About Dr. Larry Eson:
Larry Eson’s lifelong interest in Mythology began with Tolkien, Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, and Joseph Campbell and later translated into completing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the late, lamented Folklore & Mythology Program at UCLA. His dissertation topic was on Merlin and the Celtic Wild Man, which explored the roots of the pan-Celtic Wild Man’s divinely-inspired gifts of poetry and prophecy in a wide variety of sources: Celtic, Norse, and other Indo-European mythologies; Arthurian literature; British and Irish folk traditions; and Siberian and Northern European shamanistic cultures.
Dr. Eson has presented academic papers over the past 25 years in Celtic Studies at numerous conferences in North America, Britain, and Ireland, and has published four articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic: ”Merlin’s Last Cry: Ritual Burial and Rebirth of the Poet in Celtic and Norse Tradition,” ”Odin and Merlin: Threefold Death and the World Tree,” “Demon and Incubus in the Merlin Legend,” and “Riddling and Wooing in the Medieval Irish Text Tochmarc Ailbe.” Dr. Eson teaches English Composition and Literature at Front Range Community College in Westminster, and is a former faculty member of the now-abolished Online Irish Studies Program, which was a collaboration between Regis University and National University of Ireland, Galway. He is presently working on an article focusing on the power of the female voice in medieval Celtic and Norse heroic narrative, and is also planning a book based on his Ph.D. work on the Celtic Wild Man.
Dr. Larry Eson’s paper for Real Myth and Mithril: Delving into Fantasy Literature takes a close look at two great wizards.
“My paper will explore the correspondences between the figure of the wizard Gandalf and that of Merlin in Welsh and Arthurian tradition. While Gandalf’s name derives from Old Norse, the wizard has almost certainly been modeled by Tolkien in large part based on his knowledge of the wizard Merlin, mentor and counselor to King Arthur and overseer of the Grail Quest. The Arthurian Merlin, in turn, owes his provenance to the somewhat earlier legend of the Welsh wild man Myrddin Wyllt (Welsh for “Merlin the Wild”) preserved in fragmentary Early Welsh poems, a saint’s legend concerned with Merlin’s Lowland Scottish prototype Lailoken, and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century Latin work, Vita Merlini (“The Life of Merlin”), which draws heavily upon Welsh folk tradition. My principal purpose here is not to analyze Tolkien’s own research, but to utilize my own Ph.D. dissertation work and other published articles on Merlin to illuminate the many remarkable parallels between these two literary figures and identify some of Gandalf’s distinctively Celtic roots.”