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Long before your stories began, the Sorcerer battled the darkness. He was able to keep it from consuming the realms.
—The Apprentice to Emma src

Merlin, better known as the Sorcerer and also known as the Usher, is a character on ABC's Once Upon a Time. He débuts in the nineteenth episode of the fourth season. He is voiced by co-star Jonathan Adams in Season Four, and is portrayed by guest star Elliot Knight in Season Five.

Merlin is based on the character of the same name from the Arthurian Legend, and on the Sorcerer from the poem, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".


Before First Curse

At a moment of his life, the sorcerer Merlin creates Excalibur, a magic sword. With the weapon embedded in stone, legends claim whoever can pull it out is the kingdom's true ruler. ("Lost Girl")

At one point, Merlin battles the darkness at the place which will become the Vault of the Dark One and, in order to be free of it and protect the realms, he tethers it to a human soul. In turn, that soul becomes the Dark One, who is bound to the control of a cursed dagger, which is made from the tip of the Excalibur sword. ("Operation Mongoose Part 2", "Quiet Minds", "The Dark Swan")

On the day Merlin chooses his apprentice, he gives the man a special wand, which was forged from both dark and light magic. ("The Dark Swan")

For eons, Merlin and his Apprentice have chosen a person, whether male or female, to become an Author, whose sole responsibility is to witness and record stories in a magical storybook. ("Best Laid Plans")

Merlin is also the creator of a box, which contains a hat that can absorb and accumulate magic. As a safeguard, the hat is also protected by an enchantment so that only someone who has not succumbed to the darkness in their heart can open it. For every person that has obtained the Dark One's powers, each has tried and failed to harness the hat in order to keep their magic while gaining freedom from the dagger. One day, while watching over the hat, Merlin's Apprentice successfully stops the most recent Dark One, Zoso, from stealing the relic. ("The Apprentice")

Some point after the lore of Excalibur becomes known in Camelot, Merlin gives a prophecy stating a man named Arthur will become king by pulling the sword out of its stone. This leads Arthur to free Excalibur from the stone, however, he discovers the blade tip is missing and keeps it a secret from the kingdom's people. ("The Dark Swan")

Years later, the Sorcerer's fate is not known, but his Apprentice has since retired to a cottage and hidden the hat in a basement. The current Dark One, Rumplestiltskin, poisons the Apprentice to transfigure him into a mouse. Before the man turns, Rumplestiltskin manipulates a girl, Anna, by making her believe he wants her to kill the Apprentice with a tonic. Due to her pure heart, she cannot do it, and is further coerced into killing Rumplestiltskin. Pushed to her breaking point, Anna stops herself before she can act on her dark wish. As she sheds tears in frustration, Rumplestiltskin collects one of them and uses it to retrieve the hat. Later, he is outsmarted by Anna, who leaves for home with the hat, and then Ingrid takes the item for herself. On her terms, Ingrid promises the Apprentice that she will return the hat only if the Sorcerer helps locate someone. Presumably, the Sorcerer learns of this from the Apprentice, who reappears to Ingrid and fulfills her asking price for retrieval of the hat. ("The Apprentice", "Smash the Mirror")

The Apprentice speaks with the Sorcerer having banished the current Author, Isaac, into the book after he made him harm Maleficent's child. The Sorcerer, however, cannot undo what has already been done and remarks that the fate of the child, along with the fate of Snow White and Prince Charming's child, are bound together as they always have been. ("Best Laid Plans", "Lily")

During First Curse
Merlin conspires a prophecy that speaks of Emma pulling Excalibur from its stone. In 1989, he appears, dressed as an usher, in the Land Without Magic to warn a six-year old Emma to never do "it", even if it's for the right reasons, because bad things will happen. Merlin cautions her, stating that one day she will have the chance to pull out the sword from the stone, but he advises her not to. Once he gives her the message, he disappears. ("The Dark Swan")

During Second Curse
When the second curse is cast, the Sorcerer's mansion manifests in Storybrooke. Inside, the house contains his hat, a hidden door portal to Arendelle and a secret room containing blank storybooks. ("A Curious Thing", "A Tale of Two Sisters", "Heroes and Villains")

After Second Curse

In the Sorcerer's mansion, Mr. Gold discovers the hat and begins using it to free himself from the dagger. Amassing power in the hat, he traps the Apprentice as well as the nuns, before his plans are halted by his banishment out of Storybrooke. Finding the mansion's secret room, Henry leads Emma and Regina there to show them the blank storybooks. This causes Regina to mistakenly believe the Author is the Sorcerer, although Mother Superior later clarifies they are two different people and that the Sorcerer has not been seen for a very long time. ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "Heroes and Villains", "Darkness on the Edge of Town")

After the Apprentice's failed attempt to trap the Darkness from the current Dark One, he tells Emma about the Darkness' history with the Sorcerer, Merlin, who they must find in order to contain it. ("Operation Mongoose Part 2")

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  • The name "Merlin" is of Welsh origin and is derived from from the name "Myrddin", meaning "sea fortress".[1]

Character Notes

Production Notes

  • The casting call describes him as "an African American in his early 30s to early 40s and boasting a natural British accent to play a man with great wisdom and intelligence beyond his years, someone who has always put duty in front of his own desires, even at great personal cost".[2]
  • According to Adam Horowitz, the idea of exploring Merlin has been cogitated since 2013, just not immediately.[3]



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