Monday, March 29, 2010


Yesterday the Syfy channel had a marathon of the first season of their show Merlin. I wound up watching an episode and a half or so (before going to dinner) with Bart’s dad at his house.

First let me say that I don’t think it’s a great show. But then again, it’s not a bad show either. Interesting enough to watch and better than much of the fodder out there. I’d watched a few episodes prior to yesterday and so had Bart’s father. He felt the same way.

Bart chimed in eventually when he joined us. But Bart had questions. To be fair, so did we. In fact, we pounced on him to tell us the names of the ‘major’ women of Authurian legend. I couldn’t remember the name of the one female character in this show and Bart’s dad had been in the dark in terms of who she might be.

For you see, Syfy’s Merlin is not your typical King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The first time I watched I’d been utterly confused. Utterly. For they’ve shaken up the story quite a bit. In this version, Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father) still lives. Arthur is his teenage son. Odd, right? For unless Arthur succumbs to heavy amnesia later on, he already knows his heritage and the “sword in the stone” - a staple of the story - seems negated entirely. Merlin (also a teen) plays servant to Arthur and he must study and practice his magic on the “down low” [as well as hide it from Arthur] because Uther has banished from Camelot. (He had a run in with Nimue in the past.) In fact, yesterday we watched an episode where Merlin is responsible for the creation of Excalibur (and winds up throwing it into a lake to protect it - but no Lady of the Lake reached up to claim it.) As you can already see, it’s far from the standard.

And that’s partially what makes this series interesting. It’s just changed up enough to make it fresh.

So anyway, there we sat, trying to figure out who the teen girl in the castle might be. We had a ton of fun (really) trying to figure it out (for as you can guess they don’t seem to say her name often enough) as well as sorting through and discussing what we knew about various Arthurian versions and variations. [Yes, we did figure out the character’s identity.]

If you’re wondering why the purist in me isn’t fuming about the mangling of the story, it’s because the tale of King Arthur happens to be one of those rare cases where it’s acceptable to change facts around. For there isn’t a definitive version. Okay, yes, there sort of is one, but it’s not (ahem!) set in stone as the absolute. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Artur is often considered the primary work of it. But then we also have a following for T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Arthur, you see, started out as a folk tale which various storytellers told and retold and along the way items or characters (or their relationships or their names) thus varied. No ONE author created and penned it. Precisely why we found ourselves saying things like “Well, did Uther get Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, then, or no?” "Is the Lake Lady Nimue ?" (Some tales combine these mystical women, others don't.) A very fun way of passing the time, as this new spin on the legend played on.

Oh. One other thing -

Bart: Who’s he?
Me: That’s Arthur.
Bart: THAT’s Arthur??
Me: Yep.

Arthur is a “good looking blonde guy” who behaves like the popular high school jock. Merlin is a “hot in the geeky way guy” who’s a tad bumbling. All three of us held the opinion that the casting seems reversed. The guy playing Merlin should be Arthur and vice-versa. We are, of course, basing our opinion on the Arthur & Merlin we’re more used to… i.e. we usually know Arthur as being unsure of his prowess and Merlin being a confident protector. But then… this is not your typical Camelot.

(If you think hammering out Arthur is bad… try Robin Hood. See here.)

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