Areulius Ambrosius, the brother of Uther Pendragon had just been pronounced king, his father and some of the other Princes of the Britons having been slain by the vicious Saxons in a mighty battle. It was because of this he made his way to Merlin, Wizard and wisest of all, to ask advice.
“Merlin, I need your help.” He said as he fiddled with the crown on his head. “I need to find a way to memorialise the Princes that have been slain, a lasting tribute to honor their memory and sacrifice.”
“A way to honor them?” The Wizard asked, stroking his long beard. “I do have this one idea. Have you heard of Giants Dance?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It lies in Killarus, a mountain in Ireland. It’s a structure made of these huge stones which no one in this world could carry or move, unless you’re me of course. If we bring them here and stand them, as they stand in Ireland, here, in this place, they will stand forever.”
Aurelius scoffed “Ireland? You must be kidding me, can’t you think of something that doesn’t involve us bringing huge arse stones across the water?”
“My king, do you really think I would make such a suggestion in jest? These stones aren’t just normal stones. They hold the ability to heal. Giants of old brought these stones from the furthest coasts of Africa to Ireland when they inhabited those lands. They did so with the intention of carving them into great baths, and when they became sick, to wash in the water contained within them so they can heal them of any ills. There is no stone in that landscape without healing virtues, Highness.”
“And you are so sure these stones will stand forever?”
“If placed here, then yes”
Aurelius then retired to his halls, and at his desk he wrote his commands. His brother, Uther, would travel to Killarus with Merlin and 15,000 men to collect these stones, and upon their return, they would be placed forever on the Plains of Salisbury.
It took some days of preparation before they were ready to leave, but eventually the 15,000 men, alongside Uther and Merlin left Salisbury on their rafts,travelling down the Rivers Avon and Seven, and across the Irish Sea. Little is reported of the journey itself, though upon reaching Irish lands, it’s said they were faced by an army of barbarians, 7000 of which they slaughtered before moving on to Killarus.
Upon facing the stones themselves though, Uther was crestfallen, despite Merlins warnings, the size of the stones was shocking, and Uther could think of no way they would be able to return them to Briton.
“Did I not explain to your brother how I was the only person who would be able to move them?” The wizard asked with a prideful grin. “If I do this…” He waved his hands “and this” He chanted a few words. “And finish it off with this” He thrust his hands into the air, and to the surprise of all present, the stones, each in turn, began to levitate. “Shall we get these back to the rafts then?” The wizard finally asked through gritted teeth as if he was bearing a heavy weight.
Their journey home took some time longer than their journey there, but they retraced their steps and finally returned to Salisbury, the Stones being placed on additional rafts to be taken across the sea. It is often argued how the stones themselves were laid. Some claim that Merlin, with use of his magics placed the stones on his own, though others claim he did so with the aid of a Giant that he knew. How the stones were stood in their final resting place is not important though.
It was not long after their raising that Aurelius was killed, poisoned by those Saxons at Winchester, and they buried him in the King Barrow in sight of the Giants Dance. Uther then took the crown but he too was poisoned by Saxons and was buried within the monument itself. But the legend of the Giants Dance continues. Arthur’s own exploits will be documented at a later date, but it is said that upon taking a mortal wound in battle, he abdicated his crown to Constantine, son of Cador of Cornwall and travelled to the Isles of Avalon to rest and die in peace. Constantine was eventually killed by Conan and is also buried within the boundary of the stones alongside Uther.
So this is a really short story to tell, and makes my inner Archaeologist cry, but I have a soft spot for Arthurian Legend and will be covering more of it in the future. Couple of quick disclaimers though:
. The Sarcen Stones (the large stones of the monument) are thought to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, about 20km North of Stone Henge
. The smaller Blue Stones are believed to be from the Pricilli Hills in Wales about 250km Westish
. The majority of this story is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 8, chapter 10, published C. 1136AD
. The argument that Merlin was assisted by Giants in placing the Stones in the Salisbury Plane comes from an Illustration on a 14th Century manuscript of Robert Wace’s Roman De Brut, depicting Merlin and a second figure with a Giant placing a lintel upon the upright stones. Roman De Brut was originally published around 1155AD, though no exact date is known. This was not part of Geoffrey’s account.