Video: Merlin’s Excellent Bermuda Adventure

May 9, 2013

Merlin BermudaThe 1963 Walt Disney animated fantasy “Sword In The Stone” features perhaps the quirkiest plug for Bermuda’s tourism  industry ever committed to celluloid — with the eccentric magician Merlin departing for a vacation on the island several hundred years before it was discovered.

Adapted from the novel by T.H. White [1906-1964], “Sword In The Stone” tells the story of the childhood and education of the orphan Wart — the boy who grows up to be King Arthur.

Merlin — who tutors the 12-year-old to be a just and wise monarch rather than the knight’s squire he originally aspires to be — lives backwards in time, frequently complaining about the Dark Ages’ lack of modern conveniences like plumbing and electricity to his befuddled ward.

At one point the legendary enchanter departs for a vacation in 20th century Bermuda — magically transporting himself through time and space with the incantation “Blow me to Bermuda!” — and returns later wearing shorts, sunglasses and tennis shoes [pictured above].

Released to theatres on Christmas Day, 1963 by Buena Vista Distribution, “Sword In The Stone” was the last feature length animated film presided over by Walt Disney before his death three years later.

The novel of the same name was first published in 1938 as a stand-alone book. It was then later republished in 1958 as the first book of T.H. White’s tetralogy “The Once and Future King” which also inspired the 1960 Broadway musical “Camelot.”

The movie’s Bermuda references are taken directly from the book which included many such anachronisms because author Mr. White wanted contemporary readers to more easily identify with the Arthurian myths.

J. K. Rowling has said that T. H. White’s writing strongly influenced her Harry Potter books; several critics have compared Rowling’s character Albus Dumbledore to Mr. White’s absent-minded Merlyn [as the name is spelled in the "Once And Future King" books].

Ms Rowling herself has described Mr. White’s Wart as “Harry’s spiritual ancestor.”

Former school teacher Mr. White modelled Merlyn’s philosophy on that of legendary British headmaster J.F. Roxburgh, who broke with traditional teaching methods to encourage children to think for themselves and pursue their own interests.

Mr. White worked under Mr. Roxburgh [1888-1954] at the British public school Stowe for four years and one literary scholar has said: “Roxburgh when speaking to boys always addressed them as if they were adults and treated them like reasonable human beings …the unconventional special relationship between teacher and taught clearly both influenced White’s attitude to his own pupils and largeky accounts for the confidential tone which dominates the narration of ‘Sword In The Stone’ …

“… In 1930 Roxburgh’s book on education, Eleutheros [meaning 'a free man'] appeared.He shocked the headmasters of other public schools by advocating in it a degree of personal freedom for his boys which went far beyond contemporary norms. The influence of this, as of many other of his ideas, can be seen in the education of Wart …”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Autumn Fire says:

    Oh! wow! I think I have to see that DVD again!

  2. Time Shall Tell says:

    I remember this movie but I guess I was too young at the time to pick up on the Bermuda drop (or I just forgot about it).