Who Trapped Merlin In A Tree On 'Once Upon A Time'? The Sorcerer's Roots Could Get Twisted

We knew that finding Merlin wasn't going to be easy for Emma Swan, but after the Season 5 premiere of Once Upon A Time it's apparent that ridding Emma of her darkness is going to be more difficult than we thought. The Storybrooke characters don't remember Camelot, but we'll start to fill in some of the pieces on Sunday. For example,  how did Merlin get trapped on Once Upon A Time? I must warn you, reading onward comes with a price, because I'm going to get into some mild spoilers regarding Merlin's OUAT whereabouts. 

According to the official ABC press release, "in an effort to protect Emma, Regina steps up in a surprising way that will test her mettle as a force for good." That mettle-testing is tied to saving Merlin from wherever he is currently stuck. Where is that?  In this promo for Sunday's episode, we not only see Regina refer to herself as The Savior, but learn that Merlin is trapped in a tree. There are so many questions that I have about this already. How are they going to get Merlin out of the tree? How long has he been inside the tree, if he was just recently (in what I assume are Merlin years) visiting Emma at the movies? That said, let's focus for now on how Merlin got inside that tree to begin with. Watch the promo below. 

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There are a lot of trees in the Disney cannon, from Grandmother Willow to Hangman's Tree, and the Tree of Life in The Lion King. It's not uncommon to see trees play a role in fairy tales, but you don't often find people trapped in them. In the case of Merlin, yes. The legend of Merlin and Nimue (also known as Viviane, Elaine, and most famously the Lady of the Lake) states that Merlin was lovestruck by Nimue, but she trapped him in a hawthorn tree so that she could advise King Arthur in his stead. He knew that it was going to happen, but was so infatuated that he just let it happen. That's a tough break. 

If the original Dark One didn't put him there, I'm sure that there was a connection. The Dark One and Camelot are connected in many ways, including the dagger being a part of Excalibur and Merlin being the only person who can allegedly rid the world of such a pure, powerful darkness. Has the Lady of the Lake been connected to the Dark One this whole time? Unless something was changed in a curse and we weren't told about it, the Lady of the Lake is currently dead in the Once Upon A Time universe. Remember the siren in Lake Nostros that Charming killed way back in a Season 1 flashback? While a later episode, the one that introduced Lancelot in fact, referred to Lake Nostros as The Lady of the Lake's domain, I wonder if the Lady and the siren are the same. 

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Doesn't that tree stump look a little bit like the anthropomorphized brooms in both The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Once Upon A Time  Season 4? That may just be because the set photo is depicting the tree before CGI added magical foliage, but the connection would not be unfounded. Merlin is the Sorcerer in question. It also bares a resemblance to the Tree of Wisdom in Season 4. Whether a very rude (or very clever) Lady trapped Merlin in the tree, or the Dark One theirself, it'll be interesting to see how Regina steps up to free him on Once Upon A Time. 

Images: Jack Rowand/ABC

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