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The Arthurian Legend

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Sarah Hatem

on 7 April 2014

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Transcript of The Arthurian Legend

The Arthurian Legend
The story of King Arthur is one of Europe’s greatest legends, first recorded in the twelfth century, in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work "Historia Regum Britanniae", and then much more comprehensively in English by Sir Thomas Malory in his monumental piece "Le Morte d’Athur" which was written during the Renaissance period in mid- fifteenth century England.

The Arthurian legend tells the story of King Arthur who was:

Fostered from infancy and not realising he is the rightful heir to King Uther Pendragon, his real father until he gains the throne by pulling a magical sword from a stone.

Guided by the mysterious Wizard Merlin, Arthur unites the warring kingdoms of Britain and rules over them in peace, plenitude and glory, aided by his valiant Knights of the Round Table.

This golden age finally comes to an end with the revelation that King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere, is conducting an adulterous love affair with one of his leading knights, Sir Lancelot, causing the Kingdom to split asunder.

While many scholars believe that the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table did not really exist, the legend has lived on for hundreds of years.As a result of this, the legend been appropriated through time. Two common versions include the television series "The Adventures of Merlin", and the Disney film "Avalon High", based on the novel by Meg Cabot.



The daughter of two medieval literature scholars and a new student who attends Avalon High.

She becomes involved in a prophesised re-staging of the Arthurian Legend and is reincarnated as King Arthur which is later confirmed during the battle scene towards the end of the film.

Even though her true persona is revealed during the battle, her aims and many of her qualities were expressed earlier in the motion picture which corresponded to the qualities King Arthur possessed. Throughout the course of the film, Allie is presented as a strong character, standing up for what she thinks is right, helping and being supportive to her friends both physically and emotionally. She aids her friends in times of need and is completely supportive to them. Her motives reveal her compassionate likeness in King Arthur.

An example of Allie’s compassion is portrayed during the film as she attempts to help William feel better by telling him to embrace the pressure upon him rather than be afraid of it. Allie is a tough charismatic girl showing attributes of feminism.

This character is played by Britt Robertson.


The prince and later the King of Camelot.

In the first season, Arthur is portrayed as a spoiled bully, throwing knives at terrified servants and occasionally picking fights with anyone who disagrees with him just for a laugh. However, over the course of the series, Arthur began to mature, showing his true aims; that he did care for people and was not as selfish as he seemed, slowly becoming the "Once and Future King" everyone expected him to be.

In spite of being in charge with carrying out his father, King Uther Pendragon’s harsh rulings, Arthur is portrayed just like the traditional legend, a far more compassionate, brave, fair and forgiving man, who defends all the people of Camelot and the falsely accused before the king. He even secretly defies King Uther from time to time. Arthur reveals traits of equality and integrity, always standing up for what he believes in morally correct.

An example of Arthur’s compassion is portrayed in season one, The Labyrinth of Gedref, where Arthur feels immensely guilty when he brings a curse upon the Kingdom after killing a unicorn. He undergoes a series of tests to remove the curse and when faced with the choice of either him or Merlin drinking poison to remove it, Arthur took the responsibility upon himself, refusing to let Merlin or Camelot die because of him.

This character is played by Bradley James.

The series mainly focuses on the story and journey of an idealistic, naïve young wizard named Merlin.

Merlin arrives at the Kingdom of Camelot after his mother arranges for him to stay with the court physician Gaius.

It is there Merlin discovers that the King Uther Pendragon, has outlawed magic and imprisoned the last Dragon deep under the kingdom.

After hearing a mysterious voice inside his head, Merlin makes his way to the cave beneath Camelot where the Dragon tells Merlin that he plays an important role: to protect Uther’s son, Arthur, who will bring forth a great kingdom.

Merlin and Arthur do not get along at first.

However, after saving the Prince’s life Merlin befits Arthur’s man-servant and they become friends. Their friendship develops throughout the series and Merlin has to secretly use magic to save Arthur's life on many occasions.

When, alike the legend, Arthur's actions cause a fatal character Mordred to turn against Camelot, Merlin must ally himself with the once and future king to save the kingdom of Albion.

Merlin (Colin Morgan)

The Protagonist. He is also Arthur’s servant and Gaius’ ward.

Must secretly develop his magical gifts, ensuring the King does not find out about them as magic is forbidden.

Only Gaius is aware of his magical talent.

Merlin’s alter-ego is “Emrys” who is conjured when Merlin performs an ageing spell upon himself.

Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James)

Son of Uther Pendragon, the Prince and later the King of Camelot.

Compassionate man, who will go to extreme lengths to protect the people of his Kingdom.

Regards his servant Merlin as a close friend and confidant and never realises Merlin’s magic.

Merlin helps him to become a fair and generous man.

His destiny is to take the crown and become the reign of Albion.

Guinevere (Angel Coulby)

Morgana’s servant who later becomes the Queen of Camelot.

At first her relationship with Arthur causes conflict within the kingdom, as Uther considers her unworthy of being queen.

Guinevere's kind nature proves popular among the people, and strives to make Arthur and his advisers approachable to them.

Morgana (Katie McGrath)

Uther’s ward who is later revealed to be his daughter.

Initially portrayed as a kind, empathetic young woman, Morgana begins to despise Uther when she realises he would never accept her if he knew of her magical powers and plots against him.

She becomes the show’s primary villain, relentlessly aiming to take over Arthur’s throne.

She is unaware of Merlin’s powers.

Gaius (Richard Wilson)

The court physician and a fatherly figure to Merlin.

Merlin’s guardian and Mentor.

Gaius is also a magician, but has abandoned the practice as it is banned by the King.

Uther Pendragon (Anthony head)

Camelot’s stubborn and hard- hearted king which has resulted him in many enemies.

Father of Arthur and Morgana Pendragon.

Enforces the kingdom’s strict ban on magic and sorcery.


A druid boy with strong magic who forms a close relationship with Morgana.

Becomes a Knight of Camelot.

Becomes enemies with Arthur and Merlin after they betray him.

Turns against Camelot after his love interest gets captured and murdered by King Arthur

Killgharra (Voiced by John Hurt)

The Great Dragon, the last of his kind, imprisoned in an underground cave.

Gives Merlin advice and helps him to fulfil both his and Arthur’s destiny.

The Knights of Camelot and the Round Table

Elyan, Lancelot, Persival, Gwaine and Leon.

They are made knights even though not all of them are of pure blood.

They are all treated equal by Arthur, symbolised by the concept of the Round Table

Protect Camelot in times of need

Lancelot becomes one of Arthur's closest knights and friend. However, he forms a love triangle by falling in love with Guinevere.

Allie Pennington, the daughter of two professors in medieval literature, moves to a new town and begins classes at Avalon High.

New to the area, she discovers herself involved in the prophecy of King Arthur’s reincarnation.

Allie becomes quick to link the prophecy with that of her classmates.

William as King Arthur, Miles as Merlin, Jennifer as Guinevere and Lance as Lancelot.

As the Arthur prophecy seems to be unfolding before her, Allie takes on the role of protecting Will from his evil step-brother Marco which everyone believes is the reincarnation of Mordred, out to destroy King Arthur and lead the world into a dark age.

Allie Pennington (Britt Robertson)

Moved from Minnesota to Annapolis.

Revealed as the reincarnated King Arthur.

Has romantic feelings for William Wagner.

William Wagner (Gregg Sulkin)

Student at Avalon High; class president; quarterback of football team.

Everyone thinks he is the reincarnated King Arthur.

Extremely nice, handsome, strong and athletic.

Develops romantic feelings for Allie which is expressed after his relationship with Jennifer comes to an end.

Miles (Joey Pollari)

Student at Avalon High

Becomes Allie’s first close friend.

Revealed as the reincarnated Merlin.

Jennifer Gold (Molly C. Quinn)

Student at Avalon High; Head cheerleader.

Secretly dating Lance even though she’s had a 3 year long relationship with William.

Revealed as the reincarnated Queen Guinevere.

Lance (Christopher Tavarez)

William’s best friend at Avalon high. Plays guard on the football team.

He is tough and strong and is secretly dating Jennifer Gold.

Revealed as the reincarnated Sir Lancelot.

Marco Campbell (Devon Graye)

William’s older step brother.

Everyone thinks he is the reincarnated Mordred.

Member of the Order of the Bear.

Mr Moore (Steve Valentine)

History teacher at Avalon high.

He is the reincarnated Mordred.

Set out to destroy King Arthur.

Theme; Good vs. Evil:

This theme remains constant throughout the entire series and is relevant to King Arthur, the people of Camelot and Merlin.

It is evident as there is endless conflict between the courageous, mighty, loyal, King and his Knights, against all evil which attempts to bring down the Kingdom of Camelot. The forces of good battle the forces of evil continuously, keeping in mind that one day; there might be a chance in which they do not emerge victorious.

Merlin constantly uses his magic to help the King win the battles and overpower the forces of evil.

Theme; Appearance vs. Reality:

This theme is mainly seen in the character of Merlin.
Merlin’s tall, skinny appearance allows him to be viewed by many of the other character as the weak man- servant of King Arthur.

In reality, he is one of the strongest wizards of all time, able to assist in defending the Kingdom of Camelot from harm.

Merlin is one of the strongest characters in the entire series.

heme; Love and Sacrifice:

These traits are seen by many characters however they are mainly seen embedded in the character of King Arthur.

He has a meaningful love for Guinivere, his family, and the people of Camelot.

His sense of love for Camelot is strong and will sacrifice himself for his land and people if necessary.

Merlin offers himself up as a sacrifice in times where Arthur is in Danger. It is his destiny to defend Arthur and protect him from harm.

Motif; Myths and legends:

The storyline of this series relies heavily on the historical Myths and legends of King Arthur in order to develop its plot.

It is an entire re-work of the Arthur myth; modernizing the old stories to a modern day adaptation.

Motif; Equality and the concept of the round table:

The symbol of the Round Table is seen as equality in the series.

King Arthur treats all his Knights equally and is loyal to them, just as they are to him.

E.g. even though Lancelot is not of true blood; Arthur treats him equal and makes him a knight.

Motif; Merlin’s Disguise:

Constantly re- occurs. Merlin can never reveal his magic powers to anyone and therefore has to always be in disguise as a normal human person.

Motif: The Druid Symbol

Constantly re-occurs as it is tattooed on the Druid people. Members of the old religion.

Theme; Loyalty

An example is shown through the character of William Wagner. Will feels attachment to his duty. He is the personification of the devotion to duty that typifies Arthurian literature.

Will is a man who believes honour is important, he believes it is important to stand up for others and feels a responsibility toward maintaining peace and showing leadership.

These are loyalties to duty and humanity. Will's actions also display the Arthurian ideal of chivalry, acts of honour, self-sacrifice, duty and loyalty against all odds. Will is loyal to his brother, his father, his team mates and his school mates.

Theme; Appearance vs. Reality

This theme is present in the main characters.

They appear as normal students, when in reality they are the reincarnated characters of the Arthurian legend.

Theme; Romance

This is expressed through Allie and William’s prosperous relationship throughout the film. They are shown to be really close friends, and they’re romance is evident.

Romance is also shown between Jennifer and Lance, who are the two best friends of William. This relationship is the reincarnation to that of Guinevere and Lancelot’s in the original King Arthur text.

Motif; Knight Armour

There are persistent occurrences of Knights in shining Armour throughout the entire film.

Shown in the beginning and ending of the film, where knights are riding on horseback.

Allie consistently dreams about medieval combat.

The class draws topics out of knight helmet armour.

Motif; Myths and legends:

The storyline of this film is a contemporary appropriation of the legend of King Arthur with many similarities between characterisation’s in order to develop its plot.

It is an entire re-work of the Arthur myth; modernizing the old stories to a modern day adaptation.

Motif; the Love triangle
The love triangle is evident between Will, Jen and Lance (Will likes Jen, Jen likes Lance)

This is clearly shown in the film, as both Jen and Lance attempt to hide their secret relationship from Will.



Merlin being informed of his destiny by the Great Dragon Killgharra.

Arthur born as Prince of Camelot; having to obey his father and protect the people of Camelot.


Merlin does not like Arthur at first, as the prince is arrogant and a bully. Merlin did not want to protect him.

Many times during the series, Arthur loses hope in himself while trying to protect the people of Camelot.


Gaius and the Great Dragon act as aid for Merlin, aiming to guide him in the right way to fulfil his destiny.

Merlin acts as aid for Arthur and uses his magic in times when Arthur is in danger.


Merlin meets and loves Freya in Season 2.

Arthur starts to notice Guinevere in Season 1, Episode 13.

Arthur marries Guinevere in Season 4, Episode 13.


Arthur takes initiative and is tempted to save Gwen who is kidnapped by bandits, going against his father’s wishes. (Episode 17)

Arthur is tempted into not helping his father locked in Camelot as Uther lied and did not tell him Morgana was his sister. (Episode 39)

Merlin was tempted to help Morgana when she first finds out about her powers, even though the dragon told him not to. (Episode 16)


Merlin apologises to Gaius about going against his word and helping Morgana. (Episode 16)
Merlin reunites with his father Ballinor

Arthur succeeds in saving Uther from the jail cell who then regains his reign as King of Camelot.


Merlin accepting his destiny and trying to fulfil it by protecting Arthur.

Arthur accepting Merlin as his man-servant.

Arthur being finally crowned King of Camelot.


Merlin saving Arthur’s life for the first time, in Season 1, Episode 1.

Arthur fighting for Camelot.


There are many trials that Merlin and Arthur have to undergo, some examples include:

Having to defeat the Questing Beast. (Episode 13 “Le Morte d’Arthur”)

Arthur and Merlin having to go through the underground facing Wilddeoren. (Episode 17 “Lancelot and Guinevere”)

Having to defeat the Great Dragon who was released and taking revenge on Camelot. (Episode 26 “ The Last Dragon Lord”)


Merlin, Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot escape safely from the tunnels and are free from the bandits. (Episode 17)

Merlin loses his magic and Ballinor helps him get it back.

Merlin and Arthur return to Camelot after looking for the last Dragon Lord. (Episode 26)


Merlin battling and defeating Morgana towards the end of the series.

Arthur battling with Mordred towards the end of the series.

Arthur dies during this battle.

As a result of Arthur’s sacrifice, Camelot can now live in peace.

Arthur thanks Merlin before he dies, after finding out about Merlin’s magic. (Reward and recognition for Merlin)

Merlin's immortality.
When Allie picks out the “Order of the bear” research topic from the Knight head armour in class.

At times, William possesses self-doubt. He believes he can’t cope with all the responsibility and pressure placed upon him.

Allie’s parents aid Allie and Miles.
Allie aids Will in helping him overcome his problems.
Miles aids Allie, through his visions as he is the reincarnated Merlin.


Allie starting to research the “Order of the Bear” topic.

When will finds out that Lance and Jen are having an affair behind his back.

The love triangle between Will, Lance and Jen.
The cheat note which was found on Will’s shoes during the class test.


When Allie met Will.

When Will met Allie.


Jennifer tells Allie not to tell Will, that her and Lance are having an affair.

Both Jennifer and Lance fall into temptation by having an affair without William’s
knowledge of it.

When the characters finally discover their reincarnated roles during the end of the film.


When Will returns to the football match after the battle.


Allie reincarnated as King Arthur, having t battle with Mr Moore who is reincarnated as Mordred.


After achieving victory in the battle, the football team also wins their match.



The Adventures of Merlin is a British fantasy- adventure television programme by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps.

t was broadcast on BBC one between 20th September 2008 and 24th September 2012.

The series is loosely based on the Arthurian Legends of the young Wizard Merlin and his relationship with Arthur Pendragon, but differs from traditional versions in many ways.

The show was influenced by the U.S drama series Smallville about the early years of superman.

As a result of the change in context between the traditional text and the 21st century, a change in gender roles is evident. Female characters such as Guinevere (Queen) and Morgana (Evil Witch) are also portrayed as powerful hero's. This emphasises the notion of feminism in the new context, moving away from the traditional male hero stereotype.


The Disney film Avalon High was released in 2010.

It is based on the young adult novel “Avalon High” by Meg Cabot which was published in 2005.

The film is a contemporary appropriation of the Arthurian legend.

This film is aimed for a younger teenage audience, involving teenage students, relationship and dramas such as the love triangle.

Similar to the Merlin series, a change in gender roles is evident, portraying a powerful female chacter as King Arthur. This allows the modern audience to understand that anyone can be a hero.

Major social comment is expressed throughout the whole series continually, through Merlin, attempting to reinstate the concept that magic can be used not only for evil, but for good purposes as well.

Values have changed in modern society about the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. In the traditional Arthur legend, Guinevere has an affair with Lancelot whilst married to Arthur, however in this series; it is evident that Guinevere does not have an affair whilst married to Arthur. Even though this concept was also not accepted in traditional times, the director has still chosen to change this from the original. It is clear that Guinevere takes over the Kingdom when Arthur dies. She needs to be a trustworthy, loyal and strong character; otherwise the modern audience would not accept her. As the series progresses the responders fall in love with the two heroes, Merlin and Arthur and therefore Arthur’s counterpart must also be a likeable character, ultimately resulting with the change in the love triangle.

Another social comment is revealed when the audience find out about Igraine and her Sacrifice to bear a child. This results in Igraine dying in order to have Arthur. This expresses that people in society are unaware of the consequences of their actions fulfilling their needs.

The series clearly enforces that to be a hero, you have to prove it to yourself first and then to others. This is seen through the character of Lancelot and not accepting to be a knight of Camelot in the first season. Lancelot's nobility corresponds to that in the original text.

Social comment is expressed through the character of Arthur. Arthur is a man of great leadership and heroism who goes against King Uther's commands at times. This presents to the viewers that in order to be a successful leader one must not be a tyrant, but act accordingly to their own wants.

This texts also clearly emphasises the acceptance of class and colour difference. This is represented through the character of Guinevere; a servant girl who later became queen. The director does this in order to show the audience that everyone is accepted in society no matter who they are and what they look like.

Social comment is shown through the change in gender roles. By the hero, King Arthur, resulting in being reincarnated by Allie, we see the hero as a strong woman figure. This expresses to the audience that the hero does not always have to be the stereotypical undefeatable male, and therefore women can also have the same traits as a leader and be looked up upon.

The film, just like in the Adventures of Merlin and the traditional text, also enforces that to be a hero, you have to prove it to yourself first and then to others. This is seen through the character of William doubting himself because of the pressure that he felt upon him from all his responsibility. By overcoming his doubt he was able to be successful and acheive his desires. This is a direct message to humanity to "Chase after thier dreams" and stop lingering on self doubt and pity.
Sarah Hatem
"I solemnly swear i
am up to no good"

As the series is set for the present 21st century audience, there are some changes which are evident to suit the interests and meet the values of the modern responders. E.g. in the series, Guinevere loves Arthur after being with Lancelot. However, in the traditional Arthur story, Guinevere has an affair with Lancelot whilst being married to King Arthur.

Determination values are shown by Merlin who is resolute to protect Arthur and fulfil his destiny.

Leadership qualities are expressed through the character of Arthur who tries his best in being the greatest king and leader he can be for the people of Camelot. Values of fairness and Equality are higlighted through the concept of the Round Table.

Love: Growing love is shown between Arthur and Guinevere.

Loyalty: the Knights of the Round Table remain loyal to Arthur at all times, just as he is loyal to them.

Equality and fairness are shown through the notion of the round table which is present in the film.

Determination: Allie is determined in finding out whether or not the Order of the Bear is real, in order to fulfil her suspicions about her classmates.

Leadership: William has a strong responsibility as a senior at Avalon High. He shows leadership skills as he is class president, and quarterback of the football team.

Love: we see a growing love between Jen and Lance, and Allie and Will.

Forgiveness: William forgives Jen and Lance after finding out they have a secret relationship
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