Merlin—A different version of King Arthur

Merlin is a new television series that was first on NBC and now new episodes are being shown on the SyFy Channel. I have seen numerous angry posts about this new show. King Arthur fans are upset because this show is different from other versions of King Arthur—some posts stated that the writers have ‘murdered’ the legend. Merlin is about a teenage Arthur and Merlin. The concept is what if Merlin, Arthur, Gwen and Morgana grew up together?  Uther is still alive and king of Camelot, Gwenhwyfar is a Moor and handmaiden to Morgana, and Merlin is Arthur’s servant. Merlin has to hide his magic because Uther has banned magic from the kingdom. Morgana is still Gorlois’s daughter, but she is Uther’s ward. I’m not sure which parts of this show anger people more, but I think seeing Merlin as a servant is most upsetting to some people.

I almost stopped watching Merlin after the first show because I had a hard time seeing them as boys in a setting much different from most versions of King Arthur, but I stuck with it and now I find the series fun and interesting. I like to see different versions of myths. These are myths, after all and not recorded history. Marion Zimmer Bradley did a really different version of King Arthur that became popular with a lot of people, though some people were opposed to her adaptation.

Personally, I think Merlin, despite showing the characters as teenagers, stays truer to the original Celtic legend of King Arthur. I’m not a fan of the later writings that to me seem to be Christianized versions of the myth. This series focuses more on the old religion and magic that had to still be alive in the fourth/fifth centuries even though Christianity had spread throughout Britain. I picture King Arthur as someone who respected Christianity and paganism—that was how he was able to unite all of Britain. I do have some issue with the way the historical setting is portrayed in the twelfth century rather than the fifth century when it was more likely King Arthur’s time. Maybe the writers thought the Dark Ages might be too dismal for some people. Despite this, I still enjoy this series so far.

Merlin does not pretend to be a true depiction of Britain’s history or of the Arthurian legends. It is more of a fantasy with a mythical kingdom, magic and adventure. The description on the SyFy website says: “The mythical city of Camelot, in a time before history began. A fantastical realm of legendary beasts and mysterious peoples.” The main point of the story remains—the relationship between Merlin and Arthur and their shared destiny. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

There are many variations on the King Arthur myth so why does this one have a lot of people so upset?

Kelley Heckart

‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’

8 thoughts on “Merlin—A different version of King Arthur”

  1. There will always be the hardcore “Arthurians” who are protective of this historic myth that has survived through centuries. I myself love the tale of Arthur, Merlin, their friendship, and the downfall of Camelot.

    This modern British version of the myth was created (if I’m not mistaken) to draw in younger viewers and pass on the tale to a new generation who would much rather watch characters their age than read through dusty tomes about “old folks”. I have not personally seen it, but I have friends on-line that rave about it and never miss an episode.

    To me it doesn’t matter if the ages have changed as long as the core of the myth stays intact. The Arthurian legend taught lessons that this generation could do with learning about; family, friendship, tolerance, honesty, and staying true to yourself. If the show can teach those lessons so be it.

    Hell, when I was a kid there was a comic done called Camelot 3000 where the legendary tale of Arthur and his knights return when Britain needed them was done. It involved reincarnation (Lancelot I believe was reborn as a woman if I recall correctly it’s been years since I read them), aliens invading the earth, magic, science fiction, and even lesbianism.

    To me this legend as well as many were intended as tales of life lessons. Yes, perhaps they were loosely based on real life figures as some scholars argue, but then as writers do we not do the same thing with our stories?

    BTW if you are interested in the comic I referenced here’s a link:

    CORRECTION: It was not Lancelot, but rather Sir Tristan that was reincarnated as a woman and Tristan still loved his beloved Isolde, who was also reborn as a woman.


  2. Gawd, if this show is pissing people off then Mists of Avalon must have REALLY blew a wad in their bloomers.

    And this is a PERFECT example as to why I am not allowed, as a writer, to play on earth, if I am writing something past tense lol.

    I believe it was Helgaleena from Dark Roast Press who kicked me off of Earth because as she said, (in my words because I can’t remember what the hell she said exactly) that the majority of readers have one certain idea or historical thing stuck in their head. So when you write against that, they don’t always go–WOW, very creative way to throw a new splash on historical fiction, but rather forget the entire story, whether its good or not, and are ready to string you up by the bon bons because of it. lol

    Like I said, those were my words, not hers, and while mine was way more, and hers were way fewer but more blunt, I think mine were way more creative lol.

    Anyway, here’s a news flash for all those getting their knickers in a twist over the Merlin show, I don’t know if you know it, and I love being the one to say, but there are so many twisted versions of that dang story that I doubt anyone knows the truth of it or not. And most versions haven’t even come to light. Hell, tapping into the Pagan ones ALONE would keep us here all dang day and then some.

    So I say all be still and chill and fill your minds with *gasps* fiction *double gasps* meant for entertainment pleasure ONLY. That’s it. That’s all it is. That’s all it’s meant to be. No one is rewriting any History book, no one is saying their version is far more the bomb better than someone elses written crap, *winks* no one is doing anything other but trying to entertain and create a new spin on what has been done to death. And by doing the new spin, we revamp an old favorite.

    SO there you do, I have spoken and now I am off to harass someone else.

    Great post Kelley. You keep this up and we are gonna have to FORCE you to do a column. Maybe title it, “What’s pissing who off today?” Or “Who peed in your pepsi?” Or…well I’m sure you can come up with something better lol.


    1. Scarlett, I’ve read and watched so many different versions of the Camelot legend that at this point it’s old hat. Thanks for the laugh. I think Kelley could really do with a regular column.

      I vote for “Who peed in your Pepsi?” *snickers*


    2. You realize I was being good today until a new friend got me riled up that Rie introduced me too. Then the nut rolled out from my inner wrapper and away we went.

      Unfortunately I had to go to my kid’s game. And of course I’m still talkin’ bout this crazy and that one, who sucked the empty end of a prozac bottle and so on. I got quite a few *gasps* but you know they ALL knew it was true. Meanwhile, how many rushed to the pharmacy to fill up their prescipts afterwards? lol

      JUST KIDDING. (Checks my bottle)


  3. I find this version of Merlin dull and obvious but if it turns people on to the stories and the truths then that’s great :-). But I get quickly bored with Harry Potter too … takes all sorts LOL.


  4. LOL. I knew this post was going to draw attention. That’s cool. I have seen almost as many negative posts about this television show as I’ve seen for ‘Twilight.’
    Merlin, the t.v. show, is obviously aimed at a younger audience, but it does exactly what it claims to do. If it made claims about being historically accurate, then I would have an issue with it. It’s fantasy, great fun and escape from our hectic world.

    btw, today I am really ticked off at the media for overshowing the Greece meltdown and causing our stocks to fall. WTF? Why do they do this? I couldn’t take it anymore and had to turn off the news. Am watching Terminator while I write.

    I like ‘Who Peed in your Pepsi’ too. Great title, Casey.



      *rolls eyes majorly* What do they think we are, stupid? We could and have totally been doing that on our own. Sheesh. Talk about giving us absolutely no credit. Dang.

      Don’t get me started on Media now. lol. I think they all used to be corporate lawyers and politicians but hey, that’s another story lol.

      I vote for ‘Who peed in your Pepsi’ too. Kelley, I think you could totally pull it off.


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