Books Features

New Medieval Books: Tales of Merlin, Arthur, and the Magic Arts

Tales of Merlin, Arthur, and the Magic Arts: From the Welsh Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World

By Elis Gruffydd, translated by Patrick K. Ford

University of California Press
ISBN: 9780520390256

This book offers excerpts from a 16th-century chronicle by Elis Gruffydd, which has been translated from Welsh. While the excerpts mostly focus on Arthurian tales, it also contains portions dealing with English and Welsh history up to the time of Henry VIII.


The general shape of the stories of the births of Merlin and Arthur and their subsequent careers may be broadly familiar to readers, but the treatment of the material here is uniquely Welsh, with many of the details found nowhere else. While Merlin and Arthur are no doubt the most recognizable, there are many other legendary and historical figures of antiquity and medieval Romance who populate these pages. Taken as a whole, these stories have a very high entertainment value and provide a window onto a world that suffered through numerous plagues and near-constant political strife. It was a world that men of the “arts” attempted to tame through prophecy, necromancy, sorcery, astrology, and other forms of magic. This book offers a unique and much-needed perspective on these remarkable characters and the world of medieval Wales.


Who is this book for?

Fans of King Arthur and the Arthurian legend will definitely want to have this book in their collection. It also offers a Welsh perspective on these tales and history. In the introduction, the Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World, which runs over 2000 pages, is called “tedious and tiresome,’ but the selections offered in the 157 pages of this book are filled with great stories.

The translator:

Patrick K. Ford is Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures (Emeritus) at Harvard University. He has edited and translated several other medieval Welsh texts. He mentions that this book originated in 2019 during a reading group with graduate students. The actual manuscript of Elis Gruffydd’s was put online by the National Library of Wales. Click here to access the manuscript and more details about the chronicle.


To learn more about this book, please visit the publisher’s website

You can also buy this book on | |