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Merlin and Nimue

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Merlin and Vivien, photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron 1874

"Nimue will come along and I'll go panting after her like a dog-fox in heat. I'll teach her too little magic to do her any good, and too much for my safety, all while trying to get into her petticoats. And then she'll entice me into a cave, and bind me with my own magic, and leave me to rot."
Merlin discusses the trope in The Books of Magic

A Merlin and Nimue scenario is a partnership between two magic-users where one is older (and thus usually the master/teacher or the more powerful member of the team), and the other member is younger and the apprentice type figure. More often than not, they're of opposite sexes.

There are a lot of potential tropes that could come into play in relationships like this, including the possibilities for communication difficulties with two people of different age groups, (sometimes) of opposite sexes, not to mention all the possible love and sexuality tropes that can potentially come into play.

Oh, and there's one more thing we forgot to mention: there's a good chance that one member of this team will betray the other, usually for greater power, in order to learn the legendary Dangerous Forbidden Technique, or to Take Over the World. In the process of doing so they often either become the story's Big Bad or The Dragon, or the other character's personal Arch-Enemy. Which rather puts a damper on their relationship... Compare with A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil and Evil Mentor, depending on who betrays whom.

The Trope Namer and probable Trope Maker is the Arthurian Mythos, where Merlin had a habit of teaching magic to younger women. In the oldest stories his pupil/lover's name was Nynave (this is often changed to Nimue and sometimes changed again to other names, with Vivien/Vivianne being the most common), and she eventually betrayed him and bound Merlin in a tree, a rock or a cave, depending on the version of the story you're reading or watching. (As a small note, if you're not an expert on Arthurian legend and are wondering why you don't hear about this character all that often, these days she is often combined or interchangeable with either The Lady of the Lake, Morgan le Fay, or Morgan's sister Morgause, the mother of Mordred.)

Now, all you need to qualify for this trope is the pair of magic-users with the age and (sometimes) sex difference, and the other elements of their relationship or betraying each other need not be there at all. However, whether consciously or not, most writers tend to end up using at least some and often all of the elements present in the Trope Maker. This leads to the being a lot of different variations on this theme, and a lot of possible ways to play and present them.

Note that this trope often involves betrayal, Face Heel Turns and death, so there may be spoilers unmarked.


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    Arthurian Stories 

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Caliber, a comic that sets the Arthurian Legend in the Old West, has a shaman and Merlin figure advising the good guys and trying to get the magic gun to The Chosen One, and his ex-pupil and ex-lover Morgan, who advises the villains and appears to have her own agenda.
  • Hellboy: It's eventually revealed that the Queen of Blood, the genocidal new leader of The Fair Folk, is Nimue herself. As it turns out, it was the whisperings of the Ogdru Jahad that caused her to originally betray Merlin and turn to evil.

Film — Live-Action

  • Excalibur plays this dead straight between Merlin and Morgana with all the traditional touches. In Boorman's version, Merlin eventually escapes confinement (though whether he regains physical form is unclear) and tricks Morgana, through her dreams, into uttering spells so powerful they drain her life force.


  • The Crystal Cave: Subverted. Merlin and Niniane truly love each other; she had innocently mistaken him as dead when she buried him in the cave. When he comes back, she has moved on to a younger lover and Merlin recognizes she is no longer the girl he loved anyway. The romantic relationship ends amicably on both sides.
  • Gwendalavir Universe: Portrayed as a Tear Jerker. Merwyn 'Ril Avalon, the in-universe inspiration for the fictional Merlin, fell in love with an Artificial Human Vivyan (Vivian) created by the Ts'liches as a Honey Trap. He was able to free her from their control and offer her freedom for a while, but as a creation from Imagination she ended up fading away once the Ts'liches power waned. Merwyn then locked himself under the Icy Frontiers Drawing the island of Avalon in hopes that he would eventually be able to surpass the limitations of Imagination and return Vivyan to Gwendalavir.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin switches it around: in the second book, Nimue is a bit older than thirteen-year-old Merlin and teaches him some magic stuff, but mostly she's just flirting to distract him while she steals his Magic Staff. In the fourth book, a Time Traveling adult Nimue is the Big Bad; she still looks young, despite coming from a time when Merlin looks old, but there doesn't seem to have been any more mentorship or romance between them.
  • The Mists of Avalon: Nimue is a sympathetic character, a young priestess sent by Avalon to win Merlin's heart and lure him back for their revenge. The magic she uses to help make Merlin fall in love with her works in such a way that she too falls for him, but she is bound by duty to seduce and lure him to his death. She kills herself afterward.
  • Le Morte d'Arthur, the most well-known version, portrayed Nimue as being justified in sealing Merlin away, as Merlin used his status as her teacher to come onto her against her will. Also, Nimue agrees to deliver his final message to Arthur, and essentially takes his place as the Court Mage and magical Big Good.
  • The Once and Future King: Merlin states that he knows it'll happen and does look forward to having a nice period of time resting up. His only regrets are that he forgets to tell Arthur who his mother is, and he wants to warn the Round Table of who actually poisoned some apples and killed an Irish knight named Sir Patrick. The latter regret is fixed when he asks Nimue to show up and clear up the mess. While she does it willingly, she unfortunately shows up a day late, and only narrowly saves Guinevere from being tried for attempted poisoning of Sir Gawain.
  • The Warlord Chronicles features Merlin teaching both Morgan and Nimue, and both having relationships with him. Morgan's relationship with Merlin ended before the books start, and she symbolically betrays him by converting to Christianity and preaching against him. Nimue stays loyal to Merlin through the first two books (although there are some occasional hints and foreshadowing of great trouble between them), despite him putting her through some pretty horrific trials and abandoning her for awhile. Merlin goes into being a Well-Intentioned Extremist in the third book, but eventually backs away from crossing any Moral Event Horizons. On the other hand Nimue proves to be a Knight Templar and goes Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, eventually coming to hate Merlin for his "weakness" of not following through with their plan, and then killing him as a Human Sacrifice.


  • Heather Dale's song "Hawthorn Tree" is about Merlin and Nimue, (here called "Vivienne," either an alternate name for Nimue or a different Lady of the Lake, depending on the telling). Her motives and the legitimacy of their romance is kept mostly ambiguous.



  • Garth Nix wrote a short story in his collection Across The Wall: Merlin drags his feet about teaching Nimue, and tries to warn her that for a mage to gain power, they must give up their heart's desire. Nimue scoffs at the paradox, since her fondest desire is the power itself. She gets that wish, alright... but the cost is Merlin himself, because once they fell in love, they were each other's hearts' desire.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Elias and Chise, the titular characters of The Ancient Magus' Bride, have this relationship. Title aside, Chise is much more of a student than a romantic interest to Elias, despite his stated intention to make her his bride.
  • In the American dub of the first movie to Cardcaptor Sakura, it is revealed that Clow Reed had a student known only as "Sorceress", who was also his girlfriend. They had a good relationship, until she decided she wanted more power and began practicing dark magic. He couldn't allow her to continue to do this, so he called her out on this and told her that she was no longer his student (and no longer his girlfriend), despite her protests and promises that they could rule the world together. She continued to practice her dark magic, so he sealed her up in an alternate dimension he created and left her there. (It is not known when or even if he ever intended to let her out.) She died in there, still waiting to be set free, and causes problems for Sakura and her friends.
    • The original plotline is aversion of this trope. The sorceress was a Fortune Teller who felt like Clow stole her business in Hong Kong, but fell in love with him anyways and never got a chance to tell him before he vanished. This was bowdlerized because the American execs thought kids wouldn't understand an economic rivals plot and instead opted for a 'good vs evil' thing.
  • In Fairy Tail, the first guild master and founder of the eponymous guild, Mavis Vermillion, learned magic from Zeref, a Really 700 Years Old dark wizard who would eventually become the Big Bad. Mavis was his Only Friend, and the only person who had ever brought him happiness — after she was cursed like him, their relationship deepened, and (for an all-too-brief moment) they became lovers. When Mavis "died", Zeref lost it, spiraling even further into darkness and despair and eventually resolved himself to wipe out humanity. Mavis, who still loved him but nonetheless recognized the threat he posed, declared him to be an enemy Fairy Tail would exterminate.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey's End has two platonic, same-sex examples of this with a side helping of Mayfly–December Friendship. The title character and her human magic master, Flamme, was this a thousand years before the story's present day in a bit of an inversion, given that we don't know her age and that she remained the same way after her master died. Then, we have Frieren and her own disciple, the human Fern.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, both Joseph Joestar and Caesar Zeppelin are trained in Hamon by the mysterious Hamon Master Lisa Lisa. While Caesar sees Lisa Lisa as a Parental Substitute, it's clear that Joseph finds her attractive, namely when he peeks on her taking a bath as revenge for the Training from Hell. It's later revealed that Lisa Lisa is actually Elizabeth Joestar, Joseph's Missing Mom. She tells him after the defeat of the Pillar Men.
  • In Lord El-Melloi II Case Files, the relationship between El-Melloi II and his apprentice Grey is a platonic version of this (apart from a brief moment where she admires him as he sleeps).
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • An inverted case with ten-year-old Negi, who teaches his middle school students magic, Yue in particular. The love is one-sided though and Negi doesn't feel that way towards Yue.
    • There is also some tension between Negi and his thousand-year-old teacher, Evangeline, but Negi is too young and Eva loves Negi's father.
  • Negima!'s sequel, UQ Holder! features Eva and Negi again in a timeline different from Negima!, though this time they really were in a relationship. At that point, Eva stopped being Negi's teacher, but he still respectfully called her "Master".
  • In Clamp's ×××HOLiC we have a witch / male apprentice version of this: Yuko and Watanuki, with the witch Yuko very much being a mother figure towards orphan Watanuki. Later there's also a bonus of some indication that there may be feelings on Watanuki's end that go further than that of a child towards a parent.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl, both in card form and as their Ancient Egyptian counterparts. They both rather young and of a Vague Age, though the Magician is older. The Dark Magician Girl notably gets Quad Damage for each Dark Magician or Magician of Black Chaos in either player's graveyard, though nothing in the franchise suggests this is due to malice. Indeed, in Yugi's duel with Pandora (Arkana), the power boost Yugi's Dark Magician Girl got from Pandora's Dark Magician doubled as the latter card's revenge against its own wicked owner rather than any specific necromancy on her part.
    • The Dark Magician pair are explained in the "Dawn of the Duel" arc to be the reincarnations of Mahad and Mana, respectively, close friends and allies of Pharaoh Atemu. Mana was indeed Mahad's apprentice, but the loyalty they had towards each other was genuine.
    • Possibly the case with Gagaga Magician and Gagaga Girl, also Expies of the Dark Magician and DMG, two Spellcasters used by Yuma in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. While Gagaga Girl is less powerful and a lower Level and the two cards do form a powerful combo (if both are used for an Xyz Summon, her effect can reduce an opposing monster's Attack Score to zero) there's no direct evidence as yet that she's his apprentice. There was a subtle hint in the manga that she's his girlfriend.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Strange has a lover/disciple named Clea, who appears physically younger than him and is naive about life on Earth (she's Really 700 Years Old). In mainline continuity they genuinely love each other (in fact, they're actually married, by Dark Dimension law), but in Earth X she decided he was just using her for sex and killed him.
    "What Stephen knew was nothing compared to what there was to know."
    • Strange actually returns to the land of the living in a later chapter, only to have the spirit of Merlin himself conscript Strange as the mentor to Elisabeth Braddock, the former X-Man Psylocke. Merlin lampshades the trope by telling Stephen "No playing doctor with this one, Strange."
    • In fact a lot of apprentices Strange takes on are younger women with occasional romantic undertones. It's shown as a sign of character development when his latest ones remain platonic. also deconstructed in the master/student dynamic being caused by his lingering prideful need to be the most knowledgeable person in the room.
  • According to a Vertigo Comics miniseries, the DC Comics character Madame Xanadu turns out to be Nimue, who did indeed trap Merlin but only because she was led to believe it was the only way to save Camelot. In turn she lost most of her magic and became an immortal fortune teller; she blames The Phantom Stranger for this. Note that being a Vertigo series, this may not be canonical within the main DC Universe.
    • Another Vertigo miniseries, The Books of Magic, provides the page quote. Our hero meets a young Merlin who already knows his own life story, including the mistakes he'll make regarding Nimue, but is powerless to change any of it.
  • Amora the Enchantress, a recurring enemy of The Mighty Thor, learned a lot of what she knows by seducing tutors.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald proves that you do not always need the sex difference. In the book adaptation Dumbledore and Grindelwald fit this pattern: Dumbledore being the (slightly) older, more well versed in magic, and lovestruck partner and Grindelwald being the more ambitious partner who does the betrayal.
  • Kill Bill has a variant with Supernatural Martial Arts:
    • The title character is a Silver Fox with several younger female followers—including the Bride, who's out for revenge after he tried to kill her for faking her death and leaving his order of assassins.
    • Pai Mei, Bill's thousand-year-old kung fu teacher, is a significantly crueler Merlin with a couple of platonic Nimues. Despite his general unpleasantness and his disdain for white people, Americans, women, and blondes, the Bride actually ends up earning his respect to the point where he teaches her the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, which he never even taught Bill! His relationship with Elle Driver (another white American woman with blond hair, like the Bride) doesn't end quite so well: he gouges out her eye after she insults him, and she gets her revenge by poisoning his fish heads.
  • The Last Jedi Rey and Luke Skywalker fit the bill in at least the age and gender difference. No romance, but they do have a turbulent relationship, considering that Luke is a Cynical Mentor who believes the galaxy is better off without the Jedi, and only agrees to train Rey in an effort to convince her that the Jedi need to end, while Rey is The Idealist who believes that she can end the war simply by recruiting Luke to fight. Rey betrays Luke by taking his Jedi texts and chasing down a chance to redeem Kylo Ren instead, but when it doesn't work out, they reconcile, and by The Rise of Skywalker they've clearly learned a lot from each other.

  • The plot of Literature/Ancilla involves a Nimue throwing herself at a Merlin and getting him. She doesn't betray him, but she does learn everything he thinks possible to teach her, about magic and otherwise.
  • In Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear, "Merlin" is not an individual, but a title for a quasi-messianic avatar of magic that is born every few centuries to advise an equally quasi-messianic "Dragon Prince", and the Nimue gambit is the method by which The Fair Folk attempt to gain control of this individual and ensure that the momentous events set in motion by the Merlin's coming are resolved to their benefit.
  • The Chronicles of Amber: the protagonist, named Merlin, is attacked and imprisoned in an anti-magical crystal cave. Turns out, the culprit is Julia, his ex-girlfriend, whom he refused to teach magic earlier.
  • Achren and Arawn were apparently this prior to The Chronicles of Prydain, according to what Gwydion tells Taran. Achren was the evil sorceress and queen ruling all of Prydain, and Arawn was her pupil and consort. Once he learned enough magic from her, he turned on her and became the ruler of Annuvin, the land of the dead. She gets her revenge near the end of the series, having performed a Heel–Face Turn and joined the good guys.
  • Fidelias and Amara in the Codex Alera series, also by Jim Butcher. It's not a perfect example because all humans in this setting have magical powers so their Student–Master Team is nothing unusual. Other than that, though, it fits perfectly, with their relationship being integral parts of their characters throughout the series even though Fidelias' betrayal happens in the first couple chapters of the book.
  • Deryni Alaric Morgan and his wife Richenda. In a twist, while he's older (by seven years), she's better trained in arcana, so she teaches him. They're also Happily Married. A similar relationship is said to be in the future of Dowager Queen Jehana and Barrett de Laney; Jehana begins taking lessons from Barrett in King Kelson's Bride, and according to the Codex by the year 1130 they marry and have a daughter.
    • A more standard example would be Dalamar and Jenna.
  • Harry Dresden and his apprentice Molly Carpenter in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Harry is older, in his thirties (although Wizards Live Longer so he is just coming into his own power and not generally thought of as venerable by any means) when he takes on an apprentice who's still a teen. He makes it very clear from the start that there is not going to be any romantic connection between the two, with a bucket of icy water. This is for a number of reasons. Two big ones: he's too good to abuse the power relationship like that, and he has been a friend of her father since she was a child so it would be Squicky, but there are many hints that she has feelings for him nonetheless. He's intellectually aware that she's gorgeous, and academically appreciative, but not remotely interested (as he puts it, he can admire the scenery without wanting to go camping there). We know there are lots of magic lessons going on behind the scenes and in Noodle Incidents, but on stage we see more life lessons being learned than actual magic.
    • In Cold Days, when Molly is in her mid-twenties and only his apprentice in the sense that she hasn't technically graduated, it's pointed out to him that the power relationship is very different, the relative age-gap is smaller and shrinking, and she's not a kid anymore - physically or mentally. Plus, Wizards Live Longer. While he's holding a torch for Murphy and has problems with being the Winter Knight, he finally tacitly admits that it's a possibility - if not a very likely one. The end of that book seems to end it beyond all doubt, with Molly becoming the Winter Lady, which means she Can't Have Sex, Ever, due to the nature of the mantle.
    • This also comes up in regards to Wardens Luccio and Morgan, whose relationship was very similar, one-sided UST and all. Also of note is Ebenezer McCoy and Margaret Dresden, Harry's mother. Though they did not have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship, as it's eventually revealed that she was his daughter.
    • Luccio, in particular, implies this is the case for almost all apprentices (presumably she means the ones who both fit the opposite sex requirement and are not related to their teacher), and muses aloud, "do any of them ever grow out of it?" Luccio falls under being bisexual, so it's very likely even some of her female students gained crushes on her.
    • It's also indicated in passing by Harry that apparently this kind of relationship is not uncommon or one-sided (though not necessarily lasting), and that a lot of teaching includes the teaching of intimacy alongside magic, given how deeply both are tied up with life (Dresdenverse magic relates a lot to personal philosophy - if you believe it and you have magic, it's as good as real). Given that this is a setting where a lot of monsters use sex appeal as a direct or indirect weapon to gain power over people or outright kill them, there is a certain degree of logic to it.
    • In Peace Talks, it's implied that Queen Mab, back when she was a mortal, was the Nimue. No details are revealed, but Corb definitely strikes a nerve when he starts mocking Mab over her relationship with Merlin.
  • In The Exiles Gorynel Desse and Cailet, although he doesn't act on his feelings.
  • Elminster and his former apprentice "The Shadowsil" in Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms novel Spellfire. In the backstory she left him to take up a life of evil.
  • I Am Mordred: Nyneve (Nimue's original name) trapped Merlin in the form of a hawk to get rid of him. Unlike most examples though, Merlin is portrayed as cruel and richly deserving it. He wanted to force Nyneve into having a relationship with him, and so doing this felt like her only way to escape.
  • Daine and Numair from The Immortals books by Tamora Pierce have the magic, age difference, and sexual tension, but not the betrayal. They even end up Happily Married in later books.
  • In Iron Druid Chronicles, 2000-year-old Atticus takes twenty-something Granuaile as his apprentice. They have a slow-burn relationship during the apprenticeship, which Atticus only allows himself to act on once Granuaile becomes a full Druid. They remain a couple until Granuaile discovers what Atticus allowed to happen to Freyja.
  • Journey to Chaos: Eric Watley, who is a mage apprentice himself, unofficially takes on a younger girl, Zettai, as his own apprentice. She has a Precocious Crush on him. He once had a daydream where he was an old man and Zettai was an adult and then he dismissed it for being squicky.
  • In The Merlin Trilogy, Mary Stewart writes the traditional Merlin/Nimue relationship as a genuine romance that comes to a natural and amicable end after Merlin's faux death.
  • In the first two books of the Nightrunner series we have Nysander, who is a kindly elderly wizard (mentor to the main characters and close advisor to the Queen), and Ylinestra, who is a young-ish female mage come from foreign lands to study with him. They aren't exactly a team (Nysander also has an official male apprentice, who has far more scenes with him and supports him in major rituals) and they're not in love, but they are having sex. In fact, their relationship is introduced as basically the wizard version of a Sugar Daddy arrangement - Nysander knows perfectly well that this beautiful young woman only has sex with him in return for his magic teachings, as apparently several other young women have before her. He's okay with that, and isn't even upset when he finds out that she's having an affair with his apprentice on the side, as well as having a hobby of "seducing" virginal teenage boys. And then she betrays them both and it turns out that she really was a Femme Fatale Spy for an enemy country.
  • Merlin is a character in the Nightside series. The legend is presented as truth here, with Nimue betraying Merlin and stealing his heart, causing him to be trapped beneath the world's oldest bar. Then protagonist John Taylor goes back in time to when Merlin and Nimue were still together. Taylor needs strong magic to get even further back in time, so he winds up being the one who actually steals the heart. He accidentally kills Nimue in the process, too, which explains why no one in the present can manage to find out where she hid the heart. It's in a Roman garbage dump.
  • The Redemption of Althalus featured this relationship between the female god usually called Em and her pupil, former thief turned immortal mage Althalus. The two become lovers and there is no betrayal.
    • Later there's a quasi-example when a witch is added to the team and regards Althalus as her teacher and something of a father figure but still flirts with him quite often, much to Althalus' chagrin.
    • Also from David Eddings, Belgarath and Polgara might be a UST-less father-daughter example. And Sparhawk and his goddess? That just gets weird, man.
      • Although Aphrael is not his goddess, but whom the Pandions turn to when they need to perform magic. And she had a few legitimate reasons for her actions. Even managed to work it into the plot.
  • Both the Sith and the Jedi have some examples of this from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Of course, a Sith apprentice, male or female, is supposed to do this, as per the order's tradition.
  • In The Sword of Truth series of books, Richard Rahl has this relationship with Sister Verna, as well as the other Sisters of Light. In the later books, the trope is even more prevalent in his relationship with Nicci, who has become something of his right hand, mentor, and unlike Verna, definitely has feelings for him.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Moiraine has this relationship early in the series with Rand, although with a distinct lack of romantic overtones. In the later books, Cadsuane takes up the older mentor role in Moiraine's place. This gets awkward when Rand integrates the memories from his last incarnation, Lews Therin (whose voice in his head, though not memories, had been a symptom of his insanity), as he points out to Cadsuane he was four hundred years old when he died in the Age of Legends, and hardly a 'boy' any longer.
    • The original story itself gets used, in a very WEIRD way. Instead of Nimue imprisoning Merlin in a cave, we have Merlin (Thom Merillin) rescuing Morgana (Moiraine) from a cave, and Nimue (using the older name Nynaeve) doesn't even take part. All this is a couple thousand years after the time of King Arthur (Artur Hawkwing).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens in Babylon 5 between the extremely powerful human telepath Lyta Alexander and the two successive Vorlon ambassadors (Sufficiently Advanced Aliens) that she serves, Kosh and Ulkesh. She and Kosh have a generally positive relationship until Kosh's death, but Ulkesh treats her outright abusively, to the point that she participates in a successful plot to assassinate him, which is thoroughly approved of by the story. And there was strong innuendo that both relationships had a pseudo-sexual element, given that Lyta carried the Vorlons around inside of her mind and body at times.
  • In Doctor Who, most of the Doctor's companions have been both female and much, much younger than he is, and usually pick up something of the arts of asskicking and space adventuring on their journey. Even his only two Time Lord companions, Romana and his granddaughter Susan, were both a good deal younger than him. While his immense experience obviously features into his exploits and interactions with his numerous co-adventurers, he only explicitly acts as a mentor toward those who are outright teenagers or from very low-tech societies and they were just as likely to be friends, co-workers, surrogate family members and/or partners-in-crime as lovers (with the latter category seldom going past Unresolved Sexual Tension back in the classics, but getting overt enough from the TV movie onwards into the new series). However, the only betrayals (Adam Mitchell, Kamelion) or serious near-betrayals (Turlough) the Doctor has had have been from male companions (well, Kamelion's a sexless robot...)
    • Probably the most salient example is Ace. She traveled with the Seventh Doctor, who found out he apparently becomes Merlin in the future or something in the serial Battlefield. Plus, more than with most companions, he has a rather mentor-like relationship with her and goes out of his way to educate her or build her character, perhaps to make up for some of the more manipulative actions his plans involved. And in the Expanded Universe, she finds out he planned to send her to study at the Time Lord academy (sort of like the scifi equivalent of a magic-user-apprenticeship thing), and she ends up traveling through time keeping an eye on things like he does.
    • Another fitting example — this time with the romantic component and both characters being somewhat wary of each other — would be Clara Oswald, who from the very beginning proves herself to be exceptionally cunning and capable and quickly becomes more confident and firm in her role as a space adventurer — to the point that he eventually comes to rely on her enough to leave her to deal with some difficult situations by herself (she even acts as the Doctor's replacement in one story, and is trusted to work on his behalf with the paramilitary organization UNIT at least twice). A variation in her case is that she wanted to go travelling on her own even before meeting the Doctor, and as confirmed per Word of God, doesn't see herself as the junior partner in their team in any way, giving it hints of a Birds of a Feather dynamic — although she did definitely pick up the art of improvisation from him to the point of adopting some of his phrases ("It's not a plan, it's a thing!"), and even gets to take his sonic screwdriver for a spin now and then. She can almost effortlessly impersonate him and carry off his usual routine. The title of the Series 9 opener ("The Magician's Apprentice") might even be an explicit reference to the archetype, though it also refers to the Doctor's relationship with Davros — long story. Both are quite aware that this isn't necessarily an unambiguously good thing as she picks up his harsher pragmatism and becomes a Consummate Liar. There is even a "betrayal" scene in "Dark Water", the penultimate episode of Series 8, in which she attempts to trap him somewhere (having taken the sudden death of a man she wronged very badly), leading to this now-famous line from the Doctor: "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?" This culminates in the events of "Face the Raven", in which her reckless attempts at heroism get her Killed Off For Real. Her Heroic Sacrifice is one worthy of the Doctor...but unlike him, she can't regenerate which results in the Doctor nearly becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, using all the "magic" at his disposal in a desperate attempt to get her back.
  • If you take Connor MacLeod's remark in the films that Immortals are "a kind of magic" at face value, this comes up in an episode of the Highlander TV series. A female Immortal (portrayed by Joan Jett) takes the approach of preying on older and more experienced male Immortals, seducing them under the guise of being new to the Game so they will teach her their skills, which she then uses against them to take their heads. It works pretty well for her until she tries to pull this on Duncan, who wisely holds back one of his techniques and uses it to defeat her (fortunately for her, Duncan is a bit more merciful and lets her keep her head).
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • This comes up with Regina's mother, Cora, and Rumplestiltskin, once it's revealed that Cora is the Miller's Daughter in Season Two. Rumple had taught her to spin straw into gold, they fell in love, but when Cora is faced with the choice of love or power, she inevitably leaves Rumple for the latter, marrying Regina's father Prince Henry, whom she does not love. Later on, for the same reasons, she resolves to murder Rumplestiltskin and take his place as the Dark One, though she assures him that she really had loved him.
    • It comes up yet again in Once Upon a Time, with the actual Merlin and Nimue. Nimue was the first Dark One, and the dagger was once part of Excalibur. Subverted, because Merlin didn't actually teach her, but he did give her the opportunity to turn on him.
    • Rumple also had this with Zelena. She arrived in the Enchanted Forest with raw power but no knowledge. He taught her how to control her powers, but she fell in love with him. As this was against his plansnote , he dismissed her. She got her own back by becoming the Wicked Witch of the West and eventually getting his son, his entire reason for casting the curse, killed.
    • Jafar and Amara are revealed to have this relationship in the spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (with Amara as the Merlin and Jafar as the Nimue), when it's shown in a flashback that Jafar turned her into his snake staff.
    • Regina at one point mentions there was always a sexual subtext in her relationship with Rumple, suggesting this was a thing for him in general, but nothing ever came of it. Bonus gross points since Cora was her mother, and Zelena is her half sister. Everyone she tells is visibly disgusted by this.

  • The song The Spell by Grave Digger on their album Excalibur is about the Trope Namer.
  • The song Hawthorn Tree by Heather Dale tells the story of Merlin and Vivianne.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions supplement Champions Presents #2, adventure "Murder in Stronghold". In the backstory, the supervillain Master Magus had a female apprentice (and lover) named Amaryllis who was a member of his villain team.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons supplement "Book of Vile Darkness" included a prestige class named Thrall of Graz'zt that was described as being sort of a Loremaster who acquires secrets by seduction rather than by study. That's right, there's a whole class oriented around being Nimue. And yes, it has class abilities that can be described as basically "backstabbing, only with magic".
    • Graz'zt himself was a victim of this, even though he was also technically a prisoner of his lover. The short version: The archmage Iggwilv summoned him and bound him using sealing magic; eventually, they became lovers (Iggwilv bearing his child, Iuz, who would grow up to become a notorious tyrant taught her forbidden arts, and acted as her advisor as she forged her empire. She never released him from his bonds, however, and eventually, it sank in that she was never going to. What made this even more humiliating - for Graz'zt - is that when they finally did come to blows, she came closer to killing him than anyone had (or has since). The fight was a knock-out draw, with his material form destroyed (leaving him unable to leave his home plane for a century) and her left half dead and powerless. Her empire crumbled, and little was seen of her for decades.
    • In the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons A powerful sorceress, named Nera, was taken as consort of the evil God of the dead; it trained her in the use of the power of the souls of the dead in order to allow it to rule the Gods. During an uprising, she overthrows his rule and takes over Shadowfell, and in turn the mantle of the ruler of the dead.
  • Subverted/averted in the Rifts version of Camelot (in the Rifts England sourcebook), where any true mentorship or betrayal of either party by the other is impossible as they're both essence fragments of the same Energy Being Eldritch Abomination who's The Man Behind the Man chessmastering the whole Arthurian gig; "the Lady of the Lake" is in fact a contigency it could use to act out the trope in case "Merlin" was outed as evil to keep control of the realm; another one is Guinevere (who's also an essence fragment)...

    Video Games 
  • Warlic and Nythera from the Artix Entertainment games. Romance is not involved here, but Nythera, the Nimue in this relationship, is constantly scheming to get rid of Warlic and get her hands on his power (something she actually did in DragonFable, but which would come back to bite her and force her to resurrect him).
  • In the backstory to Banjo-Kazooie, the Wicked Witch Gruntilda is said to have been an apprentice to the lovable shaman Mumbo Jumbo, but she got into dark magic, ultimately betraying him and cursing him with a Skull for a Head.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: This was Bethany Covenant's modus operandi, learning everything she can from other magic users before betraying or abandoning them. She finally met her end when her final teacher offed her first.
  • Isendra, implied to be the Sorceress from Diablo II, had this sort of relationship with her apprentice who would eventually become the Wizard of Diablo III.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, a mage Warden can be this with Wynne, dependent upon how you play them. Romance is not an option, though betrayal and murder are if you make the wrong choice. A male mage Warden can also be this with Morrigan, as although the exact ages are unclear, there's nothing stopping you from making your Warden look like Gandalf or Dumbledore.
    • It's possible for a mage Inquisitor to have this relationship with Solas in Dragon Age: Inquisition, depending on what age you make the Inquisitor. Especially evident with an elven mage Inquisitor who pursues his romance. And, as the person who gave the Big Bad the Artifact of Doom, kickstarted the events of the game (albeit unintentionally), and lied about it the whole time, he could also qualify for the betrayal element of this trope as well.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Cosmos in the Lostbelt plays with expectations on this trope by initially presenting Altria Caster, an Alternate Timeline counterpart to Saber from Fate/stay night, as a country bumpkin mage girl who claims to know magecraft after being taught by Merlin in her childhood via magic communication. This plays into expectations that she is the same character as Saber where she became the Nimue to Merlin, but she's actually a faerie sent from Avalon to forge the Holy Sword Excalibur. Her teacher, "Merlin", isn't actually the real Merlin, it's the Alternate Timeline Oberon who taught her how to use magic when he caught wind of her wish to make fire to keep herself warm after being given the cold shoulder by all other faeries during her childhood. He taught her for a year, going out of his way to teach himself magecraft and new techniques every few days just to to fulfill her increasingly specific wishes. She set out on her journey part of a desire to see if she can meet Merlin in person. Altria eventually does when she meets Oberon, but doesn't realize it until much later. They do fall out and become enemies at the very end, but it's unrelated to their teacher-student relationship as Oberon is actually an Omnicidial Maniac who longs to see all of human history brought down with the planet. Lastly, the age gap is much smaller than most examples as Altria is 16 and Oberon is only 18.
  • Somewhat surprisingly averted in Quest for Glory II, where the player character, (a young hero who can be a magic user if you choose that class) and the experienced enchantress Aziza do not form this relationship. Although Aziza will gladly give you lots of advice and bring up a subquest or two, she will not sponsor your entrance into the Wizard's Academy (she takes that sort of thing very seriously and hasn't known you long enough or well enough yet) and she doesn't tutor you in magic or help your growth in it otherwise.
    • Quest for Glory IV, on the other hand, has an evil version in the relationship between Ad Avis and Katrina. She defeated him many years ago when he challenged her in magic, made him her apprentice, and bit him so that he would rise again as a vampire under her control upon his death (i.e. when you defeated him at the end of the second game). This upset Politically Incorrect Villain Ad Avis, so he soon began scheming her downfall, first by trying to use The Hero to kill her, and later by exploiting her feelings for The Hero so that she wound up Taking the Bullet for him. Oh, and if you're a wizard Katrina will teach you a spell or two in 4 and again if you save her from Hades in 5.
      • Erana also teaches you a spell if you save her in 5 instead. In the rest of the games, she simply leaves scrolls behind for clever wizards to find.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation: Dark Prison: Yong has a "master" whose instructions or advice she usually references when in self thought; or whose existence she uses as an encouragement. She usually praises his keen farsight. Said master is Mekibos.
  • This is the stated relationship between Big Bads Mondain and Minax in the first two Ultima games, although without betrayal; Minax is so distraught over her mentor and lover's death that she screws up all time and space.
  • Antonidas and Jaina from Warcraft. He was the archmage of Dalaran and she was a student of his. There was no sexual chemistry here, (though the internet may disagree) and no betrayal among themselves.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: Melinda's and Melissa's relationship was like this. Melissa was Melinda's apprentice because she wanted knowledge of The Dark Arts, but since Melinda was still a Sealed Evil in a Can in her dimension, Melissa eventually left her. She continued to carry out Melinda's evil bidding, until Alice and Dylan helped her through a Heel–Face Turn.


     Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: In Campaign 2, Caleb and Essek end up with this sort of character dynamic, though it is subverted in several ways. First off, they're both male - however, they're still attracted to each other and Word of God says they'll end up as a romantic couple after the end of the campaign storyline, at least for a while, followed by a close friendship in Caleb's old age. They aren't exactly a team during the campaign storyline, but that's because Essek is an NPCnote  and as such can only rarely accompany the player characters on their adventures - and it's heavily implied that these two will work much closer together after the end of the campaign. Despite the mutual attraction, it's not the student who seduces the mentor - which wouldn't have worked anyway, because Essek is demisexual - instead, it's more a case of the mentor tempting the student with arcane knowledge in a quasi-seductive fashion, in order to be able to keep an eye on the student. When these two first meet, Essek is the far more experienced wizard and he teaches Caleb a special type of magic that only Essek's people know how to do, and he actually is the older at 140+ years of age - but he's an Elf, so he still looks so much like a twink that the players nicknamed him "hot boi".note  In contrast, Caleb is a human in his mid-30s who looks middle-aged due to dealing with harsh living conditions for the last few years, and while he technically only has about 25 years worth of life experience, he always was a serious and reponsible boy and then had to grow up very quickly as a young adult, so he actually does come across like a middle-aged (and clinically depressed) man.note  Eventually, their mentor/student power dynamic flips around - not in the magic teaching sense, but in a moral and therapeutic sense: Because here, Essek is the one who turns out to be a traitor - not directly betraying Caleb and the other player characters, but betraying his own country and government (with whom the players had sort of allied themselves as the better option) by working with the enemy spy organization who had harmed Caleb. And Essek did it purely to satisfy his scientific/magic-related curiosity. The two countries went to war, largely as the result of Essek's treason, and thousands of people died. As someone who had let himself be convinced to do similar harm to innocent people when he was young, if on a far more personal scale, Caleb is the one who talks Essek into stepping back from the abyss of his path towards evil, and then later advises him on how to live with the guilt and self-loathing.
    Caleb: These people changed me. These people can change you. You were not born with venom in your veins. You learnt it. You learnt it. You have a rare opportunity here. One chance to save yourself. And we are offering it. And I am pleading with you to find your better self. He is still there.
    Essek: There is no path to redemption for me. I am a dead man.
    Caleb: [leans in to give him a kiss on the forehead] Maybe you and I are both damned. But we can choose to do something and leave it better than it was before.

    Western Animation 
  • The Archmage and Demona from Gargoyles, during the flashbacks to when she was his pupil. Thankfully the sexual chemistry was not present, because that would have been pretty squicky. Also, although she didn't actually betray him when it came to acquiring the Phoenix Gate, the Archmage believed that she did and acted accordingly, with Demona only being saved from possible death by Hudson's interference. One more reason Demona feels that Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • Ben 10 features Charmcaster and Hex. Charmcaster is the teenage apprentice of Hex, her uncle and the self-proclaimed Master Magician. In fact, she was only supporting him to snag the magical charms he was searching for. Eventually, Charmcaster breaks out as a villain in her own right, while Hex retires from sorcery and becomes a meek well wisher of hers.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Tala was instructed in the ways of magic by sorcerer Felix Faust.
  • Inverted in the second sequel to The Swan Princess. Rothbart was already an established sorcerer, but Zelda became his apprentice and helped him learn the most of the Forbidden Arts. However at his full power, he dismissed her and went to become the villain of the first film.