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The Arthurian Legend

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Maria Chalhoub

on 22 July 2014

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Transcript of The Arthurian Legend

The Arthurian Legend
The Arthurian legend has existed for over a thousand of years and is the most powerful legend in the western world.

It is centered on Medieval Britain’s legendary king Arthur and is a story filled with love, adventure, and betrayal.
This British tale has been shifted through time to better suit the context of the audience.

This is called an appropriation; it is the transformation of a story that has been effectually adapted to contemporary situations through reusing the existing elements of a tale.

In present times, the legend of king Arthur is told through various forms of texts including films, works of literature and novels.

However, the fundamental story of King Arthur and the fact that Mordred brings about his downfall remains the same, regardless of the different interpretations of the legend.

The adventures of Merlin - Arthur Pendragon
In the series Merlin, Arthur Pendragon is a noble prince and later becomes a noble king. Initially, Arthur was depicted as a spoiled, narrow – minded and arrogant bully; this is seen in season 1 when Arthur began to throw knives at an innocent servant just for a laugh. This illustrates his ‘prat’ attitude.

However he began to mature, identifying his virtues as being wise, strong, passionate and honourable.
The young Pendragon is portrayed as the traditional legend possessing great qualities of both a hero and a king.

Arthur is a truly legendary and dignified hero that stands for equality. His great conviction is in peace and righteousness.

During his reign, he revived the Round Table and established peace between the five kingdoms for the first time in centuries. Arthur has become the once and future king, that everyone expected him to be.

Avalon High - Allie Pennington
In this film, Allie Pennington is the true reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur.

Allie possess the qualities of a hero, she is brave, active and shrewd as she has the ability to triumph over evil in the epic battle against Mr Moore (Mordred) who brings about her tragic flaw.

Her strong image is made in the likeness of King Arthur, this is revealed in the way she interacts and supports her friends in times of need.

Avalon High - William Wagner
William Wagner is a student at Avalon high that also reflects the ideals and characterisation of Arthur as well initially, despite who the true reincarnation is.

It is clearly shown in this film; William is a leader, the class president, star quarterback football player and straight A student.

His life is eerily similar to the life of King Arthur: a cheating partner, a loyal but confused best friend, and a deadly half-brother.

William possesses the qualities of a hero – determined, loyal, courageous, dedicated, selfless and brave.

Characterisation of Arthur and what he stands for
The narrative - The Adventures of Merlin
Merlin is a British television appropriation programme based on the legend of King Arthur. It is enriched with fantasy and adventure set in the medieval context.

Created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps, this series began in 2008 and ended in 2012.

This series is loosely based on the young warlock Merlin and relationship with Arthur Pendragon, Camelot’s future king.

On Merlin’s arrival in the kingdom of Camelot, he is faced with the discovery that the King, Uther Pendragon, has outlawed magic and imprisoned that last dragon (Kilgharrah) deep down under Camelot.

Due to voices being constantly heard by Merlin, he finds the last dragon Kilgharrah underlining a vital destiny for him.

This destiny shapes the entire Arthurian Legend, to protect Arthur Pendragon who will one day become a great king allowing magic in the kingdom of Camelot and uniting the land of Albion.

Until then, Merlin must keep his magical gift a secret with the aid of his mentor Gaius until magic is restored.
Merlin and Arthur don’t get along at first, especially since Arthur’s character was arrogant and selfish. However, through Merlin’s magic he saves Arthur and is rewarded with the position of being Arthur’s manservant.

As a result of this, the two become close friends and begin forming a bond. When Uther Pendragon’s actions causes his Ward, Lady Morgana to evilly turn against Camelot, the young warlock Merlin and the legendary heir to the throne Arthur, must reunite and save the kingdom of Albion.

The narrative - Avalon High
Avalon High is Disney Channel Original movie produced in 2010 and written by Julie Sherman Wolfe and Amy Talkington.

This film is an appropriation of the Arthurian legend; it’s targeted at a younger audience in order to understand the legend better and clearer.

Allie Pennington moves to a new school, Avalon high and becomes faced with the reshaping of the legend of King Arthur.

Allie meets William Wagner, a popular football player and class president and she pictured him to be the reincarnation of King Arthur.

With his evil step brother Marco symbolising Mordred, this appropriation makes perfect sense to Allie.

Marco would bring about the downfall of his brother and kill him as similar to the traditional legend story.
Allie discovers that the prophecy is true, as William’s best friend Lance and William’s girlfriend Jen are together, holding the secret of their love.

Allie fears that this will also cause Will’s tragic flaws.

With the assistance of Miles (symbolising Merlin), both Allie and Miles help each other to protect Will from Marco and save the school from the world leading to a dark age.

Other integral characters
Merlin (Colin Morgan)
Merlin is a young warlock that lives in the kingdom of Camelot as Gaius’ ward and Arthur Pendragon’s manservant.

Merlin is the protagonist and his heroic journey is centred on him during the series.

Merlin has an alter ego called ‘Emrys’ who is the old aged version of himself, due to an aging spell transformation.
Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James)
Arthur Pendragon is the prince and later king of Camelot, he is King Uther’s only son and known as the ‘once and future king’.

He is also the commander of the knights of Camelot, portraying leadership and authority.

Arthur possesses noble qualities and skills of a true knight, friend and leader of the kingdom of Camelot.

Arthur’s destiny is to become King and become the reign of Albion.

Morgana Pendragon (Katie McGrath)
Morgana is a young and sensible lady who is king Uther’s ward, on the other hand she is later known to be the daughter of Uther Pendragon and Arthur’s stepsister.

Initially, Morgana was a faithful, compassionate woman and friendly to those around her. However, through recognising her magical ability and power, she begins to plot against Camelot and take over the throne.

Morgana becomes the prime villain and is known as the high priestess. Regardless of her high authority, the threat of Emrys is her one and only weakness.

Guinevere (Angel Coulby)
Guinevere is short for Gwen, as most of her friends and allies call her. She becomes queen Guinevere of Camelot when King Arthur Pendragon takes her as his wife.

However, she was initially a maidservant to King Uther’s ward Lady Morgana. Her modest and strong virtues are striving, as it makes Arthur fall in love with her kind and humble nature, as like in the traditional Arthurian legend.
Gauis (Richard Wilson)
Gaius is Camelot’s trusted court physician and reliable advisor to the king. He displays a positive fatherly figure to Merlin as both his mentor and guide.

Gaius is a wise, intelligent man and magician that has abandoned the practice of magic. He is mainly the first individual to realise what is really happening when magic threatens the kingdom.

King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head)
Uther Pendragon was the king of Camelot initially until he passed away in series 4. He is Camelot’s obstinate and cold-hearted king, although he does show his son Arthur love that is rather toughening. Uther is also the father of Morgana Pendragon.

Uther has great hatred towards all kinds of sorcery and magic, resulting in his law that magic is forbidden in the kingdom of Camelot.

Kilgharrah (Voice by John Hurt)
Kilgharrah is also known as the great dragon that has been imprisoned deep underground the kingdom of Camelot. The great dragon was Merlin’s mentor and spiritual brother.
Mordred (Asa Butterfield
and Alexander Vlahos)
Mordred at first is a young druid boy who has a strong alliance with Morgana. He becomes a young man and knight of Camelot, secretly despising Arthur. As prophesied by the great dragon, Mordred is the person that will take Arthur’s life away.
Knights Of The Round Table
These knights are the knights of Camelot and the round table. Consisting of Sir Leon, Sir Gwaine, Sir Lancelot, Sir Elyan and Sir Percival. These respected men are loyal to their leader King Arthur and the people of Camelot. The Knights of the Round Table are not all of noble blood, however, they are the noblest knights to ever live in the kingdom of Camelot.
Other integral characters
Allie Pennington (Britt Robinson)
Allie is the new student at Avalon High; she is the film’s protagonist and hero.

Allie proves herself in the film to be a strong leader.

She is revealed to be the reincarnated King Arthur rather than Will.

Her romantic feelings for Will evident in the movie.
William Wagner (Greg Sulkin)
William ‘Will’ Wagner is first sought to be the reincarnation of King Arthur, due to his sustainable positions in school – the handsome class president, star quarterback football player and high popularity.

He has strong feelings for Allie and this is exposed once his relationship with Jen comes to an end.
Miles (Joey Pollari)
Miles is a student at Avalon high who becomes close friends with Allie, he is the reincarnation of the all knowing and powerful magician Merlin.
Jennifer Gold (Molly C. Quinn)
Jennifer ‘Jen’ is the head cheerleader at Avalon high who is secretly dating Lance while being William’s girlfriend for a while. She is the reincarnation of Guinevere.
Lance (Christopher Tavarez)
Lance is William’s best friend at Avalon High who is tough, strong and secretly dating Jen. He is the reincarnation of Sir Lancelot and a member of the Round Table.
Marco Campbell (Devon Graye)
Marco is William’s older stepbrother and student at Avalon high. His bitter and cold personality makes him the school bully.

Everyone one and even Allie perceive him to be the reincarnation of Mordred, seeking to destroy and kill William (King Arthur).

This ends up being incorrect as he is an active member of the ‘order of the bear’ in a search to find the reincarnation of Arthur.
Mr Moore (Steve Valentine)
Mr Moore is the history teacher at Avalon High. His true identity is later revealed that he is the real reincarnation of Mordred rather than William’s stepbrother Marco, in his attempt to destroy and cause the disgrace of King Arthur.
Themes and Motifs in Merlin
Good vs. Evil
Love and Honour
Throughout the adventures of Merlin, Arthur Pendragon is the main source highlighting the theme love and honour.

His love for Guinevere, the people of Camelot and his family are unconditional. Arthur shows great honour and passion in his land Camelot.

Through his strong and courageous traits, Arthur will fight for his land and protect it from any dangers that ought to destroy it.
Loyalty and Friendship
Merlin shows great loyalty to Arthur, Merlin’s destiny to protect Arthur results from fidelity and companionship.

Merlin and Arthur share a strong friendship that grows throughout the series.
In Merlin, there is a huge conflict present between the kingdom of Camelot and it’s throne against the forces of evil aiming to destroy and take over Camelot.

Merlin (Emrys) vs. Morgana and Arthur vs. Mordred are the main forces of good and evil battling each other to form the Arthurian legend.
The Round Table
The round table is a symbol displayed in this appropriation and in the traditional legend.

Formed by King Arthur and the knights of Camelot, it is where they congregate.

It symbolises unity and implies that everyone who sits there has an equal and fair status.
The swords are a constant motif in this series; knights illustrating strength and authority mainly yield it.
This motif is very vital; it symbolises Kingship and the power of goodness in the hands of the rightful king.

It was given to the king (through Merlin) by the Lady of Lake who symbolizes the sovereignty of the land itself.

Love Triangle
Like the traditional Arthurian legend the love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot is also present in this series.
Crest Of Camelot
The crest symbolises Camelot, they are seen displayed on corridors of the castle and on the knight’s armour and uniform simply identifying the kingdom.
Themes and Motifs in Avalon High
Appearance vs. Reality
This theme is evident in all the characters involved in the reincarnation of the legend of King Arthur.

They appear as normal people attending Avalon High, but in reality they are the reincarnations of the Arthurian legend, where Will is King Arthur, Jen as Guinevere, Lance as Lancelot, miles as Merlin and etc.
These themes illustrated in Avalon high are present when their favourite teacher Mr Moore s actually in fact Mordred, the character out to destroy King Arthur. His friendly disguise allows him to be deceptive and treacherous.

Will’s closest peers, Jen and Lance are secretly in a love affair. This is deceiving and portrays disloyalty towards Will.

Good vs. Evil
In this film, the forces of good battle against the forces of evil, at first it was Allie versus Marco (Mordred), after realising the truth, it was Allie versus Mr Moore (The real Mordred).

This film appropriation has the same concept as the traditional legend; the protagonist and hero will always be in battle with Mordred.
Betrayal and disloyalty
The round 'lunch' table
This modernised film also portrays the figure of the round table, however in a context to suit the young audience.

It stands for fairness, everyone becomes equal.
The visions and dreams constantly foreseen about the King Arthur legend and his destiny by Allie and Miles, is a significant motif seen throughout the film.
Love Triangle
Like the traditional Arthurian tale the love triangle (Will, Jen and Lance) is present.

Will likes Jen and Jen likes Lance, this results in Jen having a secret love affair relationship with Lance.
The sacred sword of Excalibur is seen in Avalon High.

Allie picks up a plastic sword in an attempt to defend herself from Mr Moore; the sword then turns magically into Excalibur revealing that Allie is the true reincarnation of King Arthur.
Quest Conventions - The adventures of Merlin
Supernatural aid
Both Gaius and Kilgharrah are the aids for Merlin; these two aids assist and guide Merlin to protect Arthur. In saying this, Merlin is also the supernatural aid of Arthur Pendragon.
Crossing the first threshold
When Merlin saved Arthur’s life from the Witch Mary, he is appointed as Arthur’s manservant therefore starting to accept his destiny.
Belly of the Whale
Merlin faces interesting creatures and battles with Arthur while defending him. Such creatures and battles include the questing beats and Nimue.
The road of trials
There are numerous trials laying in the series for Merlin and Arthur. Such include; having to defeat to the questing beast (episode 13) and facing the Wilddeoren (episode 17).

Merlin’s trial is also to keep his magical gift a secret, as it sometimes may face the chance of it being exposed in this kingdom of forbidden magic.
The Call to Adventure
The great dragon Kilgharrah informs Merlin that he must protect Arthur Pendragon, the once and future king – it is his destiny.
The Refusal
Merlin refuses to believe the dragon and doubts himself and his destiny, especially because Arthur in Merlin eyes is a Prat.

Atonement of the father
Merlin atones with his father Balinor (a dragon lord) in season 2.

Gaius is also a fatherly figure whom Merlin experiences atonement with.
Ultimate Boon
Merlin battling against Morgana, by stabbing her with Excalibur she is defeated.

Arthur’s battle with Mordred is also the ultimate boon; Mordred dies however a fatal injured Arthur is resulted.
The refusal of the return
Merlin loses his magical ability in season 5, however his father Balinor appears to him as a ghost guiding him and offering him support to regain his magic. Balinor is also Merlin’s magic flight.
Freedom to live
Camelot lives in peace due to Arthur’s heroic sacrifice; this portrays Arthur’s strength, sacrifice and devotion to Camelot. Merlin is rewarded with immortality, still awaiting the once and future king’s return.
Meeting with the Goddess
There are two goddesses in this series, Guinevere and Freya. Merlin meets Freya (later becomes the Lady of the Lake), who is a cursed druid girl.

Despite her curse he loves her and when she died, he will never love another.

Arthur’s goddess is Morgana’s servant girl Guinevere, whom he marries in season 4.
Woman as temptress
Morgana and her half sister Morgause are both temptresses.

Their power of evil makes them scheming for revenge; an example is when Morgana tempts Merlin often to stay away from his quest (his destiny to protect Arthur).
Quest conventions - Avalon high
Supernatural aid
Both Allie and Miles are aids in this film, Miles is the aid for Allie and Allie is the aid for Will in order to protect him from Marco.
Crossing the first threshold
Miles and Allie begin their research on the order of the bear.
Belly of the whale
Allie witnesses the secret love affair of Will’s best friend Lance and his girlfriend Jen.
Road of trials
The love triangle between Will, Jen and lance is a trial, especially for Allie as she witnessed the love affair and is now carrying the burden of knowing. Allie also must protect Arthur from his cruel brother Marco.
The Call to Adventure
Allie Pennington’s history teacher Mr Moore assigns the class a research task, Allie is grouped with Miles and they pick out the ‘order of the bear’ topic.
The refusal
Allie refuses to ask about the order of the bear from her skilled parents. William often doubts himself about not being able to cope with all the responsibilities.
Allie, Miles and Will experience atonement when they realise the Marco is no Mordred and he is in fact helping them. Another atonement is when the characters discover their reincarnated roles.
Ultimate boon
Once Allie is reincarnated as the true King Arthur, the major battle takes place between Allie and Mr Moore.
The return
Allie tells Will he is King Arthur; he takes this as a metaphor and returns to the football match.
Freedom to live
Once Mr Moore is defeated, the force of evil is vanished and they return to living in reality. As a reward, Will wins the football match and kisses Allie
Meeting with the God/Goddess
In this film Allie meets Will and Will meets Allie, when they come across each other for the first time, they feel some sort of connection
Woman as temptress
Jen is the temptress, she convinces Allie to not confess to Will about her and Lance’s secret affair.
Context and values
The adventures of Merlin - context
The adventures of Merlin are a BBC one television programme packed with fantasy, drama and adventure. Merlin was set in the medieval ages and based on the Arthurian legend, however it has been appropriated to suit the modern audience.

In saying this, woman roles like Morgana as high priestess, are more evident and outspoken than the traditional legend. This illustrates an alternative reading, where feminism is a virtue effectively uplifted by society and the notion that males are high-powered individuals is slowing moving away.

Castles, servants, magic and supernatural creatures are present in the middle ages and are shown.

The adventures of Merlin - Values
Christian Values:
Christian values are seen in this modernisation series; sacrifice is a Christian moral that both Merlin and Arthur are apart of. Merlin is willing to give up his own life for Arthur in order to fulfill his destiny.
Equality values:
Arthur desires to bring equality to Camelot; this is accomplished through the use of the round table. Arthur is always striving to be fair and just.

Love values:
The growing and nurturing love between Arthur and Guinevere is strong; this value is fundamental as Arthur also had love for his land and kingdom Camelot.

Avalon High - Context
Avalon high is a Disney channel original movie based on the novel ‘Avalon high’ by Meg Cabot. It is a modernisation of the legend of king Arthur aimed to suit the modern younger audience.

It is based on the adventures of the high school students and their discovery of the ‘order of the bear’.

Set in a high school context it is appealing to the younger crowd; thus explaining the lack of violence and death scenes. Mr Moore representing Mordred is taken behind the bars, instead of being killed. This is more appropriate for the contemporary young audience.

This movie is reflective around its high school context, teenage relationships, drama and the love triangle is typical and most likely to be exposed in this appropriation.

Due to it’s high school setting, females have significant roles – the true king Arthur is a woman, this goes to show that in this modern society, anyone can be a hero.

Avalon High - Values
Leadership values:
leadership skills are evident and displayed by William; he has many responsibilities and duties as a student at Avalon high.

Love values:
the value of love is well known in this film; there is a growing love between lance and Jen causing the love triangle to form. There is also a strong link between Allie and Will.

Feminist values:
Allie’s strong and brave traits are accepted as she is proven to be King Arthur, despite her gender.

Equality values:
Fairness and equality form the round table in Avalon high, Marco is accepted into the round table despite his bullying manner and harsh actions towards other students. They all are accepted as equal and just individuals and students.

Social Commentary

- The adventures of Merlin
The modern context of Merlin allows race to be not an issue at all. Seeing Guinevere as ‘black’ is not strange, she is successfully accepted as Queen of Camelot and the people of the kingdom admire her.

Even Elyan as a knight of Camelot and member of the round table, despite his race, he is still worthy enough to fight and protect his kingdom. The shift through time has allowed race to be accepted into society justly.
Women in the time of the Arthurian legend were not outspoken, they were mainly known for their cooking and cleaning abilities. However, there has been an evidential shift from these traditional women of England.

In Merlin, women are underlined as heroic characters having power and justice in their possession; they are suitable to live a life without the guide of a man. E.g. Morgana and Morgause
Class structure and social status
Throughout the time of the legend of king Arthur, their societies were organised in class structures – the upper class were known as the rich and royals, the middle class and the lower class.

In Merlin, class structure and social status is still present, there are royals and there are the disadvantaged. However, Guinevere was a servant girl at first and becomes queen of Camelot.

This imperative aspect notifies the modern audience that people like Gwen can be accepted into society, regardless of their social status and structure in the kingdom.
Social Commentary - Avalon High
On a similar note to Merlin, Avalon high displays women as crucial figures of high status. The protagonist in this movie is a female, Allie Pennington; she is the most powerful and strongest character in the film revealing her true self as the reincarnation of King Arthur.

It is not unusual for women to have fundamental roles in this modern society, however in the times of the Arthurian tale it was known for women to be unaccepted into society.

Due to this modernised appropriation of this legend, women can have a higher social place in society. They can also perform tasks that are male dominated like Allie Pennington at her school Avalon High.
Appearance and social skills is not required for the character Miles (Merlin) in this film. His powerful magical skills and intellect form him as a strong persona, regardless of his physique.
Social Status
The context of this film depicts social status. Since Will is a popular student and football player signifying King Arthur; it is socially accepted for him to pursue his future dream as a famous footballer.

In reality, he desires to become the president of the United States. This identifies the importance of keeping up social status to send out the notion that Will is a strong and valiant leader and hero.
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