Season 2 Episode 0

The Real Merlin and Arthur

Aired Unknown Nov 28, 2009 on BBC
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Episode Summary

The Real Merlin and Arthur
The young stars of the hit drama series Merlin, Colin Morgan and Bradley James, embark on a road trip across Wales to explore the country's centuries-old connections to the legend of King Arthur and his wizard Merlin. Enthusiasts and experts in Arthurian lore will help them understand the importance of the historical sites as they visit some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Wales.moreless

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  • Actually quite entertaining

    This segment is great because you learn more about the show, the culture, and the actors behind the scenes. It is very enjoyable and is a must-see for any Merlin fan!
  • Bradley James and Colin Morgan are fun and entertaining on their road-trip through Wales in search of Arthuriana. This is a journey worth taking, not because it's informative, but because it's a chance to just to hit the road with the guys.moreless


    The Real Merlin and Arthur, lets us see a bit of Welsh countryside, and more of the real Bradley and Colin.

    Produced Exclusively for Wales TV, this short documentary is a fun introduction into Arthurian Legend, especially if you don't know much about the Arthurian Cycle beyond casual viewing of Merlin . Bradley James and Colin Morgan are fun and entertaining on their road-trip through Wales in search of Arthuriana. This is a journey worth taking, not because it's informative, but because it's a chance to just to hit the road with the guys. Both James and Morgan are entertaining enough as themselves that you wish more of their personal charm would get integrated into the series "Merlin" on a regular basis. The information provided about Arthurian Legend is based mostly on the Welsh Traditions (the special was made for Welsh TV after all) so there isn't much to sink your teeth into if you are a diehard Arthurian fan, still Bradley and Colin make the most of their trip, and keep you entertained enough not to notice. Worth a watch, and you might even watch it more than once.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (21)

    • Colin Morgan doesn't have a driving license so it's Bradley James who gets behind the wheel all the time.

    • The Hertz rental car they use for the road trip is a blue Ford Focus TDCI.

    • Footage from the filming of Merlin can be seen during the introduction of this episode.

    • The trip takes place in October 28th, 29th and 30th 2009 and Bradley James and Colin Morgan make some 300 miles/500km through Wales in three days.

    • The route of the road trip is as follows: Cardiff, Mold, Caer Gai, Llanuwchllyn, Bala Lake, Bwlch Y Groes, Camlan and Caerleon.

    • Day 1:
      The departing point is the Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa.

    • The next stop is Mold, 150 miles north where they have an appointment with Scott Lloyd at the Flintshire Library.

    • Scholar and author Scott Lloyd is an Arthurian expert who has been studying Arthurian legends for 15 years. He discusses with them the world's enduring fascination with the legend as well as the route to follow.

    • Flintshire Library is home to the world's leading collection of Arthurian and Medieval texts in Wales with 2,500 volumes in one room. It is opened Monday to Friday, from 9am until 5pm.

    • Colin decided to take a scenic route so after 5 hours on the road, mostly behind slow moving vehicles, they arrived late to the appointment and couldn't check out the collection at the library. They decide to go to Clywd Theatre and take a seat in its foyer, where their interview with Scott Lloyd finally takes place.

    • Day 2:
      Other places across Wales claiming a link with the Arthurian legend are:

      -Dinefwr Castle... where Merlin communed with spirits.
      -Llyn Dinas... where Knight Owain battled a giant.
      -Cadair Idris... the kingdom of Arthur.
      -Bardsey Island... Merlin's resting place.
      -Bosherston Lake... home of Excalibur.
      -Carmarthen... birthplace of Merlin.

    • The next stop is Llanuwchllyn, where Arthur was supposedly brought to as a child and fostered until he was 14 years old.

    • Caer Gae is a Roman fort nearby also associated with Arthur's youth.

    • To make up for vast amount of driving of the first day, Colin and Bradley make Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid / Bala Lake Railway their next stop. They tour the countryside by train and have a view at some of the places where the myth was created.

    • Bala Lake has no connections to The Lady of the Lake romance.

    • Back to the car, their next stop is Bwlch Y Groes (Pass of the Cross) where Arthur's battle with one of the Welsh most feared giants took place.

    • Bwlch Y Groes is the highest public road mountain pass in North Wales.

    • After a short drive, next stop is Camlan, where Arthur's final battle with Mordred took place.

    • In Dinas Mawddwy, local enthusiast Laurence Main taught them the art of dowsing to find where the mystical paths of energy lay and showed them the point where various 'ley lines' converge on what he believes to be the location of Arthur's death.

    • Day 3:
      The final stop is Caerleon, once believed to be the location of Camelot, where the Roman Fortress Isca Augusta is. They chat about the truth behind the site's origins with Mark Lewis, curator of the nearby National Roman Legion Museum who gives them a tour of the amphitheatre.

    • According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the kings of Britain, Caerleon was the location of the court of Arthur so it became eventually known as King Arthur's Round Table.

  • QUOTES (25)

    • Colin Morgan: The legend of King Arthur is one of the most enduring myths of the Western World. With tales of adventure, magic and romance it's captivated the hearts of generations.
      Bradley James: It's in spite of countless retellings, define national identities and become the ideal of leaders around the glove but the fact is to this day, nobody really knows where the History ends and the poetry begins.

    • Colin Morgan: I'm Colin Morgan and that's Bradley James though you may know us better as Merlin and Arthur.
      Bradley James: For eight months of the year we film our drama series in a studio in Cardiff. But when we finished this year we decided to embark on a 300 mile road trip across parts of the country we've never seen so that we could explore the Welsh connection to the myth.
      Colin Morgan: Along the way we met some interesting people, source of interesting sites and we did some odd things in the dark.
      Bradley James: Yes... well. And we did it all to get closer to the real Merlin and Arthur.

    • Bradley James: I imagine Colin [Morgan] is already ready downstairs checking out what we are gonna do within the day, any book with Arthurian legend, Arthur, Merlin, anything with that in the title he is picking up and reading it.

    • Colin Morgan: I'm very excited about it, I think it's gonna be good fun. I'm looking forward to getting some grounding and getting some solid facts even though it's all legend and myth. It'll be good to either enlighten me or reconfirm some stuff I've already learnt.

    • Bradley James: I have nowhere near as much information in my head about the Arthurian legends as Professor Morgan [Colin Morgan] does to my shame but I'm sure he'll be able to teach me a thing or two.

    • Colin Morgan: The edge old problem with the Arthurian legend is working out where the facts end and the literature begins. Arthur is a sixth century hero but the romantic stories we know and love about him today didn't appear until hundreds of years later.

    • Colin Morgan: Thomas Mallory's Le Mort D'Arthur published in the late 400's is perhaps the best known Arthurian romance.

    • Bradley James: As we travel, we'll be talking to Arthurian authorities to get their take on whether the once and future king and his wise wizard ever existed.

    • Colin Morgan: With all this general appeal of the Arthurian legend, what first drawn you to it?
      Scott Lloyd: One of the main reasons I got drawn into it is that living locally in North Wales I was aware of the legend and the places associated with it in North Wales but as you found, reading the standard works never found that much about it, there were very rarely mentioned so this picked my interest and I'm very fortunate to have the Arthurian collection that you didn't get to see and in that there was all these works and all these different things I could use.

    • Bradley James: Would you say there was a more prominent period of time where the Arthurian legend is set?
      Scott Lloyd: Well you've got two strands to the Arthurian legend really: you've got the supposed historical Arthur who is situated on the 6th century and then we have the literary Arthur, which is what most people are familiar with, which sort of appears to start in the 12th century and in the early 13th century we have all the French Romances where Merlin plays a more major role and of course the French Romances were then picked up by Thomas Mallory in his Le Mort D'Arthur in 1485 and that standardized the whole legend.

    • Colin Morgan: Is there any sort evidence at all that suggests this is the real Arthur?
      Scott Lloyd: There may have been some character and somebody called Arthur who was in people's consciousness but they really don't have enough evidence to pin it down. The earliest solid thing we have that we can date securely is the story written in the 9th century and that is famous because it has the list of 12 battles that Arthur fought against the Saxons and that author is placing Arthur in the 6th century so we have to work out how reliable that source is and of course it's quite fantastical in the nature: it says that Arthur kills 960 men in one battle, obviously that's a little bit fake but that's the earliest thing we have. There are a couple of references in the Annales Cambriae that was perhaps written in the 10th century and that has two references to Arthur: one that he fought the battle of Bayden, which is a historical battle mentioned by and written in the 6th century, but he doesn't mention Arthur so here's a problem: the battle is the same but he says somebody else fought the battle. And the Annales Cambriae also has Arthur at Camlan, which is his final battle where he dies but interestingly that chronicle says the battle of Camlan where Arthur and Mordred died it doesn't say they are fighting each other. The earliest source for that goes back to Geoffrey of Monmouth and the History of the Kings of Britain. So Geoffrey was very clever in weaving together these few sources into this fantastic story, possibly the most influential medieval book we have. And throughout the 19th century, the Arthurian legend becomes more and more popular: we have the Romantic painters, Tenysson's poetry and then the beginning of academic study into the Arthurian legend. And by the time we get into the 20th century, serious academic study in the Medieval texts. So what you guys are doing with Merlin, you are reinventing it again for this generation.

    • Bradley James: So is there any way of taking references from the texts and perhaps pinpointing any of these battles?
      Scott Lloyd: Perhaps the only one we can pin down would be maybe the city of Legions, which is probably Chester, could maybe be Caerleon about the battle of Camlan; interestingly the only place called Camlan is a place in mid West Wales which appears back in the 16th century and it's still present today and it's still marked in modern maps. And that seems to be as good a location as any.

    • Colin Morgan: Perhaps the most famously connected to my character in Merlin is the town of Camarthen. In 1136 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the History of the Kings of Britain and in his story a boy called Merlinus was found in a town named Camearthen, which many believed to be Camarthen and according to local legend, he is still alive here to this day.

    • Colin Morgan: In the 14th century, a Welsh adaptation of Mallory's work known as the Welsh Birth of Arthur describes that Arthur was brought here [Llanuwchllyn] as a child and fostered until he was 14 years old. Caer Gae is a Roman fort nearby which is associated heavily by some writers with Arthur's childhood.

    • Bradley James: The one thing about filming in a studio in Cardiff for eight months is that you don't get to see much of the countryside and you don't get the chance to appreciate how impressive it is.
      Colin Morgan: We got the opportunity to come up here and see this, it's absolutely stunning.
      Bradley James: This [Llanuwchllyn] is the area where Arthur grew up, it's not exactly a bad place to grow up, is it? I wouldn't complain.

    • Colin Morgan: Sadly, although it would have been wonderfully poetic, Bala Lake has no connections to the Lady in the Lake mentioned in the Arthurian lore.

    • Bradley James: There are a lot of regions that have their versions of the story. They all originated from somewhere and it's just that the stories have been told in different ways and we are touring the Welsh countryside so it gives us some great places to check out where the myths have been created.

    • Bradley James: The more you become immersed in the Arthurian setting the more these stories seem to come alive, this really is where the legend meets fact, where the drama meets reality.

    • Bradley James: It would be nice to believe that at some point there was a man whom the legend is even if remotely based on.

    • Bradley James: (About Bwlch Y Groes) Now if Arthur had to make his way up here on foot, it would have certainly taken his breath away, as has mine but for very different reasons. The story is here that there was a giant and this is where he dwelled and every time he killed a knight he would take his beard and he had a collection of these things and he made a cloak out of it, it was his trophy piece and the one beard he was after was Arthur's and Arthur didn't want this giant to take any more lives killing any more of his knights so he must have rode his way up here on horseback and he fought the giant and I suppose if you were to go for an epic battle this would be the perfect setting for it.

    • Mark Lewis: (About the Roman Amphitheatre in Caerleon) This is the Roman amphitheatre or the Roman fortress. It was constructed at about AD80 but we know it was still standing in the early Medieval period and it wasn't actually finally demolished and became a ruin until 1300 so it stood pretty much as you see it today throughout the Arthurian period.

    • Colin Morgan: (About the Roman Amphitheatre in Caerleon) So what specifically links this to Arthur?
      Mark Lewis: Arthur was connected to Caerleon by Geoffrey of Monmouth who said that he held court here and he gives a very, very full account of a great feast and games that were held just outside the fortress walls that you can see. And that link with Arthur meant that this round structure in his ruin state outside the walls became eventually known as his Round Table and this was always known as The Round Table Field.

    • Colin Morgan: (About the Roman Amphitheatre in Caerleon) When was this excavated?
      Mark Lewis: This was excavated in the late 1920's. They discovered the Roman arena floor where we are standing. They had to empty out the space which should become filled with debris from the arena and the banks and they actually found the sandy floor where the gladiators and the animals once fought but they found that there was very little evidence that anybody has been here since Roman period until about 1400 when they started robbing the walls for building stone.
      Bradley James: So no round table?
      Mark Lewis: They found no actual round table.

    • Bradley James: No Round Table, no real proof that Arthur and Merlin ever existed.
      Colin Morgan: I think three days to get a definite answer as to whether there was a real Arthur there was a real Merlin you are a bit ambitious but maybe it doesn't matter because the legends are always gonna be there, they're always gonna be reinvented, reinterpreted and maybe you don't need a final answer because that's what it's all about, the stories are there to be enjoyed.

    • Bradley James: The stories of Arthur and Merlin, with or without Camelot, with or without the Round Table and the Holy Grail are Welsh's great gift to Western European mythology. Wherever you go, someone has a way of telling the story and it has inspired people from all over the place to tell that story.
      Colin Morgan: The inspiration for the legend has obviously come from somewhere, Geoffrey of Monmouth picked that up and he retold it, it's been retold again, has been added to over centuries and we are very much doing that with our show as well, just picking it up and definitely after three days it feels like we are part of that as well.
      Bradley James: And also it's great to get out into Wales and see how much the legends of King Arthur and the stories of Merlin and Arthurian legend have inspired people across Wales.

  • NOTES (9)


    • Bradley James: The plan is to see as many Welsh sites as we can that are associated with the legend of the once and future king.

      It is a reference to the supposed inscription over King Arthur's grave: "HIC IACET ARTHURUS REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS" (Here lies Arthur, the once and future king).

      Also, T.H. White wrote an Arthurian fantasy novel published in 1958 and entitled The Once and Future King.