Magic hides in the strangest places. And if the University of Bristol didn’t know that before, it certainly does now.
The British college made headlines a few days ago when it realized that one of its 16th-century texts contained something even older – pieces of a medieval manuscript about King Arthur and the wizard Merlin. In them, the magical advisor not only plans a battle for the Round Table but leads the charge, carrying a dragon banner that spits actual fire.
Sounds like Michael Bay just found his next blockbuster action movie, doesn’t it?
When my friends started sending me the story, I didn’t know whether to be impressed or amused. On the one hand, I’ve always been a sucker for the fantastic and the legendary, and it’s beyond amazing to see an old tale take on new life like this. On the other hand – was this a carefully veiled hint? Like a lot of writers, I tend to attract clutter, and it’s not impossible that a lost rough draft of “Beowulf” could be hiding somewhere in my old shelves and stacks, waiting for the next archaeological dig …. er, spring cleaning.
(Side note: I’m hardly the only one. Heaven knows that the purse of our developmentally disabled ward, Missy, could be concealing several Arthurian cycles, the Holy Grail, and the secret treasure of Al Capone if we dug down far enough. But that’s another story)
But never mind the cleaning for now. (I’m good at that.) At its heart, this new discovery stirs up a lot of hope for me. No, it’s not going to cure cancer, or put a man on Mars, or restore the Denver Broncos to their rightful prominence in the football world. But it’s a reminder – one we need badly.
Wonder can live anywhere.
In 16 years as a newspaper reporter, I learned that everyone holds a story inside them, that any place can have a tale told. The bent old man who once fought in France. The office workers, attorneys, and air traffic controllers who also light up audiences as novelists, actors, and musicians. The young woman with pink hair holding a quiet, hidden pain that could break hearts – and a strength that could shake mountains.
Ordinary people? No. There are no ordinary people. Everyone has something more inside than the eye can see.
And that may be the hardest to believe of all.
It’s appropriate that it was a Merlin story that triggered all this. One of the more famous Arthurian stories is about how an enchantress named Nimue learns the secret of Merlin’s power and then uses it to seal him away – in a cave, or a tree, or some other enchanted prison, depending on the tale. Magic and wonder beyond belief, carefully hidden where no one will ever see it.
Sound familiar? It should.
“Oh, no one wants to hear about that.”
“They wouldn’t look at me the same if they knew.”
“This isn’t good enough for anyone to see.”
Or maybe it’s not even in words. Just an awareness of the face we put on, and the real person somewhere inside.
It’s not easy to let it out sometimes. It can take honesty and persistence and courage. It can certainly mean dealing with people who don’t understand what they see, who would rather the cave stay sealed. That’s always easier.
But if the door opens – magic can enter through it. Maybe a tale that enraptures the world. Maybe just a bit more kindness to make the world a more bearable place. Whatever it is, we need it. It belongs here.
A story, to live, must be told. Hidden in the binding, it says nothing. Brought into the light of day, it can melt 800 years like yesterday’s snowfall.
Tell your story. Open your cave. Share your magic.
And if it adds a fire-breathing dragon banner to the world, so much the better.