The fragments could potentially be part of the version of the Vulgate Cycle that Sir Thomas Malory used as a source for Le Morte D'Arthur
A previously unknown 13-century version of a tale featuring Merlin and King Arthur has been discovered in the archives of Bristol’s central library.
Found inside an unrelated volume of work by a 15th-century French scholar, the seven handwritten fragments of parchment are written in Old French and tell the story of the Battle of Trèbes.
The fragments are thought to be an iteration of the Merlin story, known as the Estoire de Merlin, which comes from an Old French sequence of texts called the Vulgate Cycle or the Lancelot-Grail Cycle.
In the newly discovered work, it is Merlin who rallies Arthur’s troops with a grand speech, before leading the charge wielding a magical dragon standard, which breathes actual fire. Other versions of the cycle depict different characters leading the charge.
Mallory’s book is largely responsible for the version of the Arthurian myth that we’re most familiar with today.
“Time and research will reveal what further secrets about the legends of Arthur, Merlin and the Holy Grail these fragments might hold,” Tether said.“The south-west of England and Wales are, of course, closely bound up with the many locations made famous by the Arthurian legend, so it is all the more special to find an early fragment of the legend – one pre-dating any version written in English – here in Bristol.”