Title: The Once and Future King Author: White, T. H. [Terence Hanbury] ( ) Date of first publication [novel]: April Edition used as. PDF | 75 minutes read | On Jan 1, , Evans Lansing Smith and others Anthony Burgess includes The Once and Future King in his 99 Novels: The Best in. Whites masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as Excalibur and Camelot, and a poignant story of adventure, romance .
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Editorial Reviews. From School Library Journal. Gr 9 Up—The version of the Arthurian legend that inspired the Broadway musical Camelot and the Disney. The Once and Future King is a novel by T. H. White about the legend of King Arthur. It is often assigned reading in English literature classes and is composed of. T H. White's The Once and Future King is an experiment in artistic structiite, in which the book grows up with the characters. As characters age, genres change .
The first part, "The Sword in the Stone", chronicles Arthur's upbringing by his foster father Sir Ector , his rivalry and friendship with his foster brother Kay , and his initial training by Merlyn, a wizard who lives through time backwards. Merlyn, knowing the boy's destiny, teaches Arthur known as "Wart" what it means to be a good king by turning him into various kinds of animals: fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger. Each of the transformations is meant to teach Wart a lesson, which will prepare him for his future life.
Merlyn instills in Arthur the concept that the only justifiable reason for war is to prevent another from going to war and that contemporary human governments and powerful people exemplify the worst aspects of the rule of Might.
Neither the ant nor goose episodes were in the original Sword in the Stone when it was published as a stand-alone book. The original novel also contains a battle between Merlyn and sorceress Madam Mim that was not included in The Once and Future King but was included in the Disney film.
In part two, "The Queen of Air and Darkness", White sets the stage for Arthur's demise by introducing the Orkney clan and detailing Arthur's seduction by their mother, his half-sister Queen Morgause. While the young king suppresses initial rebellions, Merlyn leads him to envision a means of harnessing potentially destructive Might for the cause of Right: the chivalric order of the Round Table.
The third part, "The Ill-Made Knight", shifts focus from King Arthur to the story of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere's forbidden love, the means they go through to hide their affair from the King although he already knows of it from Merlyn , and its effect on Elaine , Lancelot's sometime lover and the mother of his son Galahad.
The book begins as a quite light-hearted account of the young Arthur's adventures, and King Pellinore 's interminable search for the Questing Beast. Parts of "The Sword in the Stone" read almost as a parody of the traditional Arthurian legend by virtue of White's prose style, which relies heavily on anachronisms.
However, the tale gradually changes tone until "Ill-Made Knight" becomes more meditative and "The Candle in the Wind" finds Arthur brooding over death and his legacy. Themes and style[ edit ] The Once and Future King contains much deliberately anachronistic humour, affectionate mockery of the source text and commentary on totalitarianism.
The work explores human nature regarding power and justice.
As the young Arthur becomes king, he attempts to quell the prevalent "might makes right" attitude with his idea of chivalry , even as he foresees the ascendancy of another form of might, namely legal prowess in the courtroom, and a form of fascism outside the courtroom.
White's title derives from the inscription that, according to Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, was written upon King Arthur's tomb: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus or "Here lies Arthur, king once, and king to be.
For example: Arthur evolves from a fallible but inquisitive and enthusiastic youth "the Wart" to an individualised and psychologically complex man. He is also intensely introspective and obsessively insecure, traits which lead to bouts of self-loathing. He seeks to overcome his flaws through full devotion towards becoming Arthur's greatest knight. Merlyn lives through time backwards, making him a bumbling yet wise old man who is getting younger. His magic is used in the book as a method to help young Arthur gain firsthand observations of various parts of the natural world.
Sir Galahad is not well liked by many of the knights as he is truly perfect — to the point of being 'inhuman'. Similarly, Sir Bors whom White explicitly labels "Sir Bors the misogynist " is depicted as so devoted to his religious dogma that he is willing to do harm unto others and the world around him rather than risk sacrificing his purity. His holy goodness is juxtaposed with Sir Lancelot's worldly goodness, with many of the characters and arguably the narration itself favouring the latter.
White allows Sir Thomas Malory, in the form of a young page named Tom, to have a cameo appearance towards the end of the final book. Due to his living backwards, Merlyn makes many anachronistic allusions to events in more recent times; of note are references to World War II, telegraphs, tanks, and "an Austrian who … plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos" i. Throughout his rule, Arthur seeks to temper force and strength 'might' with justice 'right'.
In the novel, these two words are symbolic for the warring forces Arthur unsuccessfully attempts to control. Merlyn's early lessons for young Wart are vehicles to teach Arthur about the correct parameters for ruling; they are to prepare Arthur to be a heroic and successful ruler. In the medieval England of Arthur's youth as described in "The Sword and the Stone" , characters are unable to distinguish between might and right and the only justification necessary for rule is force, as opposed to justice.
In "The Queen of Air and Darkness," once he is king, Arthur establishes the Round Table: the round table symbolizes Arthur's attempt to balance force with justice.
The table is round so that there is no hierarchy and all knights even Arthur are equal. Arthur wants situations and conflicts to be resolved equally and with reason, rather than with hierarchy and strength. Arthur wanted the table to not only be symbolic, but also a vehicle for breeding a new generation of knighthood, with the importance of justice over strength instilled in them—the best of who is to be Lancelot.
Arthur's attempt to temper might with right ultimately fails. In the last few pages of the novel, as Arthur is dying and coming to terms with the failings of his rule, he begins to understand the notion of justice as merely a child's dream, rather than something attainable.