The BBC have recently been showing a series about Merlin the wizard from the tales of King Arthur. This is a fantasy story about how Merlin meets Arthur. Now I know that Merlin is a legendary character and may not have actually existed, but I do have a problem with the authenticity of this program.
From what I know, Merlin first appeared in the chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth, alongside King Arthur. However the most famous literary reference is probably Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Mort Darthur. Arthur is supposed to have been the last King of Britain way back in the Dark Ages, well before William and the Norman’s invaded in 1066.
The problems I have with the TV series are:
1. Merlin meets Arthur when they are both young men: In the legend, Merlin was around well before Arthur was even born.
2. Arthur is known as Uther’s son, and is in his Court: In the legend, Arthur was brought up in secret and his identity revealed by Merlin after Uther’s death.
3. The castle is definitely post-Norman: It’s solidly built of stone and looks something like most peoples idea of a castle. Castles as we know them did not exist in Britain before the Norman conquest.
4. In one episode they held a jousting tournament: The first recorded joust was in 1066 and it didn’t gain popularity until the 12th Century. It is believed that the tilt was not invented until 15th Century.
5. The knights wear plate armour: This was not worn until probably the 12th Century.
This is not a complete list but just the ones that come to mind.
I know it’s a story. I know you’re supposed to just suspended reality, but some things just can’t be ignored. I have enjoyed the series and will continue to watch it, but the experience could have (and should have) been better. Historical accuracy should be maintained unless it is clearly understood that the story is being transplanted in to a different era.
The Arthurian Legend is a rich source of stories, it’s a shame to see it debased in this way.