12 October 2008

The BBC has an odd relationship with the Celt.

BBC Wales recently filmed a series "based on" one of the most famous Celtic legends: the legend of King Arthur.

Merlin doesn't seem very... Welsh.  The legend as we know it is largely sourced from Wales' most celebrated epic, Y Gododdin, but the story presented in the series bears practically no relation to the legend (much like the recent Robin Hood series before it).

But it is not merely the lack of respect for the legend that I object to, but the bizarre ethnic confusion in the piece.

Arthur was a Briton, a lowland Celt.  The exact place origin of the legend is in dispute, but it certainly evolved among the Brythonic Celts during the early days of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Great Britain.  The Welsh are certainly his cultural descendants.  This makes it the largely Anglo-Norman aesthetic and the prevalence of home-counties accents more than slightly incongruous.  

That's pretty normal.

But there is a bit of Celt in the story.  Morgana, one of the key "bad guys" in the legends, has an Irish accent (although she's not bad yet).  The bad guy in the first episode was that Welsh woman from Torchwood.  The second episode saw an evil knight from the Western Isles, wearing Celtic knotwork (although he had a distinctly English accent).  OK, so Richard Wilson (a Scot) plays one of the good guys, and episode 3's bad guy's the Bionic Eastender, but overall, it's not very pro-Celt, is it?

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