Back with more Merlin thoughts, but sometimes I think about how Arthur has been forced to do terrible things due to the orders of his father and how he has to live with that. The amount of things Uther must have ordered him to do that he disagreed with… I mean, I love the scene where Uther orders Arthur to cut the rations for the people of Camelot during the famine and Arthur says “give that order yourself” and walks out, having been unable to change the king’s mind. How many more similar situations were there before that? How many more horrible orders were given that Arthur tried to fight but couldn’t? How long did it take for Arthur to even gather enough courage to consider disobeying the king like that? He’s around 20 in the show, right? He’s probably been carrying out Uther’s orders since he was 13 or so. A literal child carrying out war orders and questioning if they are correct but unable to change them. In the end, Arthur only has so much power against Uther. He only has some power as prince, and until he is king, he has to play Uther’s sword and he must have so much trauma over that. Like, the episode where the Druid ghost boy is after Arthur, and Merlin assumes it’s after Uther?? And then we learn it’s after Arthur because Arthur got the kids killed under Uther’s orders?? The TRAUMA he must have
this is why anhora in 01x11 makes me so frustrated. after arthur fights the “guy” that stole the food, anhora says he’s doing it because of his pride. anhora said, “you have shown that you would kill a man to defend your pride. you have failed the test. for this, camelot will pay dearly.” and without fucking hesitation, arthur - who was literally kneeling on the ground at that point - yelled, “my people have done nothing!”
arthur, the crown prince of camelot, whose father has instilled in him the idea that he is above everyone else, is kneeling on the ground, essentially begging a sorcerer (who, by all means, he should kill) to spare his people. he’s acknowledged that anhora’s grievance is which him, not his people.
the reason arthur got into this mess in the first place was because he was hunting. when he came back to camelot with the unicorn hall, he said, “father! a unicorn horn to grace the halls of camelot!” because he knows, he knows that uther will be proud of him. he knows that uther will want to use it to make every other kingdom jealous of it.
every single fucking arthur does, he does to make uther proud of him. he craves uther’s validation and he’s done so much shit that’s permanently fucked him up because he just wants to make his father proud.
we can see in 04x10 that arthur raiding the druid camps has obviously fucked him up. he’s out of it for the entire episode and is barely able to focus properly, as can be seen by him falling asleep at his table and not realizing that he still has stew in his hair when he goes to training.
but it’s just… rarely acknowledged outside of that episode.
i don’t think arthur’s an arrogant asshole in the first season just because he wants to be. i think he’s an arrogant asshole because that’s what uther expects of him and, at the time, that’s all he knows.
THANK YOU TOO
Loving these additions @gaysparklywizard ! I have some further thoughts on Anhora, and specifically RIGHT BEFORE the part you mention!
Anhora says Arthur tried to kill the guy (Evan) to defend his pride–but if you look at why he attacked, it wasn’t because of pride! He attacked because Evan brought Uther into the equation. Before Evan mentioned Uther, Arthur was level headed, compassionate, and not going to fight him. But that changes as soon as his father and his father’s opinion of Arthur is mentioned. Here’s the dialogue:
You don’t speak for my people.
Hey, your father would never have allowed himself to be fooled like that.
You hold your tongue, or I will make time to teach you some manners.
Your father would have had me executed, but you didn’t have the stomach for it, did you, Arthur? And that’s why he doubts you’ll make a good king.
You know nothing of what my father thinks.
I think he wishes he had another son, one who was worthy of taking his place. You shame him.
Pick up your sword.
The King must fear the day when you will take the throne.
[Arthur attacks Evan.]
He fears you do not have enough strength to defeat his enemies. The King must wonder if you are even his son.
[Arthur strikes a fatal blow, but Evan has disappeared. Anhora appears behind Arthur.]
This is your doing?
It was a test to see what is truly in your heart.
Your tricks prove nothing!
Basically, Anhora has it twisted, because he thinks Arthur has unnecessary pride, but he doesn’t really–as you point out, Arthur cares about his people first and foremost. However, he also cares too much about what his father thinks of him. As you say, that is why he killed the unicorn–to present it as a trophy to Uther so that Uther can be proud of him. Arthur does what he does not out of pride, but to become a son his father can be proud of. But Uther’s idea of a son to be proud of is twisted beyond control! If Anhora recognised this properly, he would have tested Arthur on turning away from Uther’s approval, or better yet, test fucking Uther himself instead of Arthur, lol. I’m sure watching Uther get brought down a notch for his pride (as Uther is definitely the one with a pride problem) would teach Arthur more about being a better king than this test did.
I think you’re exactly right that Arthur’s an arrogant arsehole at the beginning of the show mostly because that’s how Uther believes a prince should be–classist, a strong warrior, thinking of the upper class before the lower class, etc. I’m sure he’d still be a bit of a prick no matter what, but without Uther’s influence? I imagine a lot less so.
Tl;dr - practically all of Arthur’s problems stem back to Uther and the king’s fucked up idea of what his son should be
@magic-badger bringing in some very good points that I did not address/consider:
#first off op do you see my pfp? #ok now u know i have to defend my man #respectfully i dont think anhora had anything twisted #arthur definitely killed an unarmed (if annoying) man because he insulted his pride. it doesnt matter if that pride #stemmed from uther being the worst father of the year #im not sure how the origin of arthurs flaws being his upbringing apparently makes them beyond reproach? #and if uther was tested pfft the kingdom would have perished before the end of the first day of famine #arthur has pride issues and they continuously come back to bite him in the ass even after uther is dead #uther is evil but he wasnt the one who killed the unicorn and so he wasnt the one that needed to pass the tests. #uther had Influence on Arthur but he did not force him to kill the unicorn and arthur literally laughs when he sees its dead body #arthur critical #and tbc im not even trying to be hateful towards arthur like i love a good redemptiom arc and arthur Does have strengths #and he could overcome his flaws #i just dont see him overcoming flaws by shifting all the bad things he did onto his dad
Very, very good points to add to the conversation, especially as I didn’t explain myself super well. Perhaps it was a bit too far to say Anhora got it “twisted” and I might edit my original take. I had something in my tags like “Arthur still has pride issues that needed addressing and he’d likely still have pride issues without Uther, but probably less so.” Arthur is definitely still a lil bitch that needed someone to put him in his place, and Anhora did that. I also think he would likely still need this lesson even without Uther’s poison in his mind. A lot of Arthur’s flaws stemming from his upbringing does NOT make him beyond reproach. In fact, just because one has trauma doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for their own actions. Arthur can’t just say “well, I have a bad dad” and wave away his mistakes and bad deeds. I guess what I was trying to get at was that if Uther was not in the picture, how different would Arthur be? Would he have gone as far as to kill Evan? I don’t know if he would, especially as he wasn’t going to until Evan poked that sore spot. But maybe he still would. Perhaps Evan would have goaded him a different way. Who is to say! My point was just that Uther really is a sore spot for Arthur, and pleasing his dad does lead Arthur down a dark path. However, it is Arthur’s fault in the end for letting himself be lead down it, and especially when he does have power to do something the right way, like this situation.
All that to say, Anhora’s trials were still absolutely necessary and you’re right that if Uther was tested, things would have gone hella badly, lol. It just would have been an interesting thought experiment to play out, I guess, as usually Uther is the one the sorcerers place their ire on. Also, I love the constant thread of Merlin being uncomfortable with hunting and how in this episode, Arthur has to confront the beauty of life and the price of taking it, even animals, and I think that’s a good lesson for him to have had in and of itself.
Last thought, but I do wonder if it would have been worth Anhora saying something like, “Perhaps you should worry about pleasing and protecting your people, and not your father” or something like that, but that’s a nitpick, honestly.
Thanks magic-badger for your thoughts and sorry for the super long reply! Just wanted to add on and also let you know that I don’t disagree with you, lol. Glad Anhora has a fearless defender to come to his aid, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve added here
Yes to all this.
Ok so I do think it would be hilarious for Uther to be put to the test of ‘be a decent person just ONE time or draw 25’ and have him epically fail in front of the whole kingdom.
More seriously its hard to say what Arthur would be like without Uther’s influence. I guess he’d be something like the Arthur that grows up as a squire like in the usual tellings? But if he were still royalty he’d still be classist and arrogant in the way that comes with being royalty and he would probably still enjoy hunting. So the unicorn debacle could have still come to pass in a similar way.
The last point about Anhora offering advice about Uther- I feel like Arthur has already figured that out which was why he sought out Anhora again and passed the last test. Earlier in the episode he defied his father, the event you mentioned in ur first post. He looks at Uther and sees a man who would rather let his people starve than ask for help, he learns from his mistake with Evan and says “I cannot think of my pride when my people go hungry”. So thats him right there putting his people before his pride and right to Uther’s face. He’s not apologetic about it either. He’s barely holding back the entirety of his contempt for Uther’s orders while also realizing that he himself was wrong.
Part of MY frustration with the Anhora episode is that Arthur Does get this breakthrough. He wrongs a magical creature, he realizes he was wrong, and he remedies it. He apologizes. He shows respect for the life he took where before he only thought of the unicorn as a trophy. And the unicorn lives again. But then all the way to the end of the show he never gets to the point of lifting the ban- he hardly opens a dialogue with magic users. Unless he was friendly with druids since Herald of a New Age and it just happened offscreen. Its yet another episode of breakthrough and buildup with no payoff. At least thats how i feel. And yet its one of my favorite episodes for all the good things about it. (Especially anhora)