- “A dark age indeed! An age of inconvenience! No plumbing! No electricity! No...nothing!”
- ―Complaining about the Dark Ages during his debut.
Merlin is a powerful wizard and the deuteragonist in Disney's 1963 animated film, The Sword in the Stone. Merlin is the wizard master and friend of 12-year-old orphan Arthur, a.k.a. Wart. Merlin is also the magical rival of Madam Mim and has a pet owl named Archimedes.
Merlin is a wizard of unspecified origin, who is first seen living in a forest cottage. He is a very wise character who believes in the philosophy of "Brain over Brawn." To this end, Merlin values education as opposed to the war-training philosophies shared by much of the rest of society. Despite his wisdom, he can be absentminded and forgetful, as well as clumsy.
As a wizard, Merlin shows a wide variety of powers, and is widely hailed as being the most powerful wizard in the world. He shows an ability to see into the future, though not completely. He can enchant both objects and people, and possesses a well-developed ability to shape-shift. He can also travel through time, which has granted him much knowledge about society, past, present, and future. He often references his knowledge of the future when speaking to others, leaving them understandably confused.
Merlin is first seen getting water from his well and preparing afternoon tea in his cottage, having predicted that a young boy will soon join him. He admits that the specific identity is unknown to him at the time. He later meets a pre-teen orphan named Arthur, commonly known as Wart, after the boy literally drops through Merlin's roof. Merlin speaks to Wart about the value of an education and decides to appoint himself as Wart's tutor. After Wart explains that he must return to his castle, Merlin decides to accompany him, and displays his magical abilities by shrinking all his possessions so that they fit into a small carpet bag.
They arrive at the castle of Wart's foster father, Sir Ector. Though Sir Ector initially disapproves, Merlin is able to persuade him through a display of magic, which frightens the man into accepting Merlin's offer. Merlin, who is mistakenly called "Marvin" by Ector, is provided the "guest room," which is revealed to be a crumbling, teetering tower.
The next day, Merlin begins Wart's education, teaching him the principle of brain over brawn by transforming Wart into a fish. During the adventure, Merlin, also in fish form, is trapped in an old helmet while Wart is chased by a giant pike. Merlin forgets the magic words to change them both back, but remembers just in time to save his apprentice.
Later, Merlin goes to retrieve Wart for another lesson, but he is being forced to clean as punishment for being late as a result of the previous lesson. Merlin uses his magic to enchant the various kitchen objects to make them clean themselves, and sneaks Wart out. Merlin transforms himself and Wart into squirrels. Merlin and Wart are both pursued as mates by two female squirrels. Merlin grows increasingly annoyed and finally transforms back into a human out of anger. He then transforms Wart, much to the sorrow of the young female squirrel who had been chasing the boy.
Back at the castle, Merlin is insulted by Sir Ector, who believes that Merlin's magical enchantment of the kitchen objects was the result of black magic. When the Wart protests and defends Merlin, Sir Ector angrily piles more demerits on the boy, and finally punishes him by forbidding him from making a future trip to a London tournament as Kay's squire. This leads to Wart being replaced by an unseen boy groom named Hobbs. After seeing Wart's sadness, Merlin apologizes, as he knew how much the potential trip to London meant to the boy. He then suggests that Wart use the opportunity to further his studies and that he can still make something for himself by getting an education.
Merlin begins by talking of various happenings of the future, but the poor boy is so confused that Archimedes decides to take over Wart's education. Despite Merlin's annoyance, he is later pleased to see the boy learning to write with Archimedes' help. Merlin takes the opportunity to show Wart a model airplane. The plane fails to fly, though, because the propeller becomes caught in Merlin's long beard. Wart appreciates the demonstration anyway, and confides that he dreams of flying. Merlin decides to turn Wart into a small bird. Wart then goes flying with Archimedes.
After being told by Archimedes of Wart's capture by Madam Mim, Merlin appears to save his apprentice. Mim angrily challenges Merlin to a Wizard's Duel, where he turns into a turtle, a rabbit, a caterpillar, a walrus, a mouse, a crab, and a goat. Though initially at a disadvantage, Merlin wins by cleverly transforming into a germ, disarming Mim's dragon transformation.
Later, Wart happily informs Merlin that he has been reinstated as the squire to Kay. Merlin is angry, as he thought that Wart had finally put aside war games in favor of learning. When Wart explains that a position as a squire is best hope, Merlin angrily takes off like a rocket and travels to Bermuda. Later, he returns to England he is pleased to find out that Wart is now King Arthur, due to pulling the sword from the stone and anvil, and he is happy to tell him how famous he will become in the future.
Merlin makes cameo appearances in a few episodes of the television series House of Mouse. In "Rent Day", Merlin promises to give Mickey the 50 dollars that he needs to pay the House of Mouse's rent if he can find Arthur a sword. In "Jiminy Cricket", he was seen sitting with Rafiki, King Triton and Grandmother Willow as part of the "elders" that Jiminy Cricket refers to.
Merlin is first referenced in season 3 as a citizen of a realm called Camelot, where he enchanted the sword Excalibur and hid it in Camelot. When Snow White tried to find it in the hope that she would be able to overcome The Evil Queen, Prince Charming made a trade with Rumplestiltskin in order to get to Excalibur. He is later revealed to Snow White by Rumplestiltskin that the sword is false, but that the real sword is hidden in Camelot.
After a series of references to a powerful, possibly immortal mage known as the Sorcerer, it was revealed that he and Merlin are one and the same. In the fifth season, Merlin appears in the form of a young man in his early twenties, contrary to his usual depiction as an old wizard. Centuries ago, it is revealed, Merlin fought a demon known as the Dark One, who imprisoned him in a tree until he is released by the current Dark One, Emma Swan, in the fifth season episode "Dreamcatcher."
Before First Curse
For eons, it was the responsibility of Merlin and his apprentice to chose a person to become The Author and record the stories within a book.
Merlin has his Apprentice guard his magical hat which holds strong magic.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice later retires in an old cottage where he continues to guard his masters hat. Rumplestiltskin sends a girl named Anna to retrieve the hat from him, however, she quickly outwits Rumplestiltskin and takes the hat with her which is then obtained by her aunt, Ingrid the Snow Queen. Ingrid asks the Apprentice, on the behalf of Merlin, to help her find someone. He accepts her deal and opens a door to A Land Without Magic to help Ingrid find the one she is looking for in exchange for his hat.
After having chosen a man named Isaac to be the Author, they discover he has been manipulating events to create more interesting stories and when he forces them to fill Maleficent's child with darkness, they punish him by entrapping him within an illustration in the book.
The Apprentice later tells his master about what has been done with Maleficent's child. He asks whether there is a way to undo this but the Sorcerer says no. Merlin then goes on to tell his apprentice the girls will now and forever remain entwined together.
After the Second Curse
After Mr Gold discovers the hat, he tries to use its power to free himself of the dagger that controls him and traps within it, the fairies and the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
After Elsa, Anna and Kristoff discover the portal to Arendelle and return to their homes, Henry Mills discovers a hidden room full of blank storybooks. He shows Emma Swan and Regina Mills the secret room, leading them to believe that Merlin and The Author are the same person. This, however, is clarified by Mother Superior, who tells them that they are two different beings.
After Isaac's plan to allow villains to win fails miserably, it is revealed that Rumplestiltskin is dying, which would end his curse but allow the Darkness to be released from him. To counter this, the Apprentice tries to imprison the Darkness in Merlin's hat, thereby saving Rumplestiltskin's life. However, the plan backfires, and the Darkness almost consumes the Apprentice until he is saved by Emma Swan. It is then advised by the Apprentice that the only man who can stop the Darkness is his master: Merlin himself. Shortly upon realizing this, Emma sacrifices herself, becoming the next Dark One in order to save Regina from the Darkness.
Before the Third Curse
Following Emma becoming the Dark One, her friends and family track her down in Camelot, where they search for Merlin in the hopes that he can remove the Darkness from her. Unfortunately, they have to work against the wishes of the realm's king, Arthur, who has grown obsessed with finding the Dark One, so that he may reunite her dagger with the Excalibur, a weapon which would allow one to either snuff out the Darkness forever or snuff out the light. However, Arthur has another nefarious plot: he wants to kill Merlin, who is still trapped inside a tree after his long ago conflict with the Darkness.
Working against the wishes of King Arthur, Emma and Regina work together, finding the secret ingredient that will release Merlin: a tear of lost love, which they retrieve from their son Henry. While Regina holds off Arthur's men with her dark magic, Emma performs the spell - a combination of light and dark magic - which releases the Sorcerer. Once Merlin has been freed, he denounces Arthur, expressing his disappointment in the once and future king. Then he releases Snow and Charming from Arthur's enchantment and agrees to help free Emma from the Darkness, if she is ready to be free.
Eventually, Arthur aligns himself with Zelena, and they cast a spell on Excalibur causing Merlin to be controlled by the sword just like Emma is controlled by the dagger. They kidnap Emma's family and friends in hopes that Emma will hand over the dagger. Under the swords control, Merlin is forced to fight Emma, who convinces him to fight the power of the sword. Merlin breaks the connection from the sword, allowing him to turn against Arthur and Zelena and fight them off.
Later Merlin joins up with the rest of the group at Granny's Diner. He tells Emma what to do to fuse the dagger and the sword back together. As the sword is forged, Killian grabs his neck, as a previously closed wound reopens. In a panic, Emma decides to tether his life to Excalibur. Merlin advises against this, as it would make Hook a Dark One. Emma refuses to listen, and teleports herself and Killian to a field. Emma transfers the Darkness from Merlin into Killian. Merlin's name disappears from Excalibur, and is replaced with Hook's name. Hook disappears from the field and is seen rising from the Dark One's Vault.
After Hook becomes a Dark One, he starts plotting revenge. Merlin, realizing how dangerous Emma and Hook have become, leaves a message for the group, instructing them to find Nimue, as she is the one who can save Emma and Hook. His message is cut short when Hook arrives in the diner, pulls out Merlin's heart and states that he wants to create a Dark Curse to take everyone back to Storybrooke. Merlin explains that Hook will be unable to cast the curse without crushing the heart of the thing he lives most. Rumplestiltskin's memory form appears and states that he won't be crushing the heart, but someone who still has feelings for Merlin will, and changes into Nimue. She explains that she lives in all Dark Ones allowing her to act through Hook to crush Merlin's heart. Emma arrives to stop Hook, but fails. Hook drops the remnants of Merlin's heart into the pot, causing the third Dark Curse to start. Emma knocks Hook out, and gets rid of Merlin's body. She then brings everyone into the diner in a comatose state and erases all of their memories as the Curse takes effect.
Merlin appears in the Kingdom Hearts series as a powerful wizard who teaches Sora in the arts of magic.
In Kingdom Hearts, Merlin lived in an underground house in Traverse Town, with the Fairy Godmother. Sora met him when delivering the Hundred Acre Wood book to him, from Cid. Merlin then teaches him, Donald and Goofy magic and gives them permission to view the book.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Merlin moved to the reforming Hollow Bastion and lived in the headquarters of the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee. He retrieved the Hundred Acre Wood book from Traverse Town and as usual, allowed Sora to view it. He also gave Sora Chicken Little's summon charm. Later, he travels to Disney Castle with Sora, Donald, and Goofy to open up a magical door to the past. Merlin seems to have developed a rivalry with Cid, who prefers technology to magic, while Merlin prefers magic to technology. Their rivalry nearly gets out of hand when Cid calls Merlin an "old loon," and Merlin zaps Hollow Bastion's power computer, but thanks to Sora, Donald and Goofy, the town's systems are saved. Merlin and Cid later recall that Hollow Bastion was formerly called Radiant Garden and decide to rename it to its former name.
In Birth by Sleep set a decade before the first game, he was found in Radiant Garden just before the world is engulfed in darkness. He accidentally dropped the book of Hundred Acre Wood, but Terra returned it to him. He gave Terra, and later Ventus and Aqua, permission to view the book at any time, granting the three access to the Hundred Acre Wood Command Board.
Disney INFINITY series
In the 3.0 edition, Merlin appears as a mission giver and Cast Member for the Toy Box Takeover.
Merlin was a common character hosting the Sword in the Stone ceremony at both the Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort. In this show, he would allow children to make an attempt to pull the Sword from the Stone and crown the one who succeeds the temporary ruler of Fantasyland. He was also featured in Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams usually as a replacement for one of the fairies. Merlin also hosted the Disneyland Paris shows Magical Celebration and Merlin and the Witch Academy.
On board the Disney Dream cruise ship, Merlin is one of the "magic makers" of Disney to help a practical father's imagination grow. Merlin can be seen with his magic bag to aid the father. In the end, after the imagination is restored, Merlin joins the father, his daughter and a cast of Disney characters to celebrate.
Merlin's show still exists at Hong Kong Disneyland.
In 2012, Merlin took part in Disneyland Paris' 20th Anniversary celebration. In Disney Magic On Parade, Merlin was seen on the back of a float starring "Disney Magicians".
Merlin is the host of the Walt Disney World interactive attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, where he guides guests around the Magic Kingdom park to help him stop Hades and his legion of Disney Villains from stealing the legendary Crystal of the Magic Kingdom and taking over the park. During the journey, Merlin teams up with other Disney protagonists including Pongo, Genie, Rafiki, Kuzco, Pocahontas, Mama Odie, Sebastian and the Good Fairies. He also has his own spell card known as "Merlin's Fireball."
- Merlin is the only character from The Sword and the Stone to become a recurring character in Disney productions after the film's original release. The only other character from the film who could be considered such is Madam Mim, due to her inclusion in the Donald Duck comics and the Disney Villains franchise, though still to a lesser degree than Merlin.