The Terrifying Quality of the Afanc from BBC’s Merlin

Merlin Series 1, Episode 3, The Mark of Nimueh: The monstrous afanc emerges from behind the dim cavernous walls, disgusting, chilling our very bones. Prince Arthur, Merlin, and Lady Morgana panic when they see it, drooling with a mouth full of fangs, as it slinks heftily, ever creeping, closer. Arthur, in full battle posture, ready to protect and defend, strikes the afanc, grimly territorial. Merlin is ready, too. They understand why they are here. They cannot run. The afanc, described by Gaius as the darkest kind of magic, looks hungrily at its prey, but Merlin uses his own magic to destroy the monster before it makes a meal out of the lady or the prince.

What is an afanc?

Not too much is known about the afanc, except that it is a mythical creature deriving from a handful of legends, originally. Some say it looks like a crocodile, while others say it’s like a beaver.

Apparently, in Wales, the origin of Arthurian legend, crocodiles are an uncommon sight and if seen would surely cause room for worry. In two internet articles (Mirror and The Telegraph), there are claims of crocodiles being sighted, yet in both cases, the final conclusion was made that there was no threat. Could it have been that the original afanc was a crocodile? The answer cannot be found.

The design of the afanc on BBC Merlin is an example, in my opinion, of good sculpturing, and when you see behind-the-scene shots of the afanc costume being designed, you may feel a bit like you stepped into a Jim Henson studio, or you stepped back into the costume room of Doug Jones’ latest monster suits. The afanc thrilled us: it engaged the cast enough for us to feel their fright when they discovered it in the shadows, and it cinched our hate for Nimueh, the sorceress who brought it to being, as an antagonist.

If you’ve watched The Mark of Nimueh and seen the afanc, you may be thinking that the afanc doesn’t look much like a crocodile or a beaver, but I want to show you the similarities. First, take a look at my sketch of the afanc.

I think the likeness of a crocodile comes from the “something lurks in the waters” quality, the scare score. Crocodiles camouflage, lurk and “pounce” on prey from an unknown source, suddenly they strike unexpected, and that’s why I think, on a story level, building suspense, they were inspired by a crocodile. Meanwhile, the beaver has a little hand, connecting to an arm ending with an elbow and body, and the hand has got 5 claws, 3 longer ones and 2 short, end ones. Similarly, the afanc from Merlin has 4 claws, 3 longer and 1 short. Beavers and afancs are both brown, and their skull structure has a striking resemblance, stout and squared, despite the fact afanc has ferocious fangs and a lack of eyes, like a mole you’d find digging up your garden. Maybe that’s because the designers wanted to go with a cave monster feel, underdeveloped eyes, as opposed to the lake monster feel that afancs have from legend, which really proves the originality of the show.

That’s how a designer designs a monster to be inspired from, and yet unique of, the original mythical creature: They take an image of a beaver and crocodile – which admittedly, isn’t that scary when you combine the two by conventional means – and deform them to make something terrifying. That’s why I say that the artists who sculpted the afanc had to be brilliant.

In conclusion, I have a final thought about the Mark of Nimueh show, about how it cast a light on our heroes: the afanc was perhaps the first moment we see Prince Arthur and Merlin work together as a team, and as for Lady Morgana, it was the first time we see horror on her face to that degree. Diving into speculation about Lady Morgana, I wonder, did she have reason to feel traumatized by this event? Did it somehow cause her own soul to undergo a transformation of fear, unlocking sorcery in her own fate? It’s unsettling, but imagine Nimueh, the first of the three high priestesses, having a hand in the spiritual “coronation” of Morgana as high priestess. Nimueh foresaw the future and influenced it by conjuring the afanc so she could deprave the soon-to-be-witch’s psyche. Subtext we will never be privy to except through fan fiction.

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Tournaments in the Middle Ages

We watched as our favorite heroes Prince Arthur, Sir Gwaine, Sir Lancelot, and others compete in tournaments to prove their superiority on the games. Tournaments in real life were often as deadly as the show portrays when thugs time and time again try to kill Prince Arthur in the duels and melees.

Knights wore their armour as if they were going to war, and it makes sense, considering many knights died fighting in the competitions they proudly took part in. Many times in melee fights, participants would gang up against a disliked competitor and injure or even kill him. Other times, men would use tournaments to cover up a murder.

It’s true, though, that to a knight, winning a tournament was held as the highest honor, but not everyone held that opinion. Church officials didn’t approve of the tournaments that knights took part in, and often refused to offer a proper Christian burial for anyone who died from competing in tournaments. I wonder, does God forgive a man who wins a crown through the war games he’s played?

The Queen’s Podcast – #3

Two years prior to the death of Arthur, the Great Wizard gave Lady Isabella strict orders to preserve the best years of King Arthur’s life, when he reigned. Isabella was gifted the echo stone: the power to capture her voice and forever keep it locked away until Camelot needed the resolve left in the good times.

Would you like to explore a haunted forest if given the chance? Lady Isabella loves to explore. She decided to explore the darkling woods, but finds herself intruding on a royal pother.

Episode #3

~A Glittering Surprise~

Exploring old forests always bring a magical treat- the woods outside Camelot holds no exception for Lady Isabella as she hikes the hidden pathways between trees and brushes. The magic becomes real as she discovers the king and queen in the forest too, along with a knight. It seems there’s magic in the woods, and they must discover what the cause of the magic is. Can Lady Isabella set the royals’ minds at ease with her knowledge?

Merlin Series 4: Episode 4 “Aithusa”

Fanfiction written by @bbcmerlinjunkie


EXT. CAMP SITE – DEAD OF NIGHT

MERLIN, surrounded by sleeping knights, thinks about the warning sent to him by the druids, about the triskelion and the trap awaiting those who seek the dragon’s egg.

GWAINE, awakened, senses MERLIN’s insomnia.

GWAINE: Merlin?

MERLIN, sitting, silently waits for the moment to pass, hoping to remain unnoticed.

GWAINE: You’re unable to sleep?

MERLIN’s lack of words pierces the night air with a somber mood.

GWAINE: What is it, is it the mission that’s got you?

MERLIN: Yeah.

GWAINE: You don’t want to see the dragon egg destroyed?

MERLIN: I want what’s best.

GWAINE: (wishing for more) What’s best?

A comeback of nothing. Not what GWAINE expected. He finds himself holding a conversation with himself.

GWAINE: Whatever’s best, subjected to the one beholden. Take knights, they want to ensure the dragon becomes no monster, so they want to see it peacefully depart.

GWAINE: (beat) Take the king, however, who is beholden to his reign. He wants victory, in hopes the people will admire him, so he wants to kill it.

GWAINE: (beat) Say what does a manservant like Merlin think’s best?

Manservant and dragonlord. At war with himself, MERLIN answers as manservant.

MERLIN: (conflicted) Whatever the king wants.

GWAINE: (with fervor) There you have it.

ELYAN, suddenly entering his opinion, interjects sense.

ELYAN: We’re protecting the people. It isn’t hard to understand why we cannot allow a dragon’s egg to fall into the hands of wrong people. What if the lady Morgana got ahold of the egg? We need to deal with it now, before it becomes trouble.

GWAINE: (defensive) And befriending the dragon isn’t an option? War’s not always the answer.

ELYAN: (sits up) You’re too easy about this. Camelot won’t prosper if a wild beast stronger than mankind is let loose on the farms and fields.

Shuffling and disturbance from another knight, PERCIVAL’s voice, the sound of valor, rings out, the argument turning to friendship. MERLIN wishes he hadn’t made a peep or a noise, the druids had never called, and he was comfortably snoozing.

PERCIVAL: Is there a problem?

ELYAN: Gwaine wants to befriend dragons.

GWAINE: Elyan is a killing machine.

MERLIN: (admittance) I couldn’t sleep and woke Gwaine.

Awkward silence. It almost seems the argument is over.

GWAINE: Let’s do it Elyan’s way! Tomorrow we’ll locate the egg and divide it between us, put it on to roast, and dine well. Eat like barbarians.

Boom. The sarcasm.

Then the unexpected comes from LEON.

LEON: Before we’re asleep, the dragon will be in his egg no more, flown overhead and caught fire to the camp, and it will be the end of it. Perhaps call it a day and get some shuteye?

Each man takes the invitation – if not a subtle demand – relaxes, and the night air is heard once more, their breathing growing heavier and the sounds of owls hooting. ARTHUR remains quiet but is wide-awake, taking in the conversation. MERLIN – with his inner dragonlord – is left debating his option of troubles.


Images (feature and one above) found on www.farfarawaysite.com.

Long Live the King!

In that moment, we witnessed the making of a king, one who would stand the test of time…

Geoffrey of Monmouth: Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the peoples of Camelot according to their respective laws and customs?

Arthur: I solemnly swear so to do.

Geoffrey: Will you to your power, for as law and justice in mercy, be executed in all your judgments?

Arthur: I will.

Geoffrey: Then by the sacred law vested in me, I crown you Arthur, King of Camelot.

Geoffrey: Long live the King!

Audience: Long live the King! Long live the King! (continues to repeat)

I will never forget that moment, at least not as long as I choose to keep remembering, because to me it’s the moment fiction created a crowned king, and I, too, was a citizen of Camelot, feeling all the love, the joy, the angst, and the dread of what he might face as ruler.

My photo edit: copyright not belonging to me, but to the respective owner; thanks goes to Far Far Away Site for the source photos.

The Queen’s Podcast – #2

Two years prior to the death of Arthur, the Great Wizard gave Lady Isabella strict orders to preserve the best years of King Arthur’s life, when he reigned. Isabella was gifted the echo stone: the power to capture her voice and forever keep it locked away until Camelot needed the resolve left in the good times.

Lady Isabella is very brave – there aren’t many who are willing to explore a dark passage with spiders, snakes, and the likes; not counting the many traps or magic spells that could be placed on the corridor to ambush any body who enters, unknowing of any dangers that could be threatening.

Episode #2

~Secret Pathway~

Lady Isabella remembers her childhood at the castle, and decides to re-explore a hidden route that no one knows. Not a believer of ghosts – or not afraid of them, at least – Lady Isabella ventures into the darkness; but she’s met with a frightful experience.

Dream League: Join Team Excalibur

Merlin Series 1: Episode 2 “Valiant”

Fanfiction written by @bbcmerlinjunkie


EXT. CAMELOT TRAINING GROUNDS – LATE AFTERNOON

MERLIN watches ARTHUR training with a few other KNIGHTS. ARTHUR is sword fighting, readying himself for the tournament which will happen within the week.

MORGANA and GWEN approaches, MORGANA dressed in clothes to fight in, holding a dulled training sword. ARTHUR doesn’t notice her approaching, but MERLIN does.

MERLIN: (to Arthur) A challenger.

ARTHUR doesn’t even look MORGANA’s way.

MORGANA: I hope you’re ready for a real fight. You won’t stand a chance.

ARTHUR: Lady Morgana. That’s nice of you to come cheer me on in my practice sessions, but it’s not necessary.

MORGANA: Hardly. I’m here to test your fighting skills.

GWEN steps up beside MERLIN, ready to watch the confrontation. ARTHUR is still fighting the KNIGHT.

GWEN: Hello, Merlin.

MERLIN: (acknowledgement)

MERLIN shifts to give GWEN space. ARTHUR’s current fight breaks up as he turns to look at MORGANA. The KNIGHT he was fighting with retreats, respectful.

ARTHUR: Wait, Morgana. What are you doing?

MORGANA: You know King Uther won’t let me fight. I figured I can just beat the victor before he even wins. That’ll make me the true champion.

ARTHUR: Thanks for the vote of confidence, but you can’t just come out here ready to fight and expect to win. Do you even know how to use the sword?

MORGANA: (to Gwen) He’s just afraid that I’m going to beat him at his own game.

ARTHUR: No, that’s not true. Battle’s no place for a lady.

GWEN: (looks at Morgana, expectantly)

ARTHUR turns to MERLIN and motions for him to follow. He starts to walk to another part of the field. MORGANA follows.

ARTHUR: (to Merlin) Just ignore her. She’ll go away.

MORGANA: Ignore me at your own risk. I’m not going anywhere until you fight me.

GWEN: (to Merlin) Morgana is an excellent sword bearer.

MERLIN approaches ARTHUR who is blatantly avoiding MORGANA.

MERLIN: (to Arthur quietly) You’re not intimidated.

ARTHUR: (exchanges a look with Merlin)

MERLIN: (quoting Arthur) ‘How’s your mace work coming along?’ You said to me.

MERLIN: (defending Morgana) It seems she has listened.

MERLIN: (whispers) Go easy.

ARTHUR finally gives in. He turns to face MORGANA and twirls his sword, showing off, but seems bothered at the turn of events.

ARTHUR: Fine. But don’t cry when it hurts.

MORGANA: You’ll be the one crying.

ARTHUR and MORGANA begin to fight, but it’s obvious that MORGANA is skilled. Their swords clink several times before MORGANA starts attacking harder. Her strength takes ARTHUR off guard, and she begins to push him back. All he can do is defend himself.

MERLIN: (to Gwen) Whoa! That’s not what I was expecting.

Another one of MORGANA’s hits slam ARTHUR hard.

MERLIN: I didn’t see that coming!

GWEN: (admittedly) It’s because of her father. She was his sparring partner.

MERLIN: Can Arthur compete?

MORGANA: (to Arthur) You’re not even trying.

ARTHUR: Morgana! Calm down. You don’t want to kill me; you’re just testing my strength, remember?

MORGANA continues attacking heavily, sure of herself. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she’ll win the fight. Several KNIGHTS draw near to the battle, trying to find a break where they can defend their prince.

One KNIGHT takes the initiative to stop the fight; holding a shield, he rams harshly into MORGANA, shoving her with the shield to make her fall down. Another KNIGHT quickly comes over to ARTHUR to check on him, while GWEN rushes to assist MORGANA.

ARTHUR: I’m fine.

ARTHUR steps over to MORGANA to help her up.

ARTHUR: You were good.

MORGANA refuses ARTHUR’s help, her pride hurt. GWEN helps her up instead, and she gratefully takes her friend’s help.

MORGANA: You’re a fraud! You couldn’t accept defeat, could you?

ARTHUR: You were coming at me too forcefully. I couldn’t fight back like that.

MORGANA: That wasn’t fair!

MORGANA starts to leave, offended. ARTHUR is obviously sorry for what happened.

ARTHUR: Morgana!

MORGANA turns to meet ARTHUR’s call with a hurt gaze.

MORGANA: Don’t expect an applaud from me on the day of the tournament. I’ll be rooting for someone with more propriety and honor.


The Queen’s Podcast

Two years prior to the death of Arthur, the Great Wizard gave Lady Isabella strict orders to preserve the best years of King Arthur’s life, when he reigned. Isabella was gifted the echo stone: the power to capture her voice and forever keep it locked away until Camelot needed the resolve left in the good times.

Technical problems! Who has time for technicalities?

I was pleased to find an option to add audio files to my blog. I was NOT pleased to find the option is not as simple as uploading the file. Despite what tutorials you find online, it is NOT simple. It either takes money or patience, either of which I have very little. Maybe the tutorials are out of date. Or maybe a hex has been placed on the site. An evil druid, trying to put a stop to my work here? What an interesting turn of events…

Either way, I’m working on fixing the problem. In the meanwhile, go ahead and click the button below to check out our host site and take a listen.

Episode #1

~Welcome Back to Camelot~

“Return to Camelot,” the Great Wizard told Lady Isabella. “Experience the kingdom’s golden age.” Lady Isabella is happy to return, honored to meet the king and queen of Camelot, and saddened at the news she hears of an old friend’s troubles.