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.


Series 6 – Morgana’s Story Continues (Hypothetically)

Morgana’s final breath is taken. Her soul sinks not to the place of the dead, but to a dark domain where sorcerers are gifted with immortality. She falls upon a wizard, standing at a bridge that curls across hills and passes the lonely horizon.

WIZARD: Look beyond me and view a castle on a hill. Reach it, and you will be resurrected to a second chance, a conqueror. Do not reach it, and you will be left wandering the land until the final judgment.

MORGANA:  What do you mean, ‘final judgment’?

WIZARD: There you will receive dues for your life.

Pictures taken from,, and , edited by @bbcmerlinjunkie.

Dream League: Join Team Excalibur

Merlin Series 1: Episode 2 “Valiant”

Fanfiction written by @bbcmerlinjunkie


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.