Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Forever King

This is the penultimate of my  I Dare You to Read 2014. Seeing this was already in my TBR pile, Ronnie recommended me to read this as part of the challenge, providing me with the audiobook (too), which was wonderfully narrated by Neville Jason.

Book 1: The Sword in the Stone is a well-told story of The Wart, his childhood, and education under the tutelage of Merlyn, a sorcerer living backward in time. It was a joy reading the boy's adventures and challenges leading to his phenomenal unsheathing of Excalibur from the stone.  

Book 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness (The Witch of the Wood) introduced us to the remaining descendants of Igraine and the Earl of Cornwall. Within it is the story behind the tragic future of King Arthur, of how sin took roost and extracts its due.  Also, included is Arthur’s conception of the Round Table and his ideas.

Book 3: The Ill-Made Knight spoke of Lancelot, his knighthood, his quests, his betrayal of Arthur, and his illicit affair with Guenever. Although this book was long and arduous, it included Arthur’s struggles as a king of the New Order and the quest for the Holy Grail. The narrative from here grew somber and apprehensive.

Book 4: The Candle in the Wind came with great sorrow. Arthur’s dream of a New Order is crumbling. He struggles to hold his kingdom together in the face of betrayal and war. His imminent demise swiftly unfolds.

T.H. White dressed these legendary stories amusingly and unpredictably. Even his narrator, a present-day scholar, has a rather peculiar way of addressing the reader. His linking of the fictional past and present is curiously clever, even though these books were already told and retold for years. The tone begins playfully and sweet, and then gets philosophical and darker as the plot moves along. It slowly moves from a wonderful fantasy to a tragic ending we all saw but unable to avoid.
Life is too bitter already, without territories and wars and noble feuds.
Like many others before me, I love King Arthur and will never get tired of reading his story being told from different perspectives. I root for him not only for his adventures but also for his noble ideals. An incredible illustration of how a great man can fail despite honorable intentions. The night before his death, Arthur instructed his page, Tom of Newbold Revell, to run back home away from the war, and to take heart the King’s dream of using one’s force in behalf of justice for others and not for his own account. I strongly believe that stories are called epic because they leave behind sagacious lessons such as this.

Book details:
Title: The Once and Future King
Author: T.H. White
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Corp.
Publication: January 15, 1981
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★


  1. Oh, I read this book in college and I was even compelled to write a short story based on some of its musings (specifically the one on the seventh sense). I'd love to reread this one day.

  2. That's interesting! Will I get to see this short story? :)