In a novel where the education of the protagonist propels its plot and development of its characters, the teacher-figure is of great importance. Merlyn, the Wart's teacher, is crucial to the young hero's growing maturity and political awareness. Like many good teachers, he challenges his pupil's values and assumptions about a number of important issues, such as friendship, government, and war. Throughout The Sword in the Stone, Merlyn imparts to the Wart the wisdom a king needs if he is to rule successfully.
When the Wart and the reader meet Merlyn, however, he seems more absent-minded than wise. He is first seen struggling with a bucket and dappled in bird droppings; his cottage is strewn with books and other trappings of wizardry. This seemingly chaotic setting, however, makes Merlyn less foreboding (and thus less threatening) to the Wart, and if a student is to learn anything, his teacher must not intimidate him.
Merlyn's methods are striking because he never presents nor describes a political system or point-of-view to the Wart — instead, he has the Wart experience life in the various systems as one of the many animals into which he transforms him. Turning the Wart into a perch, for example, allows him to meet Mr. P. and see firsthand the nature of tyranny; having the Wart spend a night in the mews teaches him about courage and military honor. Each of Merlyn's lessons has a similar goal, and Merlyn's ultimate aim is to ready the Wart for his impending role as King Arthur. By the end of The Candle in the Wind, however, Merlyn has almost wholly vanished from Arthur's life — but not from his memory, for the wizard's lessons remain with the king throughout his tumultuous reign.