On Merlin, Sword-Pulling, and Random Research

Last night I was talking with a friend of mine about the Todd Klein print I ordered, “Drawing the Sword.”

I’ve been on a medieval kick since May. The release of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun kicked it off, then a reading of The Saga of the Volsungs to reacquaint myself with the original version of the Norse tales Tolkien retold in alliterative poetry. Shortly thereafter, I read the first volume of Kid Beowulf, followed by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery’s screenplays for Beowulf. And then, the debut of the BBC’s Merlin on NBC.

Merlin drew my interests back from Scandinavia to Britain, and then I picked up Fantagraphics’ collection of the first two years of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant in their new, oversized hardcover edition. Ordering Klein’s print on Friday was just the latest event in my current medieval interest.

Klein described his creative process in creating “Drawing the Sword” — first, he talked about some previous artistic interpretations of King Arthur; then, he discussed the original manuscripts of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and how he was drawing upon the first seven chapters for the text for his print; next, the creation of the text and some of the design ideas; and finally, the artwork itself, the lettering, and the coloring of the print.

As I was reading through these posts last night, as I hadn’t read them since mid-June and I was excited that I had ordered the print, something occurred to me —

As much as I am enjoying Merlin on NBC, I’m genuinely sad to realize that, given the set-up of the series, we’ll never have the sword-in-the-stone story.

Traditionally, Arthur wasn’t raised to be king. His childhood was spent in the household of others, and he was raised anonymously, unaware that he was the rightful heir to the English throne. The sword in the stone — “Whosoever pulleth this sword from this stone is rightwise born king of all England” or words to that effect — reveals that Arthur has the true claim to kingship.

Merlin upends all that. Uther Pendragon is alive and well into Arthur’s teenage years. Arthur is widely acknowledged as the heir to the throne, and he is well-known in the kingdom as the best and brightest of all the knights of Camelot. The magic of the sword in the stone simply isn’t necessary to place Arthur on the throne. Even Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur film attempted some variant of the sword pulling, though it was a grave and not a stone that housed the sword. I can see ways of staging a sword-pulling in Merlin. Perhaps magic is responsible for Uther’s death, and Arthur is somehow forgotten by both the people and himself. That angle works; I just don’t know if it’s credible.

It’s Sunday. Merlin‘s on tonight. After some initial trepidation — the first two episodes were not the best — I’ve grown to like and enjoy this show. 🙂

And see what talking to a friend about an art print will do? 😆


On a different note, I’ve purchased through Amazon today two books for research.

Specifically, they relate to the plot outline I wrote last month.

I sent the outline off the first week of July. As of yet, I’ve not heard anything back from the publisher I targeted.

Even if I don’t, the subject is something that interests me anyway, and the story is such that I know I can recycle it into something similar, yet different. 😉

Fingers crossed. 🙂

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