is said to be the son of a deity or the son of [[{{Satan}} The Devil]].
* EccentricMentor: In some depictions.
* FunctionalMagic
* GeniusBruiser: Merlin is both powerful and a genius.
* HalfHumanHybrid: Merlin is traditionally depicted as the son of a woman (sometimes a witch, occasionally a nun) and an incubus. Or, sometimes, [[DistaffCounterpart a man and a succubus]]. This is often given as an explanation for his magical and prophetic abilities. Modern interpretations of the legends vary significantly on Merlin's parentage.
** This was the result of the Christianization of the legend, to explain how Merlin could wield magic powers (which are [[AlwaysChaoticEvil always Satanic]]), but still be a good guy. The woman incidentally is nearly always a raped nun who dunks her newborn into holy water to wash evil away from him as soon as he is born, but he still grows up a horny bastard with a taste for young virgins—the modern tellings tend to forget that aspect of his character.
** Pretty sure in both the Christian and non-Christianized versions of the Arthurian Tradition Merlin was depicted as something of a fey spirit. So, half fairy was more like it. See works like the Elfin Knight, which predates most of the Malory as we know today. In the ''Literature/HistoryOfTheKingsOfBritain'', Merlin was depicted as born from a rather consensual experience. Try not to think about that too much.
** And if you want to go back to the source material with the myth of Myrddin and his sister, it's implied that they both have 'magical' heritage. However, the emphasis is more on Myrddin's far-reaching Sight than anything else.
* HermitGuru: Before his {{Bowdlerise}}ation
* HumanMomNonHumanDad: Merlin was born to a mortal human woman and a non-human father. The species of Merlin's father varies from legend to legend.
* IHaveManyNames: Too many to count.
* LastOfHisKind: Merlin is revealed as the last of the shape-changers in his childhood, before Arthur's birth.
* MagicStaff: Merlin's WeaponOfChoice.
* TheManBehindTheMan: In regards to Arthur. According to legend, many thought that Arthur was Merlin's puppet and that Merlin was the one who was actually in control of Arthur and his reign as king. Which might be true, considering how much of a strong influence Merlin is in Arthurian legend and all the events that happened.
* MayDecemberRomance: With Niviane.
* MeaningfulName: His name means '''sea fortress''' in Welsh.
* MemeticBadass: Given that he appears in so many legends, Merlin definitely personifies this trope.
* TheMentor: To KingArthur.
* MerlinAndNimue: The TropeMaker, [[TropeCodifier Codifier]], and [[TropeNamer Namer]]
* MerlinSickness: TropeNamer, [[TropeCodifier Codifier]], and possibly [[TropeMaker Maker]].
* TheObiWan
* ParentalSubstitute: To Arthur.
* PublicDomainArtifact: He is credited as the creator of {{Excalibur}} in later myths.
* PublicDomainCharacter
* TheProfessor
* [[TheProphecy The Prophet]]
* RasputinianDeath: In his earliest incarnation, it was said this was the only way to kill him.
* SealedGoodInACan: When betrayed by Niviane. Can be KingInTheMountain when the myth says she sealed him in a cave.
* {{Seer}}[=/=]OracularUrchin
* SemiDivine: Merlin is often portrayed as the child of a demon and mortal, although in the original myths he was depicted as something of a fey spirit, so half-fairy was more likely.
* ShapeshifterBaggage
* TheSmartGuy: Merlin is a wizard after all.
* SpaceWhaleAesop
* TricksterMentor
* WeaponOfChoice: See MagicStaff.
* WizardBeard
* WizardClassic: The TropeMaker and one of the most iconic examples.

!!Merlin has appeared as a character in the following works:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* In Manga/NanatsuNoTaizai, there is a character named Merlin who is a GenderFlip version of the character.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Several characters in the MarvelUniverse have claimed, with varying levels of conviction, to be the Arthurian Merlin. The first was an illusion-using SilverAge villain subsequently retconned as an imposter, but the usual one is a powerful, manipulative, guardian of reality itself who sometimes uses the name "Merlyn" with a y, and probably was the Arthurian character.
* The 1980s ''Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine'' comics featured Merlin as one of a group of "high evolutionaries", guardians of the universe who also included the Time Lords' founder Rassilon. The concept and characterisation were very similar to the Marvel example in this section (not to mention the use of the term "High Evolutionary", which is a Marvel character), suggesting that this was one of several subtle attempts in this era of the strip to link it to the Marvel Universe.
* Merlin has appeared from time to time in Creator/DCComics, usually in connection with heroes linked to the Arthurian myths. In particular, he plays a key role in the origin story of TheDemon and several of the lead characters in ''ComicBook/DemonKnights''.
* Merlin is one of the most widely used recurring extra characters in the Belgian comic book series ''ComicBook/DeRodeRidder''.
* ''Comicbook/{{Camelot 3000}}''
[[/folder]]


[[folder:Films - Animation]]
* Disney's ''Disney/TheSwordInTheStone'' presents a slightly scatterbrained Merlin who is capable of personal time travel.
* Appears in ''[[WesternAnimation/{{Shrek}} Shrek the Third]]'' as part of Shrek's efforts to get young Arthur on the throne of Far Far Away.
* [[TheCameo Has a tiny role]] (two lines, and he sends a magic falcon to help the heroes) in ''WesternAnimation/QuestForCamelot''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films - Live Action]]
* In ''Film/TheSorcerersApprentice'', Merlin was a great sorcerer who had three apprentices.
* ''MerlinsShopOfMysticalWonders'', and, by proxy, its ''MysteryScienceTheater3000'' presentation.
* ''AKidInKingArthursCourt''
* The film {{Film/Excalibur}}.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* The 1998 mini-series ''[[{{Series/Merlin-1998}} Merlin]]'' is a retelling of the story of King Arthur with Merlin as the main character.
* Merlin is the star of the BBC series ''{{Series/Merlin}}''.
* In ''Series/StargateSG1'', Merlin was one of the [[{{Precursors}} Ancients]], as was Morgan La Fey.
* The Doctor of ''Series/DoctorWho'' ''is'' Merlin. Possibly. In the future of an AlternateUniverse. It's... [[TimeyWimeyBall complicated.]] Whether there's any connection between the Merlin incarnation and the ''Doctor Who Magazine'' Merlin has not been mentioned.
* A less-than-competent Merlin appears in the French comedy series ''{{Series/Kaamelott}}''.
** he is in fact a Celtic druid rather than the usual sorcerer.
* The short-lived [[TheEighties 1980's]] sitcom ''Mr. Merlin'' had him still alive in the present day, keeping a low profile under the name Max Merlin. His costar is a young guy who learns Max's secret and then gets taken on as his apprentice.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Old Welsh tales and triads tell of a wild man of the woods living with pigs beneath apple trees, who had been a prophet and maybe a shaman, Myrrdin, or Lailoken (northern reaches, a Scottish variant), who lived in Coed Celiddon, the Caledonian Woods. After he had published his grand history, Geoffrey of Monmouth apparently found some older poetry or sources and published the Vita Merlini, Life of Merlin, and a very different Trickster from the king-maker of Uthyr and Arthur was he. Taliesin was a rough contemporary, a famous poet later given some magical or prophetic prowess as well.
* Geoffrey of Monmouth's ''Literature/HistoryOfTheKingsOfBritain'' (ca 1135) introduces Merlin as the child of woman but with no father, whom Vortigern wanted to sacrifice to keep a castle from crumbling above its foundations. Instead of being killed and having his blood slake the foundations, Merlin spoke prophecy and showed two dragons fighting beneath the castle, a white one (English invaders) and a red one (native Britons or Welsh). Merlin lived, Vortigern did not, and Merlin went on to aid Uthyr [=PenDragon=] in seducing Igraine the wife of Gorlois and so father Arthur in Cornwall at Castle Tintagel.
* Geoffrey of Monmouth also wrote a ''Life of Merlin'', reflecting the old Welsh tales of Myrrdin as wild man of the woods. Having seen his sister's husband slain in battle, Myrrdin flees to the woods to live in or beneath an apple tree as a vegetarian hermit with a pig for a companion.
* Robert de Boron's book on Merlin introduced the antichrist element.
* Thomas Mallory (or Malleore) and his ''Literature/LeMorteDarthur'' is the primary source for T.H. White's Arthurian works.
* Creator/MaryStewart's ''Literature/TheMerlinTrilogy'', based on Geoffrey of Monmouth, has Merlin telling his own story, as she fills in some gaps left by Geoffrey and by Mallory. A fourth book, "The Wicked Day" follows with Mordred's story.
* Creator/MarkTwain's ''Literature/AConnecticutYankeeInKingArthursCourt''
* In MarionZimmerBradley's ''TheMistsOfAvalon'', "Merlin" is a title given the chief druid.
** MercedesLackey's ''Literature/{{Gwenhwyfar}}'' borrows this element. It also explains the myth of him sealed in a tree with him having a stroke, which leaves him paralyzed and catatonic (wooden and tree-like, in the words of one character).
* Prior to her this novel, MercedesLackey's UrbanFantasy novels mention that Merlin was one of the greatest human Bards (magic users) in history.
* T. H. White's ''Literature/TheOnceAndFutureKing'' and ''Literature/TheBookOfMerlyn''.
* Knight Life by Peter David follows T. H. White's Merlin in aging backwards to the 1980s or 1990s, finally reaching childhood.
* Merlin was apparently a real historical figure in the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' universe. He gave his name to an order of powerful wizards, the Order of Merlin. His name also gets used in an OhMyGods fashion a number of times, usually as "Merlin's beard!" Pottermore, interestingly, reveals that he was placed in Slytherin during his time at Hogwarts (which, when you consider all the political scheming that went on with him in the legends, makes more than a little sense).
* T.A. Barron's ''Literature/TheLostYearsOfMerlin'' series.
* In one of the the Bailey School Kids Adventure books, the librarian is implied to be Merlin.
* In the RogerZelazny story "The Last Defender of Camelot", Merlin is a KnightTemplar PrinciplesZealot, and the last knight of the round table winds up having to save the world ''from'' him.
* ''TheWarlordChronicles'' by Bernard Cornwell, which has Merlin as a hilariously irreverent and very powerful druid, whose performances owe a lot to charisma, reputation, and the fact that a lot of his tricks are MaybeMagicMaybeMundane.
* Similar to the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' example, Merlin is a historical personality in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' (as is Arthur), a founder of the White Council of wizards, and one time guardian of the holy sword Amoracchius (aka Excalibur). The head of the white council is traditionally given the title of "The Merlin". The current bearer of the title is Arthur Langtry, whom Harry note that he "resembles what you'd think Merlin would look like". And to make clear, Merlin was the Archmage's Archmage. He constructed [[spoiler:a prison for {{Physical God}}s and {{Eldritch Abomination}}s of which {{Skinwalker}}s are the least secured of the lot]]. It was constructed [[spoiler:at once during at least five different moments in time to make sure it was protected over ''time'' and ''space'']]. It was said his mentor was Odin, Norse God, Winter King of the wyldfae. [[spoiler:And his direct line of students who grow to teach new wizards reaches to Harry Dresden personally]].
* Sir James Knowles' ''The Tales of King Arthur and His Knights'' gives an incredibly abridged version of Merlin's involvement from the beginning, but it all comes out with Merlin seeming much younger than other versions (the BBC series excluded) portray him to be (he's a child - so maybe 7 - when Vortigern uses him. Guestimate 10 years before Arthur is born...means he wouldn't be 60 when Arthur was 15 [yes, 15, not 11, {{Disney}}]).
* In the fairy tale "Literature/ChildeRowland", the "Warlock Merlin" gives invaluable advice to the eponymous hero.
* In ''Literature/TheDarkIsRising'' series, the mentor character Merriman Lyon is revealed to be Merlin.
* In ''The Weathermonger'' by Creator/PeterDickinson, the mysterious Changes that drive the plot turn out to be a consequence of Merlin being rescued from his imprisonment.
* Merlin is a supporting character in the children's fantasy novels ''Merlin's Mistake'' and ''The Testing of Tertius'' by Robert Newman. His eponymous mistake was an attempt to magically endow his student Tertius with all wizardly knowledge in one go; it went wrong, and Tertius ended up with a head stuffed full of anachronistic twentieth-century science know-how instead.
* The young adult novel, ''Winter of Magic's Return'' by Pamela F. Service, and its sequel, concerns three young children in [[AfterTheEnd post-nuclear war]] England. One of them turns out to be a youthened/reborn Merlin who had [[LaserGuidedAmnesia lost his memory]] and, even after he gets it back, [[IneptMage has some issues with remembering spells]] [[HilarityEnsues and making them work right]]. Ends up becoming a [[TheMagicComesBack Magic Comes Back]] scenario.
* Another young adult novel, ''The Magic Cave/The Hidden Cave'' by Ruth Chew, concerns two young children who find Merlin [[ShownTheirWork trapped inside an oak tree]] (although he's there by his own error, thanks to [[CuriousAsAMonkey wanting to know]] [[TooDumbToLive what was inside an acorn]], rather than due to Nyneve). The titular cave is actually a transformed drainage pipe which uses portal magic to take Merlin and the kids to various places, such as the library, the botanical gardens (for herbs to do magic), and eventually the museum to obtain an artifact (the Eye of Horus) to take Merlin back to his own time.
* The "{{Nightside}}" series. Unlike most examples, the author included the bit about him being the devil's son, though he [[AntiAntiChrist renounced his father]]. His not-completely-dead body is buried beneath the world's oldest bar, tended by his bastard descendants.
** We also get a look at his BizarroWorld self, who became the Antichrist, corrupted Arthur, and rules over an apocalyptic Britain.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* He made his appearance as Arthur's mentor in the 1960s musical ''Theatre/{{Camelot}}'', which was made into a film in 1967. In this version his name is spelt "Merlyn".
* ''Merlin'' was a 1983 Broadway musical starring legendary StageMagician Doug Henning. The story was an original one, depicting his battles with an evil sorceress queen in the days before he met Arthur.
* Similarly, he was a character in one segment of the Las Vegas musical/special effects showcase ''[=EFX=]'' (1995). As he shows Arthur the world's natural magic, they get ambushed by Morgana. She transforms herself into a dragon to defeat them, but Merlin does the same and wins the day.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' has some Merlin Expies in the forms of Elminster, Chosen of Mystra, from ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms'', and Fizban the Fabulous from ''TabletopGame/{{Dragonlance}}''.
* The Merlin of ''TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening'' was an Acanthus archmage, a master of Fate and Time, who engineered the creation of Arthurian Britain in order to Ascend. It promptly got erased from the timeline by the Exarchs, but they couldn't stamp out the mystical resonance of Arthurian symbology.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''QuestForGlory2''. Merlin is mentioned as a member of the Wizard's Institute of Technosorcery ([=WIT=]). A magic user can ask him to be a sponsor for your admission to the organization, though he mentions that he is way too busy for that.
* One of pre-made Wizards in ''MasterOfMagic'', where he is a Sage Master (has bonus to spell research) specializing in [[WhiteMagic Life]] and Nature magic. The intro cutscene featured him in [[YouAreTooLate one of winning conditions]].
* ''AgeOfWonders II'' has young Merlin as the campaign protagonist, ''AgeOfWonders: Shadow Magic'' begins with Merlin trapped in the Shadow World contacting new Wizards as a SpiritAdvisor.
* He appears in ''[[VideoGame/StarTropics StarTropics II: Zoda's Revenge]]'' as Mike's guide and as a friend to [[spoiler:the King of Argonians, Hirocon]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:VisualNovels]]
* Though not seen in the series proper, [[AllThereInTheManual background material for]] the {{Nasuverse}} posits that their Merlin was an Incubus. Most prominently, he made it possible for [[{{Bifauxnen}} Saber]] to [[{{Hermaphrodite}} sire]] Mordred.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/ArthurKingOfTimeAndSpace'' has Merlin as different things depending on what era it's set in. In the medieval period, he's the traditional wizard, complete with foiled-Antichrist backstory and prophetic powers (his frustration that nobody ever pays attention to his foretellings until it's too late is a RunningGag). In the space opera period, he's a HigherTechSpecies {{Time Travel}}er. In the contemporary period, he's a CoolOldGuy who runs a comic-book shop.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''StupidMarioBrothers'' has Merlin as a mentor to Mario, but also introduces his evil brother Nox Decious. Along with his brother, this version of Merlin originally appeared in an older project by [=RMA=] Studios.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''TheFairlyOddParents'' portrays Merlin as KingArthur's uncle and as a bit of a scammer. Also, he has a fairy's powers [[RuleOfFunny when it is comedically convenient]].
* ''DungeonsAndDragons'' had an episode where Venger, posing as Merlin, tricked Presto into releasing monsters imprisoned by the real one, who had long passed away.
* ''WesternAnimation/FilmationsGhostbusters'' portrays Merlin as a friend of the Ghost Busters and portrays Jake Kong as able to ask for help from Merlin's clumsy assistant every full moon.
* ''UltimateBookOfSpells'' character Verne is a descendant of Merlin.
* In ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'', Merlin once asked Batman and GreenArrow to follow him into his time to stop Morgana. In another episode, Merlin was said to have imprisoned a demon the then-alive GentlemanGhost tried to release in exchange for immortality.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/ThunderCats'', Mumm-Ra disguised himself as King Arthur in order to steal Excalibur and use it to defeat Lion-O. The only reason he was defeated was because he dropped the disguise and started gloating, which prompted Merlin to show up [[DeusExMachina out of nowhere]] and kick his ass.
* Star Swirl the Bearded in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', a famed figure in pony folklore, appears to be the Equestrian equivalent of Merlin. Twilight Sparkle once dressed up as him on Nightmare Night, and at the end of Season Three Celestia gave her the task of completing an unfinished, destiny-determining magic spell found in his journal. [[spoiler: Twilight's success in this task, creating ''new'' magic in the process, was the catalyst for her transformation into an alicorn princess.]]
* ''[[{{Visionaries}} The Visionaries]]'' was set on an alien planet, but had multiple allusions to the Arthurian mythos (such as a bad guy named Mortdred). Most notably, the series's central wizard was named Merklynn -- although he was [[TrueNeutral decidedly less benevolent]] than the Merlin of legend.
[[/folder]]
----
''[[TheStinger Remember to believe in magic]]...[[MerlinsShopOfMysticalWonders or I'll kill you.]]''
----