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Uther Pendragon

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Camelot must come before all else.... even you.
~ Uther to Arthur
Uther Pendragon is a major character in the BBC series Merlin. He is the father of Arthur and Morgana Pendragon and was the ruler of Camelot up until his death in season 4. Although he is shown to care for his children on several occasions, his utterly biased xenophobia, hypocrisy and delusions of grandeur qualify him as a full-blown protagonist villain, going so far as to become an antagonist in season 5.

A thoroughly depraved man, Uther executed dozens of druids, warlocks and witches alike, whether they were innocent or not, while at the same time failing to see anything wrong with how he ruled the kingdom. Eventually, Arthur called him out for this. These evil actions were the rage-fueled retaliation against Nimueh who caused his wife and Camelot's Queen death after giving birth to their son Arthur as the price of her assistance with her sorcery due to a life to life policy (which affected the Questing Beast's existence), resulting in the King's wrath and genocide against anything that related with magic in the first place, making him also an Anti-Villain.

He is portrayed by Anthony Head, who also played Mr. Finch.


It's not Uther's job to be liked
~ Gaius to Merlin
Uther was portrayed as an iron-fisted, arrogant king who showed no mercy to those who showed any sign of defiance to his laws. He was far from flawless, but was ultimately a man dedicated to the protection and preservation of his kingdom, despite his actions being blinded by prejudice. His gravest failing was his inability to admit to his responsibility in his wife's death and his refusal to consider an unbiased policy regarding magic users.

In fact, when it came to any form of magic, Uther was very much a tyrant. Before Uther came to the land, it was corrupted and endangered by evil sorcerers and their use of dark magic, as was stated by Gaius. However, Uther was friends with the powerful witch Nimueh whom he had trusted. Ygraine's death most likely finally convinced him of the uncontrollable danger of magic, and his grief permanently corrupted Uther's view of magic and led him to pursue a bloody and cruel pogrom against all types of magic, completely disregarding how the magic was used. Arthur commented that Uther would "stop listening" whenever magic was mentioned, such was his blind and prejudiced fixation on eradicating it. Uther showed poor judgement on various occasions regarding magic, selectively accusing and refusing to accuse people of sorcery but only sometimes wrongly identifying magic-users. Uther was swayed by personal bias regarding magic and through this showed an element of hypocrisy, condemning strangers such as Mary Collins' son and servants such as Merlin and Gwen to death while refusing to believe influential people including Valiant, Aredian or Gaius were using magic. Additionally, despite his vicious persecution of all magic forms, Uther hypocritically asked that Gaius use magic to save Morgana's life, such was his desire to protect his own interests, but he also faced his biggest fear, magic, at the same time in order to save the ones he loved the most.

Uther's harsh behaviour possibly represented the extensive guilt he suffered from the manner of Ygraine's death, which had been caused by his need for an heir, probably not caring that there would be grave consequences. At the same time, the death of his wife, caused by his trusted friend Nimueh, probably strengthened his opinion about magic corrupting and the unforeseen dangers that arouse from using it. He always refused to talk about Ygraine, which showed that he could not get over her death and probably couldn't bare to be reminded of her at all. Uther was evidently plagued by his past sins, as shown by the hallucinations he endured through the mandrake root enchantment, and displayed a worsening level of psychological damage as he grew older, eventually culminating in his full mental breakdown after Morgana's betrayal. Yet until that point Uther was stubborn and determined to carry on his duties as a king and military leader, despite the physical risk to his person. He was prepared to fight the wraith Tristan de Bois in Arthur's stead and went into battle when Cenred invaded, sustaining an injury in the process. It was only under extreme psychological torment and emotional suffering that he began to lose his capabilities as a leader, and even in a state of severe depression he produced a final act of courage in saving his son from an assassin and was fatally wounded in doing so.

Uther, as a proud man, was very concerned about his public image as a king and was fixated on the idea of presenting himself as the 'perfect' king: strong, decisive, just and virile. He also thought that showing any kind of weakness would be a danger for the kingdom since Camelot's enemies would take advantage of it. This might have been one of the reasons why he kept Morgana's true paternity a secret for all her life, only revealing it under intense emotional upheaval, additionally to assumed other reasons. He was also unwilling to change his mind once a decision had been made, though on some occasions he did accept the wrongness of his actions and apologised for choosing poorly such as after killing Gwen's father and allowing Aredian to harm Gaius. Uther did not tolerate insolence, however, and frequently rebuked Arthur for shows of defiance. He demanded a lot from his son, insisting that he fit the mould for his idea of a good King of Camelot. Yet despite this, Uther evidently had a great deal of affection for Arthur and considered him the most important thing he had, on several occasions putting his own life at stake to save Arthur's.

Despite his heavy-handed and greatly misguided policy towards magic, Uther genuinely cared about Camelot and sought to be a good ruler. He had sympathy for Hunith when Ealdor was raided, but not enough to send aid to the innocent people who were hurt, although this was only because he didn't want to risk provoking a war with Cenred. In spite of Uther's phobia of magic and his tyrannical persecution, above all he desired to protect his family and always acted as he saw best, though this was not usually a just or effective policy. Uther was also the one who had brought peace and stability to the land, moreover prosperity so that its citizens didn't have to suffer from poverty.

While he was haunting Camelot as a ghost, Uther showed that he had become obsessed with protecting his legacy, to the point where he attempted to kill Percival and Guinevere and knocked out Arthur. He thought that Arthur had become weak and even said that Camelot was more important than Arthur. It should be noted that while he was alive, he considered Arthur to be more important than Camelot but after dying his opinion seemed to change. Since his personality and priorities changed to the complete opposite, it was probably his death that made him bitter and spending so long in the spirit world might have driven him mad and twisted his point of view even more than it already was, leading him to threaten his own son. He was outraged when he discovered that Merlin had magic, as would be expected for a man like him, and suddenly showed an unusual sadistic side by saying that he would take great pleasure in killing Merlin, contradictory to his former self that never took pleasure in killing. 

List Of Known Villainous Acts

Over the course of series, he has done horrendous acts that resulted in him making more enemies, even with his close family member Morgana Pendragon. Here are the following evil acts that were revealed over the seasons of the series:

Season 1

  • The Dragon's Call: Executed Thomas Collins, inadvertly provoking the latter's mother to assassinate Arthur in revenge and she would've succeeded had Merlin not interfered.
  • The Mark of Nimueh: Arrested Gwen and considered to execute her due to believing her to be cause of the plague until proved otherwise.
  • The Poisoned Chalice: Forced Merlin to drink from the titular chalice when the boy tried to warn him and Arthur about it.
  • The Beginning of the End: Had his knights to kill the druids Cerdan and Mordred, only succeeding in killing the former.
  • The Labyrinth of Gedref: Ignored Gaius' warning about the bad luck that would come if an unicorn is killed, which resulted in crops in the whole Camelot withering and water turning into sand not long after his son killed one.
  • To Kill the King: Killed Gwen's father out of his involvement with evil sorcerer Taurent (actually he merely incarcerated him first, but eventually did so due to him escaping at hands of Morgana) where this action nearly costed him his relationship with Morgana.

Season 2

  • The Nightmare Begins: Sent a squadron of his knights to attack a druid camp out of believe that Morgana was kidnapped by them. In reality however, Morgana herself went for the druids in the first place, encouraged by Merlin to search for them.
  • Lancelot and Guinevere: Chose not to help Guinevere due to her being an expendable maidservant.
  • The Last Dragonlord: Revealed to have wiped out most of the dragons during the Great Purge, to have tricked Merlin's father into helping him and later to have persecuted him even after his escape from Camelot.

Season 3

  • Tears of Uther Pendragon (Part 1 & Part 2): Revealed to have executed even innocent children during the Great Purge when he hallucinated a drowned kid stand in front of him, according to Gaius.
  • Gwaine: It is revealed that years before he refused to help the family of Gwaine, whose father died fighting for him. Later he condemned Gwaine to exile despite the fact that he had saved Arthur's life twice.
  • Queen of Hearts: When he discovered Arthur and Gwen's relationship he tried to separate them and even to process and execute Gwen for sorcery, believing it to be the cause of his son's love for a servant girl.

Season 5

  • The Death Song of Uther Pendragon: As a ghost, he went on rampage on the whole castle until Arthur banished his damned soul back to the afterlife.

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