é The Once and Future King ó Download by è T.H. White Seriously, how do you review the pinnacle of all fantasy You can argue with me, but that, in my opinion, is what The Once and Future King is Sure, the evil enchantresses are stout and grumpy, the magical castles are made out of food, the lily maids are fat and of a certain age, and the knights in shining armor refer to one another as old chap s Oh and did I mention that King Arthur s nickname is the Wart Somehow, T.
H White takes the legend, undresses it, and gives it a new kind of dignity Fantastical happenstance takes secondary place to human emotions and actions, noble, selfish, and ridiculous And the narrator himself always lurks somewhere, hastening to explain himself when it seems necessary, or simply describe the king of the fishes as rather American looking, like Uncle Sam To some the novel subdivided into four books may seem big and slow moving But it is not a book to read in a day nor should it be, since it concerns entire lives, whole worlds, both real and imaginary The characters are spared no description we know them better than we ever could have before This is fiction at its finest.
I carried a quote from this book around in my purse for decades In my original version of the book, it is on page 111 and begins, The best thing for being sad, replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, is to learn something That s the only thing that never fails You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds There is only one thing for it then to learn Learn why the world wags and what wags it That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting Learning is the only thing for you Look what a lot of things there are to learn Another quote reads You see, one gets confused with Time, when it is like that All one s tenses get muddled, for one thing If you know what is going to happen to people, and not what has happened to them, it makes it difficult to prevent it happening, if you don t want it to have happened, if you see what I mean Like drawing in a mirror T.
H White has an imagination large enough to stimulate the reader regardless how many times this book is read.
In case anyone is wondering I picked this book up for a re read because of one throwaway line inWhy Be Happy When You Could Be NormalI haven t read this since high school, but I remember loving it almost giddily as a tween Since it s a big monster of a book, I took a steak knife to it, as I often do, and cut it in half so I could carry it about and read it on the subway without breaking my back Here s the new cover I put on my DIY d vol 2, from Vice magazine I find it creepy rather fitting Anyway, I have been reading this for days and days and days and days and days exactly a month, it turns out thanks for keeping track, Goodreads , which is about four times longer than it takes me to read most books I m not at all sorry to have spent so long with it, as this book encompasses multitudes, and was just consistently enthralling the whole time I remembered it only sketchily from high school, mostly only the first book, much of which is retold in the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone Arthur as a boy being turned into a fish and a bird, scampering about learning lessons from comical genius klutz Merlin, who is always knitting his beard into his scarf All that is, of course, still there, still fun and silly and charming and delightful But, like all good epics do, what starts as a somewhat childish fantasy story grows up as its characters do, maturing in deed and thought and even language, so that by the end it is philosophy than slapstick, high art and the endless search for meaning than antics and adventures The difference between right and wrong, the search for God, love and its lapses and failures, why men fight wars, how the sins of the father are visited tenfold on the son, the impossibility of absolute justice, the very meaning of life all these are dissected, mulled over, worked around and through over these 700 pages Additionally, throughout, there are the most fascinating digressions on falconry, on the food and fashion of the day, on the political landscape of the British Isles through history, on many different sorts of weapons and their uses, on all the various accessories that make up a knight s attire, on needlepoint and castle architecture and the effects of weather patterns on different birds.
And of course, over it all runs the arching taut string of the foregone conclusion everyone knows that this story is ultimately a tragedy, that no matter how carefree young Arthur frolics as a servant turned fish, he will still pull the sword from the stone to be revealed as King of England, he will still marry the beautiful Guenever who will have a decades long affair with his best friend Lancelot, he will still be seduced by his half sister to sire the bastard who will wind up being the agent of not just Arthur s own demise, but the disintegration of the entire Round Table and all those lofty goals of chivalry and valor So even at its sweetest, this is a bitter tale, a beautiful awful devastation, an incredible encapsulation of human failure despite all the most noble of intentions It s wonderful and terrible and crushing and glorious What a spectacular world to spend a month thrashing about in.
They made me see that the world was beautiful if you were beautiful, and that you couldn t get unless you gave And you had to give without wanting to getT.
H White, The Once and Future KingI loved it and my two brats 11 13 absolutely enjoyed it, even if many of the jokes, the funky anachronistic blending of the Medieval with the Modern, might have floated a bit over their tiny wee heads.
Anyway, I think White perfectly captured the magic, power, fears and the joy of both youth and myth with this retelling of early Arthurian legend White s theme of power and justice Might Makes Right seem to perfectly capture the political Zeitgiest of now Perhaps, White like Merlin was just writing through time backwards and wanted to capture the queer contradictions of Imperial Democracy in the global 21st century, but wanted to write it in the 1930s so Disney would be around to animate it ugh in the 60s and thus make his point resonate better in the early 21st century.
You might think a novel that basically focuses on a love triangle a quadrilateral if you include God , several affairs, a man s struggle between his love for a woman, love for God, love for his best friend, would not hold the interest of a 13 and an 11 year old for long, but this is T.
H White The characters are so human, so filled with frailties, heroics, and insecurities that White could have written about cooking for 300 pages and my kids would have been rapt from page 1 to the end The story turns, about half way through, solidly to Lancelot It is impossible to understand Lancelot without looking at Arthur, Guinevere, Elaine Galahad And White digresses throughout TOFK to capture these stories The middle of the book pivots as Camelot, under Arthur s leadership, undergoes a change from physical quests Round Table v Might makes Right to spiritual ones Round Table Grail quest This change captures mirrors the dynamic of Lancelot s own story the vacillation between the physical and spiritual.
Finally, the weight of the conspiracies, the betrayals, the killings, and the expulsions are all there pushing against the King I love when T.
H White calls Arthur England and his faith in man and justice It just isn t to be Do I need to hide the ending Am I going to spoil the book for you Come now, we are all mostly adults here Camelot fails, but T.
H White explores the failure almost as beautifully as he does the magic of Camelot He captures the magic of Camelot by focusing on the humanity of the people He isn t satisfied with making or keeping rather Lancelot, King A, Guinevere, and even Mordred locked up in the stale symbols they often become The trite shadows of type is not T.
H White s jam He wants to humanize everybody He wants to show the motives, the nuances of character that makes the reader LOVE these figures not because they symbolize things like bravery, chivalry, or justice but because they remind the reader of elements, times, moods and flaws found buried within T.
H White started with a fantasy novel, but ended with an exploration of war, humanity, love, and hope.
Look, I m skeptical of fantasy novels They aren t my thing I want literature I want something that pushes you against the wall of your own head and dares you to think bigger I think T.
H White was aiming for that and holy anachronisms he nailed it.
From Geoffrey of Monmouth 1 to Thomas Malory 2 to Alfred Lord Tennyson 3 to T.
H White 4 to Lerner Lowe 5 1 Historia Regum Britanniae History of the Kings of Britain , 1130s 2 La Morte d Arthur, 14853 Idylls of the King, 1859 854 The Once and Future King, 1938 415 Camelot, 1960 Broadway The big time 1 See here for the association of the musical Camelot with the Kennedy Administration.
2 Here s an extended quote from the first page of the book, to indicate the flavor don t confuse with Harry Potter, this was written in 1938 On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology The governess was always getting muddled with her astrolabe, and when she got especially muddled she would take it out on the Wart by rapping his knuckles She did not rap Kay s knuckles, because when Kay grew older he would be Sir Kay, the master of the estate The Wart was called the Wart because it or less rhymed with Art, which was short for his real name In the afternoons the programme was Monday and Friday, tilting and horsemanship Tuesdays, hawking Wednesdays, fencing Thursdays, archery Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette.
This was one of the best books I read in my early college years.
The overly Madison Ave cover is an advertisement for and or playing off the popularity fame of the Lerner Loewe musical Camelot, whose original run on Broadway opened on December 3, 1960 and closed on January 5, 1963 873 performances The original cast included the rather duo pictured on the cover Richard Burton and Julie Andrews.
Somehow I first heard the music from this while on an NSF summer institute at Pan American College in 1961 I associate the music with both that experience, and with the Texas girl I met there that I fell in love with view spoiler Well, that didn t pan out, but I m glad My wife and I started going together the next summer after graduating from high school Next year will be our 50th anniversary hide spoiler 3.
5 Stars Way back when, I took a college class in Arthurian literature This book was not included in the course which had us read just about everything else written about the legendary king By the end of the semester I was sick of King Arthur, the round table, the Holy Grail and knights in general as a consequence, I didn t bother reading this book until now Before I finally picked it up I assumed it would be something like Camelot a crappy musical I heard Lerner and Lowe based the musical on the book They did, but it is a loose adaptation.
This book is divided up into 4 shorter books Merlyn is in the first two He isn t in rest The book suffers for it Merlyn, a wizard who ages backwards from the far distant future is a hoot He s the heart, soul and humorous center of the book I understand that each book represents an era in Arthur s life, but Merlyn s presence is sorely missed.
The first two books are laden in fantasy You have plenty of magic, unicorns, griffins, a talking owl, a castle made of food, etc The first book was the basis for the Disney feature, The Sword in the Stone The latter books deal with Lancelot and Guenever, Arthur s desire to bring a civilized society to England, the quest for the Holy Grail and the round table s demise.
As the book goes through each tonal shift, White maintains a very contemporary voice with modern day references and allusions throughout As this worked in the whimsical first half, it becomes jarring when juxtaposed with the epic sorrow and madness of the Lancelot Guenever affair.
Lancelot, in White s rendering is, to put it mildly, conflicted I guess sleeping with your best friend s wife, the Queen, and trying to hold onto Christian and chivalrous ideas at the same time will do that His misery is palpable Also, White makes Lancelot ugly as a mud fence No Richard Gere or Franco Nero images in your mind while reading this isn t a bad thing.
The female characters there aren t many are ill served by White, none are very likable.
If you re looking for a entertaining version of the Arthurian legend, read Thomas Berger s Arthur Rex Or just read the first two parts of this book.
TH White S Masterful Retelling Of The Arthurian Legend Is An Abiding Classic Here All Five Volumes That Make Up The Story Are Published In One Volume, As White Himself Always Wished Exquisite Comedy Offsets The Tragedy Of Arthur S Personal Doom As White Brings To Life The Major British Epic Of All Time With Brilliance, Grandeur, Warmth And Charm For the time being, this will be a provisional review on the Liber Primus , a.
k.
a The Sword in the Stone The Once and Future King is, obviously, a modern variation on the Arthurian cycle Allegedly, T H White s main source was Sir Thomas Malory s Le Morte d Arthur However, while Malory starts his hefty book with the story of Uther and Igraine, White hardly mentions Arthur s true parents Moreover, while Malory sweeps away Arthur s youth in less than ten pages and a couple of short chapters I,3 7 , T H White stretches this indefinite period into a full novel of than 200 pages The segment about the sword drawn from the stone is only retold beautifully and emotionally at the very end of White s novel.
The bulk of The Sword in the Stone is an episodic narrative that consists of a series of adventures and considerations around young King Arthur, from the time when he was just a young boy and was called, in an affectionate yet slightly insulting way, the Wart Around this young boy, a few older men, such as his foster father Sir Ector, his tutor Merlyn, his stepbrother Kay, the whimsical King Pellinore chasing the Questing Beast and the clumsy Sir Grum a character invented by T H White, playing opposite Pellinore, like the muppets Statler and Waldorf The whole novel revolves around Sir Ector s castle and the neighbouring forest, and quite a few episodes are about Wart being magically turned into animals by Merlyn a fish in the moat, a hawk in the falconry, a wild goose, etc In these woods, we also get to meet a character from another legend altogether Robin Hood.
All in all, T H White s novel displays a somewhat loose, slow paced plotline and focuses on atmospheric and idyllic descriptions of the forest and countryside, the sky and stars, the techniques of jousting and falconry, the seasons that come and go, the pranks and funny episodes, the songs and fairytales by the fireside It is a utopian and delightful book for all ages, that reads as a mellow, decorative and nostalgic reverie around the legends of young Arthur, with a narrator that is always gently present and introduces subtle and unworried references to the 20th century never hinting at the fact that the book was written just before World War II s darkest hours It has very little to do with Le Morte d Arthur it instead made me think of the old infancy gospels the legendary Apocrypha around the childhood of Jesus or, even , of the idealised images of the Middle Ages in the Tr s Riches Heures du Duc de Berry Obviously quite explicitly in fact , the story of this young Wart is also in line with the tale of Cinderella.
Walt Disney s adaptation of The Sword in the Stone 1963 is not top of the line, but is still a charming slapstick musical comedy the adaptation of The Jungle Book that would be released a couple of years later is very similar but better developed In a way, T H White s novel has also been a model for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for young Luke Skywalker Wart and Yoda Merlyn in The Empire Strikes Back, and even J K Rowling s Harry Potter, a few decades later To be continued.
A complex and multi tiered depiction of the epic Arthurian legend This book is unlike any other I ve read either focusing on the myth or simply in terms of fantasy writing While the story begins with The Sword in the Stone, a novel I had already read years ago it was refreshing to re familiarize myself with T.
H White s eccentric and unique style of portraying the character of King Arthur as a child In fact I believe The Sword in the Stone is the deepest depiction of the childhood Arthur I have read as many other stories gloss over this Yet it is important to understand Arthur s beginnings in order to understand his growth of character and this firstly sets T.
H.
White s work apart from the other tales about Arthur.
White s use of humor and his linking of the myth to the present was incredibly clever He was in part able to both tell the tale and provide a join critique and analysis of the legend And such a deep analysis was able to be therefore used to reflect upon the human condition, upon human beings, their wants and desires and what it is that drives them to do such acts as Guenevere in being unfaithful to Arthur Or as Mordred desiring her as his own It is a effective analysis than Freud s simple conclusion that men are simple carnal beings I feel, for what it showed me is that White recognizes that yes few men are truly good but at the same time few men are truly base It is the way they react to the events of life that makes them ignoble or even noble.
It was an incredibly deep book with so many angles that it simply astounded me Was it a fantasy, a fairytale to enjoy with magic and well constructed characters Was it a commentary Was it a critique Was it for children or for adults Was it an analysis Was it a collection of psychological observations I believe that this book was all of these and yet none at the same time It is a book that derives aspects from all of these and yet is never truly one of these alone For here T.
H.
White has created a grand epic that I recommend all people read.
However, for all of its depth and magnificence I felt it was let down at times, particularly right near the end This was majorly due to its pacing At times it was fast and furious and at others it was slow and ponderous It never truly was consistent And for me this made it difficult to get into at times I would recommend Roger Lancelyn Green s tales of Arthur instead for their pace However T.
H.
White s work has a greater depth than any other Arthurian tale I have read and it is for that it is to be admired.
Five stars All the stars This is the best book I have ever read My other 5 star ratings pale in comparison to this big wonder of a book My Goodreads rating system needs revision Hors categorie.
A fantasy classic It s so much than that It s about everything that matters in life, told in the warm voice of a brilliant and gifted author He has struck a chord within me that will keep on trembling forever Humor, adventure, suspense, tragedy, poetry, romance, philosophy, history, faith, sociology, tradition, fantasy, the list goes on and on It contains everything.
A page turner More than 600 pages Not to worry By the time you re done with them it will have felt like 600 days do after they are over Short But not too short , for they will have left a mark.
This book is a friend Possibly, probably, for life I love him first page to last, and finishing it hurt a little as with all tender goodbyes, but I will revisit him often I have already encountered difficulties suggesting and praising this book to friends, given their association of Merlyn just for kids They are wrong This book is perfect in every way, apart from the problem it presents me with now What to read next Which book s to taint with its enormous shadow