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Appropriations of the Arthurian Legend

Texts, Values and Culture
by

Dominic Altakchy

on 26 August 2014

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Transcript of Appropriations of the Arthurian Legend

Quest Conventions 'Merlin':
Refusal
Belly of the Whale
Call to Adventure
Crossing the First Threshold
Meeting With the Goddess
Merlin meets his Goddess Freya
Merlin encounters many obstacles in his quest to save Arthur. These battles include his struggles against Nimueh and the Questing Beast.
Supernatural Aid
Gaius and the Great Dragon, Kilgarrah are Merlin's supernatural aid.

Merlin's magical abilities offer him aid in protecting Arthur. Thus, Merlin is also Arthur's supernatural aid.
Merlin accepts his destiny after saving Arthur's life after the witch's attempt to kill him. As a result he is appointed Arthur's manservant.
Freedom to Live
King Arthur is free to live on in a heavenly world after being mortally wounded by Mordred. He is now free to live his legacy of peace after trying his best to bring prosperity to his kingdom.
After Cully goes into the forest, Wart eventually decides to follow and search for him. He embarks on this journey to meet new people and experience the extraordinary things. This starts a series of important events in Wart's journey. His call to adventure also occurs after pulling the sword from the stone, which leads him to travel to London.
Wart pulls the sword from the stone after trying to find a sword for Kay. As a result, Wart crosses the threshold and leaps from the ordinary world into an extraordinary world, where he become King Arthur of England
Arthur who is lost in the forest meets a magician named Merlyn. Merlyn decides to be the Wart's tutor. The future King Arthur, has someone to help, advise and teach him.
King Arthur faces the problem of his best friend and wife falling in love with each other. Consequently, Arthur faces the personal 'test' within himself as he cannot seem to enforce a punishment due to his deep respect for them.

The King also faces the tests of his enemy Mordred who is plotting the downfall of the kingdom.
King Arthur returns home after learning about the treason of Mordred. He heads back to fight Mordred to reclaim his kingdom. However, instead of returning victoriously, he returns to fight another war.
What Does Arthur Stand For?
Arthur (initially known as Wart), in T.H. White's novel, is revealed as a conscientious, slightly timid young boy. After being tutored by Merlyn, Arthur becomes king and encompasses the values of the legendary and heroic King Arthur.
What Does Arthur Stand For?
Quest Conventions
'The Once and Future King':
THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND
Appropriations of the Arthurian Legend
The Arthurian Legend is the heroic tale of King Arthur and his court at Camelot. It entails the compelling chronicle of Arthur's life and the adventures of his knights.

The legend developed as a result of the Celtic and Saxon Wars.
Over the centuries, the Arthurian Legend has been appropriated to entice respective contextual audiences.
Appropriations
The Once and Future King
By: T.H. White
This is prominent in these two appropriations:
The TV Series:
Merlin

And in the...
Novel:
(2008-2012)
Characterisation of Arthur in Merlin:
In 'Merlin', Arthur is initially perceived to be a childish, spoiled, young 'prat'. However, as the TV series progresses, the young prince develops into the legendary Arthurian character that is brave and fearless. This is shown through Arthur's chivalrous and courageous attitude in which he leads his knights to battle, in order to save the people of Camelot.
As king, Arthur is a compassionate and empathic individual who seeks to achieve equality for all. He is humble and continually puts his body on the line for the sake of his kingdom, in order to achieve peace. He also values his friendships with his knights and Merlin.
Justice
Peace
Equality
Fairness
Equity
Characterisation of Arthur in
'The Once and Future King':
He is a noble, wise, trustworthy and good-hearted character who believes in justice and in doing what is morally right in order to create a utopian society. However, his faith in good sometimes makes him blind to the intrigue around him.
Benevolence
Modesty
Honesty
Harmony
Justice
This characterisation of Arthur enables the audience to relate to Arthur and understand that being a hero does not necessarily mean that one must be perfect.
The Narrative and Other Integral Characters - Merlin
Merlin is a reimaging of the Arthurian legend that focuses on the adventures of a young warlock named Merlin and his destiny to protect the future king, Arthur. Merlin is informed of his destiny by the Great Dragon, and is told that he must protect Arthur who will return magic to Camelot and unite the land of Albion. However, as a result of magic being outlawed, Merlin must use it in disguise in order to lead Arthur towards creating the powerful Camelot.
Merlin
Merlin is the hero and the protagonist of the series. He is a young warlock, and the best friend of Arthur.
Arthur Pendragon
Initially a spoiled and arrogant prince who later becomes a noble and compassionate king. He is Merlin's best friend and the husband of Guinevere.
Gaius
Gaius is the Court Physician of Camelot with whom Merlin lives. He is Merlin's mentor and friend and is one of the few that knows of his magical abilities.
Morgana
The biological daughter of Uther and the half-sister of Arthur. Originally, a kind-hearted individual who later turns evil and betrays her family and friends.
Mordred
A druid who forms a close bond with Arthur and Merlin. He is a Knight of Camelot who eventually kills Arthur.
He leads and protects Arthur on his way to the thrown by advising him and accompanying him in battle
He also appears as his alter-ego 'Emrys'
Guinevere (Gwen)
At first, was a servant of Morgana who later marries Arthur, becoming queen. She is very empathetic.
Uther Pendragon
The former King of Camelot and the father of Arthur. He was an immutable ruler who defied the use of magic
Kilgarrah
Merlin's mentor, friend and spiritual brother. He is the last living dragon and was imprisoned by Uther Pendragon.
The Narrative and Other Integral Characters - 'The Once and Future King'
‘The Once and Future King’ by T.H. White is a novel that chronicles the raising and educating of King Arthur and his rule as king. It is about a young boy name Wart who encounters a magician named Merlyn who tutors Wart. Over many years, Merlyn teaches wart about virtues and offers him words of wisdom. This eventually results in Wart becoming King Arthur, who would unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values.
Wart (King Arthur)
The protagonist of the novel. Arthur is known as the Wart in the first book and as King Arthur once he is crowned. He is a conscientious, slightly timid young boy who becomes king of England after being tutored by Merlyn. Arthur believes in justice and in doing what is right, but his faith in good sometimes makes him blind to the intrigue around him.
Merlyn
Merlyn is the Wart's tutor and friend. He is a wise and sometimes absent-minded magician who oversees the Wart's education. He lives "backward" in time, moving from the future to the past.
Guenever
Arthur’s wife and Lancelot’s lover. Guenever is beautiful, jealous, and often petty. She is, however, a fundamentally decent person. She understands and supports Arthur’s ideas and loves Lancelot despite his great ugliness.
Kay
Arthur’s foster brother and a knight of the Round Table. Spoiled as a child, Kay remains nasty and selfish, but is decent at heart.
Mordred
The son of Arthur and his half-sister, Morgause. Cold, calculating, and vicious, Mordred is raised by Morgause to hate Arthur. He thrives on slander and insinuation, which he prefers to open confrontation.
Sir Ector
The Wart and Kay's father and a kind, good-humored landowner who is Lord of the Castle of the Forest Sauvage.
Lancelot
Arthur’s best knight and the commander of his forces. Lancelot has a love affair with Guenever, Arthur’s queen. He struggles constantly with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
These two texts have been successfully appropriated as the characterisation of Arthur has been contextualised, the values presented by the texts have shifted and social comment is offered on issues appropriate to new contexts. However, these texts have maintained the commonality of entailing the Quest conventions identified by Joseph Campbell.
Themes & Motifs
Themes
Good vs Evil
Themes
Friendship/Loyalty
Motifs
The Round Table
Myths and Legends
Gaius continuously refers to ancient Myths and Legends when advising Uther and Merlin.
This theme is shown in 'Merlin' through the contrast between Arthur, Merlin and Guinevere - who represent good - and Mordred, Morgana and Morgause who represent evil. This is explored as Arthur and Merlin constantly overcome evil. This reinforces the notion that good always prevails against the forces of evil.
Appearance vs Reality
On many occasions throughout the series, many characters appear to have two natures. For example Morgana and Mordred who appear to be good but are actually evil. This theme is also connected to Emrys, Merlin's alter-ego because in reality Emrys is Merlin in the appearance of an old man.
Merlin
Arthur and Merlin share a strong friendship with each other which is built upon trust and loyalty. They share a strong bond and constantly look out for one another.
A symbolic representation that infers everyone is equally valuable.
Love Triangle
The love triangle between Arthur, Gwen and Lancelot is alluded to.
Excalibur
Arthur, like in traditional stories, pulls the sword from the stone
Motifs
Motifs
Themes
Themes & Motifs:
Theme 1
White shows throughout the novel the relationship between force and justice, which Arthur calls might and right. White here depicts that the medieval England of Arthur's youth is unable to distinguish between might and right, and strength becomes its own justification.
Theme 2
Arthur's England, particularly during the early part of his reign, is dominated by various forces competing for political prominence. Therefore, war is inevitable, and emerges as on of the major themes. White emphasises the theme of war by satarising the knighthood and by emphasising the bloodshed and carnage that accompanies war.
Theme 3
White explores this theme by depicting Knights as oafish clowns, in contrast to their portrayal as heroes and romantic figures in earlier interpretations of the King Arthur Legend.
Motif 1
White relies heavily on a variety of myths and legends to tell his story. This is evident as the entire novel is a reworking of the Arthur myth. White also explores this theme as he flips the Arthurian legend around by constantly calling attention to the fact that his story has a precedent and by then exposing that precedent's flaws.
Motif 2
T.H. White expresses the conflict between the brutality and courtesy of knighthood by making frequent reference to blood sports, such as hunting and hawking. He also reveals that like chivalry, blood sports have a tradition and ritual. This is shown when the Wart studies the "etiquette of hunting", revealing that blood sports are governed by a code of etiquette.
The Once and Future King
The Relationship Between Force and Justice
Myths and Legends
Blood Sports
Motif 3
Castles
Each of the books in 'The Once and Future King' revolves around a select few settings, and each of these settings is represented by a single castle that has a unique character.
For example, in "The Sword in the Stone", Arthur's home is represented by Sir Ector's Castle of the Forest Sauvage, a cozy place with an endless number of nooks and crannies.
The castles in the novel have their own personalities that embody the hopes and fears of their inhabitants
War
The Frivolity of Knighthood
In Season 1 Episode 1 ("The Dragon's Call"), the Great Dragon, Kilgharrah, calls Merlin in his dream and informs Merlin of his destiny to protect Arthur, the once and future King.
Merlin refuses to accept that it is his destiny to protect Arthur because he believes he is a 'prat'
Road of Trials
Merlin is faced with the problem of having his magic revealed numerous times in his quest to protect Arthur.
Woman as Temptress
Morgana is the ultimate temptress, whose manipulative approach causes Merlin to fall into her trap in order to gain revenge.
Atonement
Merlin is united with his father Balinor in Season 2, Episode 13. Merlin also experiences atonement with his father figure Gaius in many cases after Merlin apologises for doing wrong.
Return
Merlin loses his magic and later regains his powers through the help of his father in the form of a ghost. Merlin regains his ambition and returns to assist Arthur at Camlann.
Major Battle
Merlin kills Morgana. He informs Arthur of his magical abilities.
Reward
Merlin is blessed with immortality as well as being accepted and acknowledged by Arthur after many years.
Call to Adventure
Supernatural Aid
Crossing the Threshold
Road of Trials
In order to attain the qualities of a King, Merlyn 'educates' the Wart by transforming him into a number of different animals which provide him with knowledge. This is a difficult process but it leads to the Wart's attainment of Kingship.
Tests/Enemies
Ultimate Boon
Wart's ultimate boon comes when he attempts to pull the sword from the stone. In dong so, he unknowingly determines his future as King.
The Return
Magic Flight
Arthur has flashbacks of his past while on the battlefield and remembers all the he worked for in his life. This helps to motivate Arthur as he prepares for his final battle against Mordred
Context & Values - Merlin
Context
Merlin is a British fantasy-adventure TV programme that was broadcast from 20 September 2008 to 24 December 2012.
The show is loosely based on the Arthurian legends of the young wizard Merlin and his relationship with King Arthur but differ from traditional versions.
Merlin, however, remains reflective of the Medieval ages and the Arthurian legend as the storyline continues to revolves around castles, servants and magic.
Merlin has been appropriated as it is reflective of a new context with new values:
This is shown in Merlin as:
Women are more outspoken
Merlin and Arthur are shown as modern people with contemporary attitudes
Modern language has been adapted in order to easily reveal Arthurian messages across to a modern audience.
Values
Equality: fair and equal treatment of all people including women
Feminist Values: Women, appear to posses more power than male characters
Courage: Arthur puts himself in danger for the benefit of his kingdom
Context & Values - The Once & Future King
'The Once and Future King' is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T.H. White.
It was first published in 1958 and is mostly composite of earlier works written between 1938 and 1941.
The central theme is an exploration of human nature regarding power and justice, as King Arthur attempts to quell the "might makes right" attitude with his idea of chivalry
'The Once and Future King' also reflects the time in which it was written. As it was written in WWII, T.H. White has inputted his attitudes towards war. This is clear in the book's aversion to war and a pacifist
mentality, though Arthur's failed attempts to find ways to prevent war and
violence suggest White's cynicism regarding mankind's ability to give up such
bloodshed.
Values
Courage: Arthur leads his Knights into battle despite the risks
Equality: The Round Table is
conceived as a mechanism for maintaining equality
Christian Values: Arthur is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of his kingdom, just like Christ
Social Commentary in Merlin
Women
Women within Merlin are revealed as outspoken, powerful and heroic figures e.g. Gwen, Morgana, Morgause. This appeals to the modern audience as this is reflective of the feminist views which society holds today.
Race
Merlin also offers comment on the anti-racism attitudes of modern society. This is revealed through the character of Gwen, who is played by a person of ethnic descent with dark skin colour. Her acceptance by the people of Camelot also reveals the acceptance of race in modern society.
Use of Magic
Magic is no longer portrayed as only evil, this is because of the progression of societies attitudes towards it. Through the character of Merlin, the audience is informed that good can evolve from something that is bad as long as it is used for the right reasons.
Social Commentary in 'The Once and Future King'
War
War is canonical in the Arthurian myth;
however battle scenes are barely described in this text, and when they are,
White presents war as something barbaric and violent, rather than heroic and
justified. This is because at the time in which White wrote the novel, his society was suffering the harsh effects of World War.
Gender Roles
The Once and Future King is
exceedingly sympathetic toward redefinitions of the masculine ideal, it repeatedly strives
to limit women to the domestic sphere.The text highlights values of a male dominated society. This is revealed as all the heroic characteristics are attributed to males in the text.
Power and Justice
White's commentary upon the medieval ideal and
Arthur's failed attempt to temper power with justice highlights a perpetual
human flaw, how, even today, justice and right collapse in the face of brute
violence.
Thank You!
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