The secret of Merlin

Image from BBC's Merlin.
If you’ve ever seen BBC’s Merlin, you’ll know it’s all about keeping secrets. One secret in particular, actually: Merlin’s ability to use magic.

In the show, Merlin and Arthur are both young adults, and they become best friends (though it can be hard to tell because Arthur treats Merlin like a lowly manservant most of the time). Magic has been forbidden by Arthur’s father, Uther; it is considered evil.

Thus, Merlin continually struggles with his secret: that he is the most powerful wizard alive. He wants to tell Arthur (not only to let him know that he’s saved Arthur’s life countless times without Arthur realizing it, but because keeping a secret from his best friend is hard), but he’s afraid. He knows Arthur, having been taught that magic is evil, might not understand, that he might send Merlin away or even have him killed.

“I want you to always be you.”

But I think what really scares Merlin the most is that Arthur might not accept him for who he is. Magic is a part of him, and if Arthur can’t accept that, he’d be rejecting Merlin as a person.

Sound familiar?

I think hiding part of ourselves in order to be accepted is a common reflex, especially when we’re younger; though even I as an adult find myself automatically doing it sometimes.

If I think I’m not going to be accepted, if I think I’m going to be laughed at or looked down upon, I am going to want to hide that part of myself.

If I’m talking to an acquaintance who thinks video games are a waste of time, do I mention that I played them all day yesterday? Probably not. If it’s because we’re talking about something else and the subject just doesn’t come up, that’s fine. But if I’m deliberately hiding the part of myself that loves video games, is that fine?

As I watched the five seasons of Merlin, I was constantly waiting for Merlin to tell Arthur. Geez, just tell him already, Merlin! I wanted to see what that vulnerability would look like. I wanted to know how Arthur would work through his feelings once he found out.

And (*spoiler warning*), I finally got to see what this looked like in the season finale.

What really scares Merlin the most is that Arthur might not accept him for who he is.

Arthur is, understandably, shocked at the news. Merlin had been lying to him for five years, so I can understand why it might take a while to digest.

Arthur: “I thought I knew you.”
Merlin: “I’m still the same person.”
Arthur: “I trusted you.”
Merlin: “I’m sorry.”
Arthur: “I’m sorry too.”

Arthur does have a point; Merlin might have been the same person he always was, but Arthur never got to know the complete Merlin. And it’s heartbreaking that he never will.

As Merlin takes Arthur on their several-day journey to Avalon in a desperate attempt to heal him, Arthur works through the feelings of shock and betrayal.

Arthur: “I want you to always be you. I’m sorry about how I treated you.”
Merlin: “Does that mean you’re going to give me a day off?”
Arthur: “Two.”

Finally. Arthur knows the secret, and he accepts Merlin for who he is: a servant, a wizard, a friend.

Arthur: “Everything you’ve done, I know now. For me. And Camelot. For the kingdom you’ve helped me build… I want to say something I’ve never said to you before. Merlin, thank you.”

When the secret’s out, when you can be who you really are, that’s the best feeling and those are the greatest friends.

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Commander at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron

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