Full Transcription of ‘The Real Merlin & Arthur’
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1st December 2009 | 12:39 am
Full Transcription of ‘The Real Merlin & Arthur’
BBC Wales first broadcast 1930GMT Saturday 28th November 2009
For feilongfan: Happy birthday and this is for you.
This resource is for sharing and comments are welcome especially if you know a word or phrase that's missing or inaccurate.
This transcript may be revised. I’ve captured nearly all the words accurately and added scenes or body language when it clarifies something or for giggles.
Scenes or context are shown in brackets (like this)
An interruption or simultaneous speaking is shown as/interrupted/like/this
Clarification or notes of context are shown [ed: like this]
Text in “quotes” is directly spoken to camera.
(Scene: broken sunshine over lake and landscape)
CM: 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.
(Scene: children acting a school play. “You stole the sword out of the stone!”)
BJ: It’s inspired countless retellings…defined national identities and become the ideal of leaders around the globe…but the fact is to this day nobody really knows where the history ends and the poetry begins.
CM: I’m Colin Morgan and that’s Bradley James though you may know us better as Merlin and Arthur.
BJ: For eight months of the year we film our drama series in a studio in </span>
CM: Along the way we met some interesting people…saw some interesting sights…and we did some odd.things.in.the.dark/
BJ: yes well…and we did it all to get closer to the real Merlin and Arthur.
BJ: It’s the first morning of our three day journey of Arthurian discovery. The plan is to see as many Welsh sights as we can that are associated with the legend of the once and future king.
(Scene: bedside alarm clock)
oh and also that other bloke, Merlin…or whatever he’s called/
CM: Oy watch-it! Yes that’s right over the next seventy-two hours we are travelling far and wide talking to the people in the know and trying to find out if there ever was an Arthur and Merlin.
BJ: “I imagine Colin’s already ready, downstairs checking out what we’re going to be doing for the day you know any book that with Arthurian legend Arthur Merlin knights of the round table anything with that in the title he’s y’know picking it up and reading it.”
CM: “I’m very excited about it erm I think its going to be good fun and I’m looking forward to actually getting some grounding and seeing and getting some solid facts as such even though it legend and myth but erm yeh and getting some exact details about it all will be good to sort of I guess either enlighten me or reconfirm some stuff that I’ve already learnt.
BJ: “…I…have nowhere near as much information in my head about the Arthurian legends as Professor Morgan does to my shame but I’m sure he’ll be able to teach me a thing or two.”
(Scene outside hotel loading cases into the car)
CM: The age-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. Thomas Malory’s ‘Le Mort d’Arthur’ published in the late 1400s is perhaps the best known Arthurian romance.
BJ: In it the mighty Excalibur smites all Arthur’s mortal foes/
CM: yeh and Merlin battles his magical ones/
BJ: The knights of the round table are paragons of virtue – the best in the land: Gawain the Brave; Galahad the Pure; Lancelot the Great.
CM: and to this day the ultimate quest for the cup of Christ has become legendary.
CM: Time to get this show on the road and find out where legend meets fact.
(Scene Bradley and Colin browsing the map)
CM: “Fist stop-off is a place called Mold which is where the largest collection of Arthurian and medieval texts in
BJ: “someone’s done their research”/
CM: “so it can’t be like that far away”
BJ: “it was on the other…it was on the other side. Mold!”
BJ: “its miles away! It’s the length of Wales we’ve got to travel we’re in Cardiff which is on the coast of Wales the south coast Mold is pretty much on the north coast of Wales near Chester.”
CM: So our quest to visit Arthurian Wales is well underway and over the next three days we are going to drive/
BJ: hang on! you haven’t got a licence/
CM: alright! You’re going to drive all over the country and see some of the sights associated with the legend of King Arthur and Merlin.
BJ: and 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.
CM: Today we are leaving
(Scene: in the library)
BJ: and this is who will be waiting to meet us – author and historian Scott Lloyd.
SL: “I’ve been studying the Arthurian legend for about fifteen years now and I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time in this room over the years, erm, certainly ten years ago I was in here a lot doing the research for the first thing I wrote and then ever since then I’ve been backwards and forwards ’cause it’s such a wonderful resource. Currently there’s two and half thousand volumes in here all dedicated to the Arthurian legend. It’s an excellent starting place because everything you need is in one room so when you come across a reference to another book you turn around and its there on the shelf so very quickly you can go through your research. This is open Monday to Friday nine to five erm open to the public anyone can come and use it and it’s just like as you say it’s a brilliant resource.
BJ: hmmm, open until five…you say…I’ve a feeling that our leisurely drive might make us a little late for that library booking.
CM: yeh and not to mention the time its taken to get these lovely camera shots…
(Scene in a car park)
BJ: “This is actually turning out to be quite a lengthy drive er certainly a lot longer than we anticipated and erm we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere on our way on our way north erm I don’t know how far or close we are to where we’re going but erm hopefully we’ll get there soon.”
CM: “it is taking that bit longer but we-I’ve decided to take more of a scenic route so we’re actually getting to see some parts that we’ve never seen before which is great.”
CM: Our various scenic stops means that back in the library Scott is being kept waiting,
BJ: at least he’s not short of reading material.
(Scene: clock on wall ticking 1730)
CM: “I’ll be gutted if we don’t get to see this library…I mean…that sounds like a really nerdy thing to say but” (Colin laughs)
BJ: “Don’t worry Scott we’re coming!”
CM: “we’ll get there – not on time, but…” (laughter)
CM: We’ve spent five hours behind the wheel
BJ: yeh most of those behind slow moving vehicles
CM: but, finally we’ve reached a very cold Mold
(Scene: Scott pacing outside the library)
BJ: and by the looks of it a very cold Scott
BJ: here we are,
CM: Scott does not look h-a-p-p-y…
SL: “nice to meet you”
BJ: (Bradley points at Colin) “here’s the reason why we’re late”
CM: “huh I’m sorry is there any chance we can still get in?”
SL: “Sorry no there’s nothing I can do about it closes at five”
CM: “not even five minutes?”
SL: “no it’s locked there’s nothing I can do.”
CM: “so wha-what have we actually missed out on? What-What-What is inside?”
SL: “The best collection of Arthurian books in the world in one room two thousand volumes all on the subject, childrens books, academic books, books on Arthur, books on Merlin – everything really.”/
CM: “You’re rubbing it in now! Really”/
SL: “Yeh basically you’ve missed everything!”
BJ: so here’s what we’ve learnt so far in our Arthurian road trip. If you’re travelling from
CM: seeing as we weren’t in time to actually read any of the texts for ourselves we’ve taken Scott to the only place that’s open around here ‘The Clywd Theatr Cymru’
(Scene: all sitting in the bar of the theatre)
BJ: Well we are both Actors it seems quite appropriate really.
CM: here; we’ve been picking his medieval mind on all things Arthur and Merlin.
CM: “so with all this general appeal of the Arthurian legend what first drawn you to it?”
SL: “Well the main reasons I got drawn to it was that living locally in North Wales I was aware of the legends and places associated with him in North Wales but as you’ve found reading the standard works never found that much about it they were very rarely mentioned so this piqued my interest. I’m very fortunate to have the Arthurian collection that you didn’t get to see (Colin laughs) and in there there was all these works and all these different things I could use and really where my interest start was why aren’t these local names mentioned in Arthurian works so that’s where I started from and that’s why all this time later I’ve writing works on the Welsh topography of Arthur how did it all originate where did it all come from.”
BJ: “would you say there was a more prominent period of time where the sort of Arthurian legends are set?”
SL: “well you’ve got two strands to the Arthurian legend really you’ve got the supposed historical Arthur whose situated in the sixth century and then we have more of the literary Arthur which is what most people are familiar with so that’s sort of starts to appear again the 12th century and then in the early 13th century we have all the French romances where Merlin plays a more major role and of course the French romances where then picked up by Thomas Malory in his ‘Le Mort d’Arthur’ in 1485 and that sort of standardised the whole legend if you like from that point on, the legend had a sort of standard form and that’s the one that most people are familiar with.”
CM: “is there any solid evidence at all to suggest there’s a real Arthur?”
SL: “there may have been some character and somebody called Arthur who was in peoples’ consciousness but we really don’t have enough evidence to pin it down.”
SL: “I mean the earliest solid evidence thing we have that we can date securely is the Historia Brittonum written in the 9th century and that’s famous because it has the list of twelve 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 and the nature y’know it says Arthur kills 960 men in one battle (Colin grins and points to Bradley) obviously that a little bit fake – but I don’t know maybe you could do it I don’t know! – but it’s a, that’s the earliest thing we have there are a couple of references in the Annales Cambriae which was perhaps written in the 10th century and that has two references to Arthur one that he fought the Battle of Badon – which is a historical battle mentioned by Gildas who was writing in the 6th century but he doesn’t mention Arthur so here’s our problem the battles the same but we-he says somebody else fought at the battle and then the Annales Cambriae also have 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’re 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 what few disparate sources there were he wove them all together into this fantastic story and possibly the most influential medieval book we have and throughout the 19th century the Arthurian legend becomes more and more popular you’ve got the romantic painters you’ve got Tennyson’s poetry and then the beginning of academic study into the Arthurian legend and by the time we get into the 20th century y’know serious academic study on the medieval texts. So what you guys are doing with Merlin you’re just you’re reinventing it again for this generation.”
BJ: “So, is there anyway of taking references from the text and perhaps pinpointing any of these battles?”
SL: “perhaps the only one we can pin down would be maybe the City of Legions which is probably Chester could maybe be Caerleon but the one other battle the Battle of Camlan interestingly the only place called Camlan is a place in mid-Wales which appears back in the 16th century and is still present today in fact is still marked on modern maps and that would seem to be a good a location as any we have to remember that the earliest text the Historia Brittonum was written in Gwyneth so a site in mid-Wales would be perhaps of interest there so I think that’s the most likely candidate shall we say.”
CM: “ok so it is our mission to find these places around
SL: “Ok lets have a look so I think the next place you need to go to would be somewhere like Caer Gai at the bottom of Bala lake and that’s where Arthur was supposedly fostered as a child by Gai’s father and then from there you can come over the top of the hills to Bwlch Y Groes where Welsh tradition associates the legend of Arthur fighting Rhita Gawr so Arthur has a fight there with a giant and then from there you can come down to Dinas Mawddwy and near there is Camlan so that’s a very plausible possibility as to where Arthur’s last battle could be and from Camlan you’re going to go down to south Wales all the way down here back to Caerleon and this is where the Roman fort is and this is and there we have the amphitheatre which in the 18th century became known as Arthur’s round table er antiquarian sort of imagination but the name sort of stuck and we’re still using it today quite a lot so but Caerleon but there’s some impressive Roman remains there so that’s where you’ll finish your trip.”
CM: “thank you very much”/
BJ: “terrific thank you very much for your help”
SL: “no problem it’s been a pleasure”
CM: “absolutely brilliant”
SL: “have a good trip!”
CM: “hah cheers!”
CM: And tomorrow, our quest continues…
BJ: it’s day two of our Arthurian road tour and after yesterday we’re discovered there is no shortage of places (Dinefwr Castle…where Merlin communed with spirits) for us to visit (Llyn Dinas…where Knight Owain battles a giant) All across Wales there are many locations claiming the kingdom of Arthur (Cadair Idris…the kingdom of Arthur) the resting place of Merlin (Bardsey Island…Merlin’s resting place) and the home of Excalibur (Bosherton Pools…home of Excalibur).
CM: perhaps most famously connected to my character Merlin is the town of
BJ: But for the next two days this is where our tour of Arthurian Wales will be taking us. From Mold we’re going to head to Caer Gai and Llanuwchllyn from there it is up to Bwlch Y Groes and then down to Camlan finally we are going to travel south and finish our journey of Arthurian discovery in Caerleon.
Each of these locations has a link to the story and we hope to learn more about the legend as we travel.
(Scene: Driving into the town)
CM: So our first stop today is Llanuwchllyn. In the fourteenth century a Welsh adaptation of Malory’s work known as ‘The Welsh Birth of Arthur’ describes how Arthur was brought here as a child and fostered until he was fourteen years old. Caer Gai is a roman fort nearby which is associated heavily by some writers with Arthur’s childhood.
BJ: yeh but not much remains of it – its not even on our map!
BJ: “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’re kindof don’t get the chance to appreciate how impressive it is.”
CM: “to get the opportunity to kindof come up here up in
BJ: “well if this is the area where Arthur grew up its not exactly a bad place to grow up is it? Its quite nice – I wouldn’t complain.”
(Scene: at Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid –
CM: “We’re here at Llanuwchllyn railway waiting to take the train around
BJ: “we thought we’d take the train…er to mix it up a bit because we did such a vast amount of driving yesterday so we thought we’d mix up our Arthurian Legends tour with a bit of train action.”
CM: This might shake our world up a bit
BJ: Shake our world up a bit YES…yes it might.
CM: Sadly although it would have been wonderfully poetic
(Scene: Bradley and Colin sat in narrow railway carriage)
CM: “Well it was great getting to speak to Scott because especially since he mapped out these areas where we can go and visit now so its very we’ve got a clear journey”
BJ: “there’re a lot of regions that have their versions of the story they all sort of have originated from somewhere and its just that the stories have been told in different ways and of course we’re sort of touring the Welsh countryside so it gave us some great, great, places to kindof checkout where the myths have been created.”
BJ: 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.
BJ: “It would be nice to believe that at some point there was a man who the legend is even if its sort of remotely based on it that it was you know that started it all off.”
CM: “So after this…we’re gonna go there” (Colin points at map)
BJ: “that’s the battlefield where Arthur fought the giant”
CM: “yep and then we go onto Camlan which er is where Arthur’s last stand was.”
CM: From Llanuwchllyn we’re back on the road again and taking the steep climb up to Bwlch Y Groes. When we finally reach the summit we’ll find the setting of a folk tale written in 1597 it’s said this is where Arthur battled one of
(Scene: Bradley driving and Colin in the car)
BJ: “We‘ve stopped just because of kind of this viewpoint and I think the sun kind of ceremoniously kindof highlighting it for us in time its very beautiful part of the world where we are really.”
BJ: Typical, just as I was enjoying the scenery a word from our producer:
Prod: Just to reiterate again what a couple of people now have now told us it’s quite a dangerous road so do be careful, er, chaps, thank you.
BJ: “Hi Arthurian legend seekers er we’ve just been informed that we’re travelling up a very dangerous road er which not too sure of the reasons as of yet one magpie that’s not a good sign erm but don’t worry because Bradley’s at the wheel and er that means everything’s going to be AOK…(Bradley smug)…isn’t it Colin?”
(Colin’s eyes widen to camera and he takes a deep breath)
(Scene: narrow winding single track road clinging to a steep hillside…)
BJ: Oh! Now I can see what he’s talking about yeh I’d er better keep my eyes on the road I think…
BJ: Now if Arthur had to make his way up here on foot it would have certainly taken his breath away, it has mine but for very different reasons.
(Scene: car park at the summit)
BJ: erm, this is ridiculous – the sheep are so blasé about it all aren’t they?
BJ: “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 and this was his trophy piece and the one beard he was after was Arthur’s and er y’know Arthur didn’t want this giant sort of taking any more lives, killing any more of his knights so he must’ve rode his way up here on horseback and he fought the giant and I suppose if you where to go for an epic battle this would be a perfect setting for it.”
CM: Just looking at the landscape you can imagine the epic battles that raged throughout Arthur’s time.
CM: “this has been like this for hundreds and hundreds of years I mean y’know did Arthur stand up here and look out and see the same thing we’re looking at now?”
BJ: Although there is no physical evidence to prove the existence of the legend our next location might yield some spiritual clues.
CM: Our final stop for this evening is the short drive to Camlan but once again our leisurely tour has made us late and night has beaten us to it.
(Scene: Bradley and Colin standing in evening twilight)
CM: “Shame we can’t see enough of it”
BJ: “but yeh this is supposedly where his final battle was and er we’re here to meet a chap who’s going to erm help us find out where he fell.”
BJ: Arthur is said to have fallen in battle in a place called Camlan although there is no indication where this is though it is mentioned in the Gwyneth-centric ‘Historia Brittonum’ written in the 9th century in Gwyneth so that would make where we are quite a probable location.
CM: to find Arthur’s last stand we’re going to use the technique of dowsing also known as divining. We’ll be looking for mystical paths of energy called ley lines, and one person who’s not only convinced that Arthur was real but also that this is the site of his last battle is author Laurence Main.
(Scene: Bradley and Colin standing in the dark with Lawrence Main)
BJ: “So this is where Arthur’s last battle took place?”
LM: “oh yes definitely we know that…erm we know it because of the place name for a start…this field here to my right is Maes-y-Camlan which has been called that for centuries a lot of all place names around here date from King Arthur’s day the hillside over there for instance is called Bryn-Cleifion it means the ‘hillside of the wounded’.
CM: “so what actually happened here?”
LM: “well according to Harleian manuscript 4181 entry 42 this is where Eda Elyn Mawr mortally wounded King Arthur.
(Scene: at night Bradley, Colin and Lawrence with divining rods)
LM: “Now when you’re ready you can start to walk round the stone now think of the ley and I’m going to make it more definite still think of the most important ley – the primary ley. When you see them crossing, stop, and let’s see where you are. OK off you go.”
BJ: apparently there are some in this area that pinpoint the exact spot where he fell and I promise you ladies and gentlemen this is not a setup…
(Scene Laurence follows Bradley)
LM: “Yes – they’re crossing can we get it on camera? Well you can see mine crossing at the same. Colin will you come in please, when your rods cross, stop. Get the exact spot where they’re crossing go forward just you Colin that’s it now do you see there is a straight line three of us we’ve all dowsed the same ley. This indeed is the primary ley.”
BJ: “I think it’s important to keep an open mind and it’s y’know there does seem to be something going on here I can’t really explain what it is but er it’s a good job we have you here to explain it for us.”
LM: “There’s something happening. Three of us in a straight line and if we were to look upon this line and if it was daylight and the leaves were off the trees in wintertime you’d see where it was going”/
BJ: “right and where’s that?”
LM: “now get this it’s going straight to the church where King Arthur died, the church of his very own nephew Saint Tydecho at Mallwyd.”
BJ: “Right…very good, erm which we can’t see because its very dark because we turned up late er but still its been er its been a pleasure so thank you very much Laurence”
LM: “Ah you’re welcome”
BJ: “much appreciated”
LM: “and you Colin”
CM: “thank you very much”
BJ: “The best thing about that was kindof seeing Laurence’s enthusiasm for it whenever someone’s got that amount of enthusiasm for it can’t help but rub off on you. It was good it was interesting it was good fun I didn’t know what was going to happen and”/
CM: “it was good that’s the thing I mean I wasn’t quite sure what to expect well neither of us sitting here were quite sure what to expect but there’s no denying that something was going on there – I think we’re getting there”
BJ: “Yeh we’ve learnt a lot and er we’re one day to go there’s still more to learn”/
BJ: “About, y’know the Welsh take on Arthurian legend.”
BJ: Well it’s our third and final day and it’s been quite a tour so far we’ve swatted up upon books we’ve seen legendary backdrops and we’ve also been doing strange things in the dark.
CM: but despite meeting two very passionate people we still have no solid proof.
BJ: Today we’re heading back down south to Caerleon and according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his ‘History Of The Kings of Britain’ this is the location of the Court of Arthur.
CM: Geoffrey described it as being admirably positioned on the River Usk not far from the mouth of the River Severn in Glamorgan – maybe there we’ll unearth something more substantial…
BJ: and to tell us more is the curator of the museum, Mark Lewis.
(Scene: Bradley, Colin and Mark Lewis standing amongst the ruins)
ML: “This is the roman amphitheatre of the roman fortress it was constructed about 80AD but we know it was still standing in the early medieval period and wasn’t actually finally demolished and became a ruin until around 1300 about that sort of time so it stood pretty much as you see it today throughout the Arthurian period the period that you’ve been looking at on your travels”
CM: “so what specifically links this to Arthur?”
ML: “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 it’s ruinous state outside the walls became eventually known as his round table and this was always known as the ‘Round Table Field’.”
CM: “so when was this excavated?”
ML: “this was actually excavated in the late 1920’s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa Verney Wheeler.
CM: “ok and what did they actually find when, when”/
ML: “they discovered the Roman arena floor where we’re standing they had to empty out this space which had become filled with the debris from the arena and the banks and they actually found the sand arena floor where the gladiators once fought but they found that there was very little evidence that anybody had been here since the end of the Roman period until about 1400 when they started robbing the walls for building stone.”
BJ: “so no round table then?”
ML: “they found no actual round table.”
BJ: So, no round table and no real proof that Arthur and Merlin ever existed.
(Scene: Bradley and Colin sitting at the edge of the amphitheatre floor)
CM: “I think three days to get a definitive answer as to whether there was a real Arthur there was a real Merlin you know it we were a bit ambitious but maybe it doesn’t matter because y’know the legends are always going to be there always going to be reinvented and reinterpreted and maybe you don’t need a final answer for it because that’s what its all about the stories are there to be enjoyed.”
BJ: The stories of Arthur and Merlin, with or without Camelot, with or without the round table and the Holy Grail, are
BJ: “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.”
CM: “the inspiration for the legends has obviously come from something Geoffrey of Monmouth picked that up and he retold it it’s been retold again and it’s been added to over the centuries and we’re very much doing that with our show as well picking it up and definitely after these three days it feels like we’re part of that as well.”
BJ: “and also its great to get out into
Featuring Bradley James, Colin Morgan
With thanks to Cadw-Welsh Assembly Government; Geographers A-Z Map Co Ltd; Visit Wales
Camera: Simon Weekes
Sound Robbie Johnson
Runner James Bowen
Edit Assistant Claire Riley
Researchers Lian Axe; Robert Wootton
Assistant Producers Ian Hay; Manon Jones
Production team assistant Emma Chapman
Production accountant Kevin Rickwood
Production Co-ordinator Rhiannon Dew
Production Manager Katy Cartwright
Production Executive Stan Matthews
Editors Anya Lewis; Rahim Mastafa
Colourist Geraint Pari Huws
Dubbing Mixer Tim Ricketts
Executive Producers Ceri Sherlock; Mark Cossey
Series Director Mark Proctor
Series Producer Gillane Seaborne
© BBC Cymru