Merlin/Arthur, often called "Merthur" by fans, is a non-canon slash ship based most frequently on the BBC television show Merlin. Unlike most traditional depictions of the Arthurian legends, where the sorcerer Merlin is typically depicted as an older mentor to Arthur Pendragon, the BBC's Merlin depicted the two as being close in age.
Merlin/Arthur is the most common pairing in the Merlin fandom and as of July 2015, it was the sixth most popular ship on the fanfiction archive An Archive of Our Own (AO3). AO3 contains more than 16,000 works tagged with the pairing.
The popularity of the ship grew extremely quickly in season one of the show, with many slash fans attracted by the chemistry and deep emotional connection between the two men. Their relationship went within a few episodes from antagonistic to being willing to die for each other. However, in seasons two and three, the show moved away from the focus on Merlin and Arthur's relationship and many of their interactions were played for comic relief rather than emotion. Fans compensated by writing fanfiction that kept the season one dynamic. Happily for shippers, seasons 4 and 5 saw a return to the more emotional dynamic of season one and the renewed interest helped keep the fandom alive and thriving even after the show ended.
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