Merlin and the Dragons by Jane Yolen

Merlin and the Dragons (book)

This book began first as a script for a short animated film. Only five years later did it finally become a book. Part of my Arthurian obsession (I have written a number of books about King Arthur, though this is the only picture book so far), this picture book is based on the stories told about Merlin as a boy. In my book Merlin is an old man trying to help the young king Arthur who can’t sleep by telling him a story: the story of another boy (young Merlin.) There was a poster that was a smash hit with young boys, of the two clashing dragons. The book was on the Texas Bluebonnet Master List 1996. The movie is a Lightyear production.


  • Inclusion in the 1996 Children’s Books Means Business list from tjh American Booksellers Association
  • Utah November 1995 Book List
  • Adopted by the Ohio Teachers and Pupils Reading Circle on its 1996-1997 list

Around the web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “Dramatic oil paintings match the story’s epic scale.”-Publisher’s Weekly
  • “Yolen goes beyond her sources–folklore and history–and moves expertly into the realm of invention. Matched with arresting oil paintings, the legend comes alive on a grand scale, the dramatic narrative and well-wrought dialogue heightening the theatrical effect and inviting a fast-paced read-aloud. Some of Ming’s illustrations are magnificent, those of the dragons in particular. One can sense this talented artist’s respect for these creatures as he brings them fully to life–terrifying, violent, beautiful. So, too, does he paint Arthur with great sensitivity, a figure bathed in light, his face complex, thoughtful, and full of wonder.”-School Library Journal
  • “When young King Arthur cannot sleep, he searches out the wizard Merlin, his teacher and friend. Merlin tells the boy of a time in his own youth when his dreams foretold the discovery of dragons and the defeat of a king. Expressive oil paintings accompany Yolen’s well-written version of one of the Arthurian legends.” — Horn Book
  • “In this picture book for older readers, double-page spreads provide a broad field for Li Ming’s handsome oil paintings. He achieves drama both through changing perspectives and by contrasting the somber grays and browns of the mountain and stones with reds and golds in the firelight of Merlin’s tower room, in Vortigern’s red dragon banners and livery, and in the splendid scenes of the battling dragons. Yolen’s text evokes both the enchantment of the tale and wry humor. While satisfying in its own right, this tale within a tale also enriches young readers’ understanding of Arthurian lore by weaving the familiar sword-in-the-stone story with threads of Merlin’s own youth taken from Welsh legend.” — Booklist
  • “Yolen is a master storyteller; Li Ming’s full-page color illustrations bring the story to life.” — Children’s Literature
  • Yolen’s finely crafted text is perfectly complemented with Ling’s powerful color illustrations.”—Booklinks
  • “(Yolen) has  again created magic with words”–The Companion

Available in paperback.