Merlin (TV series)

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Name: Merlin
Abbreviation(s): none
Creator: Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps, Julian Murphy
Date(s): 2008-24 December 2012
Medium: television
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
External Links: official BBC site, IMDB, Wikipedia

Merlin title sequence
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Contents

Merlin the show is loosely based on the Arthurian legends, set years before the characters become their legendary selves. Magic is outlawed, Merlin becomes Arthur's manservant, and other characters' backstories are quite different from those established in the traditional Arthurian legends. Official summaries alternately say that this adaptation follows Merlin’s early adventures in the court of King Uther... and his enthralling encounters with the young Prince Arthur[1] or describe it as the saga of a teenaged Prince Arthur (…) and the clashes with his young wizard, Merlin.[2] Whatever the particular focus, the show gets marketed as a story that centres on these two ambitious young men, struggling to understand their destinies.[2] The Great Dragon, who is imprisoned under Camelot, has a thing or two to say about these destinies and likes to tell Merlin all about it. He seems to be convinced that Merlin and Arthur are brought together by fate, that they are two halves of a coin (and therefore can’t hate each other!), and that they would be really awesome together (because they will achieve great things), leading fans to nickname him the Slash Dragon. All in all, the Dragon's opinion says a lot about the show’s appeal to both slashers and friendshippers alike.

Other main characters include Uther's ward Morgana and her hand-maiden Gwen. Although these characters don't have as much screen time, there was more than enough femslash potential at the beginning of the show. They also have a nice chemistry with Arthur and Merlin. The court physician, Gaius acts as Merlin's mentor and protector while Arthur's father King Uther, with his fanatical hatred of sorcerers, creates conflict and tension. There is also a large cast of secondary characters.

Merlin Fandom

Back in October/November 2008 Merlin fandom was young and growing. From the beginning the most active part was the Merlin/Arthur slash fandom.[3] The fandom grew so fast that it went from qualifying for Yuletide, the rare fandom gift exchange, to having more than a thousand stories listed in the newsletter when the 2008 Yuletide stories were revealed on December 25. By that time Merlin had already established itself as one of the big slash fandoms. [4]

The name of the MerlinxArthur community shows that the fandom is partially influenced by yaoi fandom traditions, however, the fannish infrastructure is strongly influenced by SGA fandom veterans. A few weeks after its creation, MerlinxArthur got additional mods and one of them introduced the tagging system[5] that was developed and refined for mckay_sheppard[6], the main John/Rodney slash community in SGA fandom, and it has now spread to other Merlin communities such as the merlin_vids community. In addition to that, the BBC Merlin Newsletter was created by the same people who created the SGA Newsletter.[7] The use of the term OT4 to refer to Arthur/Merlin/Gwen/Morgana (or team adventures) may also show the influence of SGA fandom.

In late 2009 there were two holiday gift exchanges for Merlin fic and art, camelotsolstice and the second year of merlin_santa. Other major fests of 2009 were the Box of Magic Big Bang challenge (23 longer stories with accompanying fanart) and three rounds of reel_merlin.

Since March of 2009 a great deal of fic and some artwork has been produced through kinkme_merlin (the Merlin kink meme), where all prompts and most answering fics, art and feedback are posted in anonymous comments. Some authors later claim their works and post them on their own journals and websites. Since it can be difficult to locate prompts and fics among many pages of collapsed comments, the kink meme mods archive everything at the community's Delicious account. Many other Merlin communities and individual fans have also hosted memes where fanworks are posted in comments and may or may not later be reposted.

Although there is a steady stream of slash, het and femslash in fanfiction, vids and fanart, there doesn't seem to be much gen. Merlin fanworks are mostly Merlin/Arthur centric, followed by Arthur/Gwen and Gwen/Morgana. Slash and femslash fandom both have their OTP with het more evenly split. To give a better impression of the ratio: in December 2009 the newsletter listed 5541 works as Merlin/Arthur, 368 as Morgana/Gwen, and 650 as Arthur/Gwen (other main het pairings: Arthur/Morgana 213, Merlin/Morgana 207, Gwen/Merlin 144). Only 519 fanworks were listed as gen.[8]

Vidding

There doesn't seem to be a distinct divide between LJ and YouTube vids. Many LJ vids are also available via download, Youtube, and formerly imeem, and many Youtube vids (that aren't just first experiments with adding music to moving pictures or slideshows) are eventually announced on LJ, too. However, LJ has some of the more experienced vidders, and not all of them have embraced Youtube, which means when it comes to the best vids so far, some of them can be better accessed via LJ. The Camelot Music Video Awards are an annual award for fanvids in Merlin fandom.

Fanart

Fanfiction

Merlin fanfiction is mostly Merlin/Arthur fic, followed by Arthur/Gwen, Gwen/Morgana and Bradley/Colin RPS. Originally Arthur/Morgana had a stronger presence in het fic but that changed with the developments in canon and Merlin/Morgana is after series 2 equally strong represented. Other pairings exist and have their own following.

The stories are often posted in serial format or short snippets, sometimes crossposted to Fanfiction.net or reposted from Fanfiction.net. In the beginning there were few medium length pieces and longer fic was rare, but that changed very soon. Especially in slash there is a lot of first time and other romance fic and with a canonical magical bond between Arthur and Merlin[9], Merlin being Arthur's manservant, both of them risking their lives to save each other, and Merlin needing to keep his magic a secret (or Arthur's father will kill him), the fandom loves its tropes. Often the line between slash and gen is very thin and some gen stories that are simply Merlin & Arthur friendship fic get labeled as preslash.

One distinctive genre in gen and slash is Arthur finds out fiction, also referred to as Reveal fic, where Arthur discovers Merlin's secret, and either reacts well or poorly to having been lied to. A variant on the Reveal trope is "Uther finds out" since it is Uther who is committed to purging sorcery from the kingdom.

While most fics keep up the light tone and stay true to the fantasy universe of the show, some authors have written stories set in a more realistic medieval setting which often attempts to reconcile show canon with the traditional Arthurian legends.

AUs are often alternate realities and sometimes historical AUs but the most popular variety is the modern AU, which usually takes place in contemporary Britain and reproduces the power dynamics between the characters on the show - Arthur might be Merlin's boss, a fratboy where Merlin is a serious student, or even the Prince of Wales. Magic may or may not be part of these stories.

The themes and tone in het fanfic depend on the pairing and while Arthur/Gwen often follows the romance traditions, Merlin/Morgana can be a lot darker, especially given later developments in canon.

During the first season of Merlin, femslash fans were pleased to find a prominent relationship between two women that was not always oriented around the men and supported a romantic interpretation. Gwen/Morgana is usually based on these early episodes. The characters had less canon interaction in the second season (2009) and some femslash fans embraced the Morgana/Morgause pairing.

Other Pairings

Crossovers

Common fandoms for Merlin crossover fics are Harry Potter (because of the magic) and Doctor Who. The actors who play Merlin, Uther, and Gwen have all also appeared in different episodes of new Who, most memorably Colin Morgan (Merlin) in the 2008 episode "Midnight".

RPF

In 2009 Merlin RPF still qualified as a Yuletide fandom.

Communities

For a list of LJ and DW communities for Merlin, see List of Merlin Communities.

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Archives

Resources

References

  1. Amazon.co.uk. Merlin Vol.1 (2008) DVD. (Accessed 25 October 2008)
  2. 2.0 2.1 CTV secures Canadian broadcast rights to 'Merlin', 15 October 2008. (Accessed 25 October 2008)
  3. MerlinxArthur has as of this moment 636 members (almost twice as much as the next biggest communities - merlinslash and Merlin TV), more than 500 entries and over 5,200 comments. (Accessed 11 November 2008)
  4. MerlinxArthur has almost 3,800 members (still twice as much as Merlin TV and thrice as much as Merlinslash), more than 5,200 entries and almost 35,000 comments. (Accessed 12 September 2009)
  5. lavvyan. New tagging system, admin post in merlinxarthur, 14 October 2008. (Accessed 11 November 2008)
  6. http://community.livejournal.com/mckay_sheppard/profile
  7. See mamoru22's announcements for the creation of the SGA newsletter (02 August 2005) and the Merlin newsletter (15 October 2008). (Accessed 11 November 2008)
  8. BBC Merlin newsletter, delicious links accessed 26 December 2009.
  9. In one episode Merlin is linked to Arthur in a way that allows him to know what Arthur is doing and he sends him a light from afar to help Arthur escape certain death
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