Episode 06: Character Study: Arthur

cover art in which Merlin wears a headset with microphone and holds up a finger to his lips as if to tell you to be quiet

In today’s episode, momo and MissSnowFox take a closer look at the show’s other main protagonist, Arthur, and how his character developed over the seasons. The legendary Arthur is introduced as well, and of course we also take a look at fanworks.

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News:

Merlin Olympics on LJ
Merlin Kink Meme looking for helpers
Work in Progress Week
Merlin Holidays began posting
Winter Knights has been posting
COiNELOT tickets back on sale

News not mentioned in the episode:

Merlin Telephone Art Game sign ups have opened
Merlinfanficquotes on tumblr is still looking for people to help out.

Resources & Mentioned fanworks

Nicole’s comment
WoodlandGoddess1’s comment
Merlin Wiki
AO3 meta entry re: birthdates/ages of characters

Statistics

AO3 stats on 21 Nov, 2017:

  • 15,381 works with the character tag “Arthur”
  • ~16,450 works with Arthur in a pairing (barring any overlap)

Top 5 pairings:

  • 12,819 Arthur/Merlin
  • 2,146 Arthur/Gwen
  • 228 Arthur/Morgana
  • 157 Arthur/Gwaine/Merlin
  • 153 Arthur/Gwaine

Further combinations*

  • 134 Gwen/Arthur/Merlin
  • 69 Arthur/Other(s)
  • 66 Leon/Arthur
  • 62 Gwen/Morgana/Merlin/Arthur
  • 62 Arthur/Percival
  • 59 Lancelot/Arthur
  • 56 Mithian/Arthur
  • 53 Merlin/Arthur/Mordred
  • 47 Arthur/Sophia
  • 44 Arthur/Vivian
  • 43 Mordred/Arthur
  • 39 Arthur/Uther
  • 37 Arthur/OC
  • 28 Merlin/Morgana/Arthur
  • 25 Arthur/Elena
  • 18 Freya/Arthur
  • 17 Arthur/OFC
  • 16 Freya/Merlin/Arthur
  • 15 Merlin/Arthur/Percival
  • 11 Arthur/OMC
  • 6 Merlin/Arthur/Uther
  • 5 Merlin/Arthur/Other(s)
  • 4 Arthur/Harry Potter
  • 3 Leon/Arthur/Percival
  • 3 Arthur/Valiant
  • 3 Arthur/Will
  • 2 Arthur/Everyone
  • 2 Arthur/You
  • 2 Gwaine/Merlin/Arthur/Percival
  • 2 Self-cest
  • 2 Elyan/Gwaine/Lancelot/Leon/Merlin/Arthur/Percival
  • 2 Merlin/Arthur/Will
  • 2 Arthur/Sansa Stark
  • 2 Arthur/River Tam (Firefly)
  • 1 Elyan/Arthur/Percival
  • 1 Gwen/Arthur/Percival
  • 1 Gaius/Arthur/Uther
  • 1 Arthur/Merlin/Harry Potter
  • 5 more crossover one-offs (Black Sails, Game of Thrones, Marvel: Cinematic Universe, Legend of Zelda, (Smallville)

*Disclaimer: Momo didn’t check all the combinations of Arthur with every single minor character.

Recs/mentioned fanworks

The Pendragon Guide to How Not to Date by definewisdom
Every Story is a Love Story by lady_ragnell
Tulips Are Better; Dragons Are Best by sweetjelly, with art by NeigeAuSoleil
As Long as We Have We by lady_ragnell, Podfic by akikotree
All I Want for Christmas is You by dreamdustmama, Podfic by striped_bowties
For Camelot, edited by ilikeyou31x
I’ve found my place to go, edited by ilikeyou31x
Trapped in God’s programme, edited by LonerCheerleader
Of Greatness, by minor_hue, read by lunchee

4 thoughts on “Episode 06: Character Study: Arthur

  1. My hesitant working theory on why Merlin is the one exception to Arthur’s “status doesn’t matter we should all be treated as equals” thing (aside from the out-of-canon truth that the writers didn’t really…know what they were doing a lot of the time) is that its a combination of Arthur wanting stability and also being kind of oblivious.

    To expand on that, I feel like Arthur at a certain point was kind of overwhelmed with how much things had changed/how fast things were moving? Like…his father died, Morgana betrayed him, soon Agravaine betrayed him, Gwen cheated on him and then left and then came back in like 2 or 3 episodes, he constantly doubted himself, and he had a ton of pressure to rule as a good king. But Merlin was always at his side and always supported him and bickered with him, and I think Arthur kind of wanted his relationship with Merlin to stay the same? It was sort of constant and familiar and he liked that.

    And this ties into the him being oblivious part because I really don’t think he was fully aware HOW badly he was treating Merlin? Like sometimes he was probably aware he was being a bit of a jerk, but I don’t think he was fully aware the extent to which it bothered Merlin since he didn’t know about all the extra work Merlin was doing (saving the day with magic) and Merlin didn’t really communicate his annoyance in any way that wasn’t easy to mistake (from Arthur’s perspective) as just more bantering.

    So that’s my take on it roughly, it doesn’t 100% work but its an idea. That he’s almost willfully ignorant of his own hypocrisy both because he doesn’t want to have to go and re-evaluate his relationship with Merlin (which also ties in to his complicated relationship with Emotions) and because he’s generally a bit oblivious and missing out on huge parts of Merlin’s life. What do you guys think?

    (Also I know I just went on a long rant but I also wanted to say I’m really enjoying all these podcasts, and that I’ll probably sporadically rant about different subjects on your vids since this was only 1 subject you mentioned that I found interesting and it already turned out way too long xD)

  2. I never had a problem with the way Merlin and Arthur treated each other in the show. Calling names, for example, is a funny kind of banter for me. I always felt like Arthur is picking on Merlin because he likes him. A lot of people show their affection like this (I don’t need to say it’s stupid and wrong but still some people do this). Arthur is this kind of guy and Merlin knows this, which is why he tends to smile when Arthur picks on him. On the other hand, there are moments when Arthur takes the banter a bit too far, mostly in the heat of the moment, and is not able to take it back. These are the moments not even Merlin can smile about anymore. And neither do I. Somehow the Arthur-being-a-prat-concept is coming back on us over and over again which makes absolutely no sense considering he obviously became the fine King everyone hoped for. I’m not sure this was just lazy writing or the creators didn’t have the guts to really create a character development. And no, Arthur telling Merlin: „I never really meant any of that“ does not make it up for it.

    Also interesting was the part about Marriage. I’m not so much into history but Rox, you said some things that made me really question myself. I always disliked Uther for being such a bad father when it came to this. I mean the show portraits him like the evil king who wants to force Arthur into a marriage he doesn’t want. The show seems to use this details to make Uther even more a bad father but thinking about it… he is absolutely not because Rox is right. I really hope I’m the only one who thought like this and if not, I hope everyone else had this moment of awakening now. I’m sorry, Uther. You just did what was right.

    I have a hypothetical question about the neither Gwen nor Merlin would be a good choice for a marriage and I want to ask this from a non-merthur-shipping-point of view. Merlin can’t bear Arthur a child, which is why this question is hypothetical, but if he would come out as the great Emrys to Arthur and everyone, would he be a better choice for a marriage then? Considering the Druids and magic users are loyal to him. Would this marriage, in your opinion, have a positive effect on peace in the land? I really would like to know what you think about this, of course also from a non-shipping-point of view?

  3. Sorry. I realize this is insanely late, but whatever. Firstly, I am really enjoying your podcasts. I only just started listening to them today. What you said about not finding things unless you already knew where to look for them? Yeah. That. I have always been a sucker for a good commentary be it on characters or eps so I am planning on listening to all of these. Give me a bit and I’ll catch up.

    Secondly, since you said you wanted our thoughts, I have to put in my two cents about Arthur never legalizing magic. Why would he? As you pointed out, he never sees magic used for good. It is always being used to attack him. Trying to justify overturning his father’s apparent life work with no good evidence? Yeah. Not happening.

    Also, his experience with the law is someone supposedly or actually does magic, they get brought to the king for judgement. He is the king. He gets to decide what happens. If and when a situation of good magic use arises, Arthur assumes it will be brought before him to judge. Remember, Uther did trials constantly. Everyone knew the foregone conclusion, but he still held a trial. Arthur, rather naively, assumes it will work that way in his reign as well and as such does not see a need to broach the subject of lifting the ban until he deems it necessary. In fact, the one time they come upon a village killing someone for magic, Arthur and Merlin interfere and stop the execution on the grounds that this is a matter for the king to decide, although she does end up dead shortly thereafter anyway.

    Now, on the other side, we do not see an active persecution of magic by Arthur either. There’s no hunting down Druids. There’s no people being executed for nothing but the fact that they possess magic. For me, his treatment Kara went along with what he had been doing all along. He was far more interested in what happened rather than how. The use of magic was immaterial to the case and so he kept getting annoyed at her for trying to make it about that instead of about the assassination attempt.

    What would have been really interesting would have been if a case had been brought before Arthur regarding a truly innocuous use of magic. We have no cases of things like the poultice for Gwen’s father or Alice’s healing abilities ever brought forward for Arthur to cast a ruling on. We don’t even have a case of someone encouraging plants to grow or something. That would be interesting. Or not. Seeing as unless he was forced to, he probably would simply chose to pretend magic wasn’t involved. Arthur can be rather selective in his ignorance. You could almost say he’s doing it on purpose. (And I am not going into my theories on THAT right now.)

    Now that I rambled so much already, I wanted to suggest something else. In regards to Arthur gaining so much confidence in himself as a ruler, I think that goes back to him trying to please people. So, hear me out. Arthur was raised with Uther never liking what he did no matter what. Morgana sometimes liked what he did, but just as often, she would chastise him. Now, on that note, an interesting thing about her chastisement is that it stops there. She tells him he messed up. She doesn’t tell him how or why. She doesn’t suggest anything else he could have done. She just yells at him. So he knows it was wrong, but not what the “right” thing to do is, especially since his father is often telling him off about the complete opposite behavior at the same time. She also doesn’t seem to understand that their circumstances are wildly different. There is a lot she can get away with that he can’t.

    And that brings me round to Merlin. He not only tells Arthur when he messes up but likes to rant about what exactly he messed up doing. Merlin is also very quick with copious quantities of advice on what should have been done instead, especially at the beginning of the series. And, most notably, Merlin praises Arthur for doing the right thing pretty much every time he does it. As time goes by, you can see a shift in Arthur’s behavior from trying to please his father to trying to please Merlin. And I do say Merlin instead of Gwen because he doesn’t really treat Gwen like she can handle the hard stuff. (Also, I have this theory that he only married Gwen because he honestly didn’t care who he married and marrying Gwen would make Merlin happy. But that’s neither here nor there.)

    Now, if the only person he’s really trying to please is Merlin, his life just became inordinately easier. Firstly, Merlin, from Arthur’s perspective, is easy to please. We see several instances of Arthur trying to get Merlin to tell him what to do and Merlin generally telling Arthur to decide, the implication being that Merlin will accept whatever Arthur decides.
    This also explains why he was so quick to accept Agrivaine’s advice on things. At the time, Uther had only just stopped ordering him around, then his uncle, a presumed second father figure, shows up and starts, if not ordering than rather forcefully suggesting, things to him. It doesn’t feel off to him, in large part because Merlin and Uther rarely agreed on what should be done. And, having cast his uncle in the role of Uther, it also makes sense that for state decisions, he would side with him, at least initially.

    *looks above* oh, for heaven’s sakes. I hope you wanted a dissertation. *sigh* Arthur is my favorite character. I’m actually stopping myself from adding to this with a psych or a “is Arthur’s behavior towards Merlin harmful or not” discussion because otherwise I’ll be here all day.

    I am quite liking what I’ve heard so far and intend to keep listening. Keep up the good work.

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