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Stephanie Hatem

on 25 July 2013

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The Arthurian Legend
The Legend of King Arthur
The first King Arthur stories to emerge
have been dated back to the 12th century.

'Le Morte D'Arthur' by Sir Thomas
Malory is often regarded by historians as
the original text for the legend.

The epic consists of 9 books detailing the
life of Arthur Pendragon and his Knights
of the Round Table.
Characterisation of Arthur
Storyline & Characters
Themes & Motifs
Quest Conventions

Merlin is a British fantasy television programme by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy and Johnny Caps.

It was broadcast from 2008 to 2012 on BBC One, as a family show, so that violence and gore was significantly minimised.

It is loosely based on Arthurian legend, although it differs in many ways. It does however, portray the context of the Dark Ages with servants, castles and mysterious magic.

The show was influenced by U.S drama series Smallville, which is about Superman.

Social Commentary within Merlin
Social Commentary within King Arthur
Thanks for watching!
Hope you enjoyed!
Although it is generally accepted that the heroic account is legend, many historians believe that there is an aspect of truth to the tale.

Over 9 centuries, the popular legend has been appropriated into a variety of movies, books and T.V. shows, including BBC show 'Merlin' and film 'King Arthur'.

We first see Prince Arthur Pendragon of Camelot in Season 1 as
a teenager who is naive and a bit of a “prat”.

During the course of the series, he becomes King and grows into
a more pure hero who is responsible for all of Camelot. He is the
"Once and Future King".

Like the legend, he embodies compassion, forgiveness, bravery,
fearlessness and often puts his life on the line for his knights,
people and even servants.

Arthur is depicted to be very trusting of people, believing that
there is good in everyone, although he generally opposes magic.

He fails in his Quests at times so that the audience can empathise with
him as he is not a flawless hero.

Stands for peace, justice, equality and what he believes is morally correct.
King Arthur

We first see him as an enthusiastic young boy with a
Roman father and Celtic mother who both die when he
is a child.

15 years later, he is portrayed as a Christian Roman
officer in Britain and a leader of war in 467 A.D.
named Artorius Castus, or Arthur.

He encompasses courage, fearlessness, logic, mercy
and faith in God, always ready to sacrifice himself for
peace and freedom, as the legendary King Arthur is

He stands for justice and equality, believing that
no-one is born a slave. He also attempts to create a

He is level-headed, opposing magic at first and believing
that “there is no destiny, there is only free will”.


The series depicts the main hero, Merlin, who is a young wizard who arrives in Camelot to live with the physician Gaius.

Despite King Uther’s ban on magic, Merlin meets the Great Dragon who reveals that he is destined to protect Prince Arthur, who will unite the greatest kingdom of all, Albion.

When Merlin and Arthur meet, they cannot stand each other, however after saving the prince’s life once, Merlin becomes his manservant.

The series then sees their friendship develop, with the two undertaking numerous quests in which Merlin uses magic secretly to save Arthur’s life.

Arthur eventually dies as the legend describes, at the hands of Mordred.
Portrayed by Colin Morgan

The protagonist and main hero, who is the servant of Arthur and accompanies him on his many quests.

He is depicted as a kind-hearted wizard that is perceived by most characters as the village idiot.

He often disguises himself as Emrys, his older form.
Arthur Pendragon
Portrayed by Bradley James <3

The prince that becomes a king.

He is at first rude and a bully, but grows into a just ruler.
Portrayed by Richard Wilson

Wisened court physician with whom Merlin lives and learns from about magic.

Although he is not a part of the actual legend, he is a father figure to Merlin.
Morgana Pendragon
Portrayed by Katie McGrath

Based on the character of Morgan le Fay, she is Uther's ward who discovers that she is his daughter and the half-sister of Arthur.

She is at first a compassionate and kind person.

After developing magical skills, she develops a plot for revenge to kill Arthur and assume the throne of Camelot.
Portrayed by Anthony Head

Father of Arthur and Morgana and former king before his death.

Strongly opposes magic and makes it illegal.

He is feared by his subjects and due to his harsh practices, he has a variety of enemies.
Portrayed by Angel Coulby

Former servant of Lady Morgana before marrying Arthur and becoming the "Once and Future Queen".

She is kind and caring.
Lancelot du Lac
Portrayed by Santiago Cabrera

The bravest and most noble knight, although he is not of noble blood.

Arthur's closest knight, who falls in love with Gwen, sparking a love triangle.
Knights of the Round Table

Includes Sir Leon, Gwaine, Percival and Elyan, Gwen's brother.

Not all of noble blood but treated equally by Arthur.

Perceived as the most noble knights ever.
Portrayed by Asa Butterfield and Alexander Vlahos

First introduced as a young Druid boy who possesses strong magic.

Becomes a knight of Camelot when he grows up, although Merlin disagrees.

Kills Arthur at the end of the series.
Voiced by John Hurt

The last living dragon that was imprisoned by Uther within Camelot but later released by Merlin.

Can foresee the future and often gives advice to Merlin, a dragonlord.
King Arthur

A more realistic portrayal of Arthur, delving into the history and politics of the 5th century, in which the Roman Empire has collapsed and wars have broken out in outlying countries.

Arthur is an officer of the Roman Empire who leads the Sarmatian Knights of the Round Table into battles across Britain for 15 years.

Before the knights are granted their freedom, however, they must rescue a Roman priest and his family from the Saxons.

Mythical elements such as the Excalibur and Merlin as an old man are present, but are not magical.
Portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd
Portrayed by Stephen Dillane
Portrayed by Keira Knightley
Portrayed by Clive Owen
Knights of the Round Table
A Christian Roman who leads his knights into battle.
A Pagan Woad that is skilled in archery - a British rebel that hates the Romans.

Rescued by Arthur from Christians.

Marries Arthur at the end, although there is a love triangle with Lancelot.
Arthur's closest knight, he is a Sarmatian Pagan, witty and brave in battle. However, not as noble as the legend portrays him to be.

He dies in battle fighting alongside Arthur, with Guinevere at his side.

Also narrates the movie.
Guinevere's father, an old Woad who Arthur at first despises and then allies with in the final battle.
Sarmatian knights who are known across the entire Roman Empire as the bravest and strongest knights.

Includes Galahad, Gawain, Bors, Tristan and Dagonet.

They fight alongside Arthur at first for their freedom but then out of loyalty to him.
Within both appropriations, this is a theme where Arthur, his knights, Guinevere and Merlin represent good, while enemies like the Saxons, and in Merlin Morgana and Morgause, represent evil.

Good is always shown to defeat the evil forces.
Good v. Evil
Within Merlin, Merlin is deceitful by secretly practising magic and by means of Emrys. Morgana, Agravaine and Mordred are also deceitful.

In the film, Guinevere deceives Arthur to make him meet with Merlin, whom he hates.
Female Roles
In both texts, females are portrayed as strong characters with extensive fighting skills.

e.g. in Merlin, Morgana and Morgause are major enemies while Guinevere is a compassionate queen. In King Arthur, Guinevere is a fighter and skilled archer.
In both Merlin and King Arthur, war is seen as a necessity to bring about peace and defeat enemies for glory.
Motifs in Merlin
Motifs in King Arthur
1- Druid symbol of the Old Religion tattooed on the Druid people.
2- Excalibur created by Merlin in the Great Dragon’s breath. Arthur pulls this from a stone in Season 4.
3- Crest of camelot on armour to help identify the knights.
4- Round table Arthur placed in the castle.
5- Merlin’s constant disguise.
6- The love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere.
1- Round table Arthur uses as “for men to be men, they must first be equal”.
2- Tristan’s raven within every battle flying above the knights.
3- Excalibur used by Arthur that he pulled out from stone as a child.
4- Crest of Arthur’s Sarmatian knights on all their shields.
5- Fog is present within every battle they face, often shrouding their enemies until they approach closer.
6- Flying arrows are always depicted within battles, whether they be aflame or not.
7- The love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere.

Supernatural Aid
Crossing the First Threshold
Road of Trials
The Great Dragon tells Merlin of his and Arthur's destiny to build Albion.

The Bishop tells Arthur that he and his men must save a Roman family from the Saxons.
Merlin yields his special magic and he gets advice from Gaius and the Dragon too.

Arthur allies with Merlin in order to defeat the Saxons.
Merlin at first detests Arthur and refuses to accept that it his destiny to protect him with magic.

Arthur tells the Bishop that he will not accept to rescue the family, as it is time for his knights to be given freedom after 15 years of service.
Merlin accepts his destiny of being Arthur's guardian angel.

Arthur and his knights finally agree and leave to save the family.
Belly of the Whale
Merlin saves Arthur's life for the first time, slowing down time to stop a knife from killing him. He then becomes Arthur's manservant.

Arthur and his knights rescue Pagans who were locked in a dungeon by Christians to die, despite this not being the aim of their Quest.
Merlin faces many trials when trying to keep Arthur alive without exposing his magic, e.g. when killing the Questing Beast, facing the wildeorren and becoming a dragonlord to force the Dragon to leave Camelot.

Arthur and the knights are followed by the Saxons unknowingly until they stop to fight them on thin ice.
Call to Adventure
Atonement with the Father
Merlin meets Freya in Season 2, and although she dies, he never loves another.

Arthur meets Guinevere when he rescues her from the Pagans.
Merlin is reunited with his estranged father Balinor in Season 3. Gaius also acts as a father to Merlin and there are many situations of atonement whenever Merlin disregards Gaius' orders and apologises.

Arthur forsakes Roman citizenship at last to ally himself with the Woads in order to fight the Saxons. Finally!
Morgana often tempts Merlin to sway from his Quest, such as the time he went against the Dragon's advice to give her information about the Druids.

Guinevere lures Arthur to Merlin in the middle of the night.
Merlin loses his magical powers in Season 5 and Balinor as a ghost helps him to get them back.

Arthur and his men go to Badon Hill to face the Saxons.
Major Battle/Sacrifice
Merlin stabs Morgana with the Excalibur, killing her in the very last episode. However, he exposes his magic to the dying Arthur.

Arthur and his men, along with the Woads, defeat the Saxons. However, Lancelot is killed. :'(
Woman as Temptress
The people of Camelot can now live in peace and Merlin is granted immortality, as well as acceptance and acknowledgement by Arthur after all those years.

Arthur becomes king and weds Guinevere, while Lancelot's voice-over rambles on about how his and the knights' "names will live forever in legend".
Meeting with the Goddess
King Arthur

King Arthur is a 2004 film based on Arthurian legend, which depicts the context of the 5th century through clothing and characters.

It is rated M, showing much more blood than Merlin entails, including a love scene between Guinevere and Arthur without them being wed, something which is generally more accepted today.

It shows a more realistic approach to King Arthur, based on recent historical information, e.g. the words “Recently discovered archaeological evidence sheds light on his true identity” in the opening scene.
King Arthur
Both texts show values of
- courage
- bravery
- fairness
- forgiveness
- freedom
- leadership
- love
- loyalty
- friendship
- equality
Both Arthur and Merlin are brave people, with Arthur striving to be fair at all times through the Round Table. He is also forgiving to all, loyal to Camelot, a good leader and loving of Guinevere.
Arthur and his knights are brave, loyal and equal through the Round Table. they value their freedom immensely and fight for it. Arthur also shows love for Guinevere.
Guinevere goes from being a servant to a queen because class difference is much more accepted now, and ethnicity is celebrated as Gwen is of an ethnic descent. This promotes equality and anti-racism.

Women within the
series are highlighted
as more outspoken,
powerful, smart
and often heroic
figures, promoting justice
and equality to the audience, e.g. Morgana.
This is a shift from
traditional women.
Magic is portrayed as both unnatural and evil but also good, as society has progressed since the time when magic was thought of as wicked.

We should not judge people by their exteriors, e.g. Merlin is thought of as an idiot, but is the greatest sorceror of all time.
Lancelot’s character shows that to be a true hero, you must prove it both to yourself and others.

Arthur’s character illustrates that a leader should not be a tyrant but act according to the wants of his people. He does this by disobeying Uther’s prejudiced commands many a time.

There is always a consequence for wrong. When we are immoral we do not get what we want. This is demonstrated by Morgause who ultimately fails in her evil ploy.

Everyone should be treated with equality, as the Round Table symbolises.
Guinevere proves herself to be smart, brave and a good fighter when she helps Arthur fight the Saxons, in contrast to traditional women's roles. This suggests that women should be given more opportunities to prove themselves as heroes.
All people are born free and all slavery and trafficking should be abolished, as Arthur states.
Promoting tolerance within society through the character of Arthur, who does not care if his enemies and allies are Pagan or Christian as long as they are good people.
We should look beneath exteriors – Arthur doesn’t realise that his enemy, Merlin, may be on his side.
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