Monday, August 17, 2009

Quest for Camelot Redivivus

I posted this on the Studies of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages Blog, but it also relevant here: The web site for the 1998 Warner Bros. animated film Quest for Camelot is still mostly active, and one can find a wealth of information on the making of the film, including some details on Gary Oldman's character, the villainous Sir Ruber, a Mordred analogue, as I explain in "Will the 'Reel' Mordred Please Stand Up: Strategies for Representing Mordred in American and British Arthurian Film" in Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays (now in paperback), edited by Kevin J. Harty (McFarland, 2002). The site also contains a downloadable trailer, production stills, and some coloring pages for the young at heart. There are also interviews with the cast on site, though I believe they are all included on the DVD release of the film.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In case you've missed it, the BBC series Merlin now airing on NBC offers some innovative takes on the traditional villains of Camelot. The series revolves around the lives of Uther Pendragon, king of Camelot, and youthful versions of Arthur, his son; Morgana, his ward; Guinevere, Morgana's lady in waiting; and Merlin, a newcomer to Camelot and a powerful magic-user. The basic premise of the series is that Uther, following the death of Igraine de Bois in childbirth twenty one years ago (more below), began a crusade to extinguish magic in his kingdom. This crusade continues in the present day of the series; Merlin and Morgana, a latent magic user, must hide their talents, while other magic-users, including series villain Nimueh, employ magic against Uther. (More details at Wikipedia.)

Morgana: The daughter of Gorlois, a faithful ally of UtherPendragon, Morgana was raised in Camelot following his father's death and is Uther's ward. Morgana, like Merlin, is attuned to the magical world, but she has yet to work any magic. Instead, Morgana's dreams are prophetic. Also, contrary to more traditional representations of the character, the Morgana of Merlin is benevolent (at least so far), and it seems likely (or so the writer want us to believe) that Arthur and Morgana might someday fall in love.

Mordred: Mordred, a young druid boy with magical abilities, is featured in "The Beginning of the End," where Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana work together to protect the boy from Uther. The Great Dragon, Merlin's adviser, warns him that Mordred should not be saved, but the young mage refuses to let the boy die. There is no suggestion that Mordred is either Arthur or Morgana's son, but the Great Dragon does warn Merlin that the boy, at some point in the future, will turn evil and cause Arthur's death, as in traditional accounts of the character.

Nimueh: Nimueh, a composite of the various Ladies of the Lake and Morgan le Fay, is a powerful magic-user who uses her powers in several episodes in various attempts to kill Uther. In "Excalbur," the most recent episode to air in the US it is revealed that Nimuh (as opposed to traditional accounts linking Merlin to the act) used magic to help Uther and Igraine conceive a child, but the forces of magic dictated that Igraine had to die so their child, Arthur, might live. As a result, Uther began his war against magic, killing Nimueh's friends and family, and she continues to seek her revenge on the king. Later episodes explain that Nimueh, like her analogues in other Arthurian stories, was high priestess of the Old Religion.