Yes, Virginia, There Was a Merlin

With all the hoopla about Harry Potter this week, it seems as if people have forgotten about the OG wizard: Merlin. The legendary spell-caster has been written about by no less than Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis (among others) and portrayed on film and television by Joseph Fiennes (pictured), Stacy Keach, Sam Neill and Bobcat Goldthwait (really).

But did the sorcerer really exist? All signs point to… kind of, maybe.

The fictional character of Merlin originally appeared in an 1136 book titled Historia Regum Britanniae (“History of the Kings of Britain”) by Geoffrey of Monmouth, the guy who popularized the whole Arthurian legend thing.

He was reportedly based on a man named named Myrddin Wyllt. Myrddin served as court adviser for Gwenddolau, a Brythonic king who ruled in the mid-sixth century. When Gwenddolau was killed in battle in 573 AD, Myrddin fled into the Caledonian Forest and eventually lost his mind. When he finally emerged, he claimed he was a prophet. Supposedly, Myrddin successfully predicted his own "triple death" by falling, stabbing and drowning. It's said to have come true in 584 when he was chased off a cliff by shepherds, then impaled on a fisherman's spear in the water below and finally drowned because he had landed head first.

Myrddin's prophecies were apparently written down in Cornish language and were later translated by John I of Cornwall in the 12th century. Rumor has it that John of Cornwall's original manuscript is currently somewhere in the depths of the Vatican Library (aren't all mysterious texts in the Vatican Library?). Some argue that Myrddin really was the all-knowing sage later embodied by the fictional Merlin - they say Christians rewrote history to paint Myrddin as a madman to discredit him.

Long story short: Merlin the Magician is most likely a fictional character with roots in a local legend whose feats may or may not have been wildly embellished by the time John of Cornwall and Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about him.

Take a Rare Glimpse Inside the World's Largest Seed Reserve

Since 2008, the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen has been home to the world’s largest seed storage facility, known as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The 11,000-square-foot facility contains nearly 865,000 seed samples—many of which are crops—and functions as both a reserve in the event of a catastrophe and as a backup for other seed banks around the world. Countries can send samples for preservation and access the reserves as needed (the effort is funded by Norway in conjunction with the organization Crop Trust). The vault was opened for the first time last year in light of the destruction caused by the Syrian War.

Access to the fault is notoriously limited, but AJ+ has a glimpse inside on its YouTube page. It’s a rare look at a place that isn’t known for its looks, but holds some of the planet’s most beautiful and valuable offerings.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

This Infographic Explains the Difference Between Perfume and Eau de Toilette

Ever wondered why you can't smell the perfume you dabbed on earlier this morning? Maybe it's because you aren't actually wearing perfume. Instead, you likely applied eau de toilette, cologne, or another type of fragrance.

These sprays contain different concentrations of fragrance oil dissolved in solutions of alcohol and water. Scents with a heavier amount of oil are stronger, they're more expensive, and they also last for longer periods of time. Even the most discerning shopper might not know whether to opt for parfum or eu de parfum when perusing bottles of Chanel No. 5 at the fragrance counter—or even realize there's a difference. 

If you'd prefer to smell like a few roses instead of a field of them, it's handy to know the difference between perfume, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, cologne, and eau fraiche when you're out shopping for a new scent. Lifehacker recently ran this handy infographic by Real Men Real Style, which breaks down the strength of each fragrance along with how long it lasts. Use it as a guide to purchase the perfect product for you.

[h/t Lifehacker]


More from mental floss studios