The Once and Future King by T.H. White
This book is a classic, telling a story that most have known all of their lives. The book is broken up into four smaller books, each representing a different stage in the story of King Arthur and Lancelot.
The first of the four books is The Sword in the Stone, the classic story that was made into a feature film by Disney. White tells a slightly different story than the one we are used, one that in my opinion is far better than Disney’s. In this book Merlyn teaches the young Wart to want to learn and how to look at life. He does this through a series of transformations through Warts training to be a knight. In each of the transformations, the Wart is transformed into a different animal and is to be with others of the kind to learn what they know about life. The falcons and hawks teach him about manners and how to treat others around out based on rank. The geese teach him that it is possible to live in a world without war. Ants teach him of the mindlessness of being controlled at all times (a Big Brother if you will). And the badger teaches him about men. The story ends with Arthur pulling the sword from the stone.
The second of the four books is The Queen and Heir of Darkness. Within the pages of this story the King learns, with a little guidence from Merlyn, that wars and might do not solve problems. They only create them. Also Arthur’s family history is explained displaying the bitterness within the family tree.
The third book The Ill Made Knight, my favorite, focuses on Lancelot and his life as the greatest knight in the world. Here we see the beginning of the love triangle between Lancelot, Guenever and Arthur. The sory focuses on the great deeds done by Lancelot and a few mishaps he has along the way.
The final book, The Candle in the Wind, takes the love triangle from the previous book and tears it apart. This has a great effect on everything that Arthur has spent his life trying to establish.
While the book has a certain beauty to it, a beauty that can only be applied to a book full of deceit and lies and hatred, it isn’t the story that has me enjoying the book. It’s the ideas. T.H. White uses these stories as a medium to display a philosophy of life. He questions whether Might makes Right or if Right makes Might. His arguments are well established and worked into the story in such an eloquent manner. Many times while reading his philosophy I would find myself in deep thought, holding the book and contemplating his ideas. This book has made me change how I look at life, questioning whether there is a better way to live and to treat people.
That being said, pick up the book and give it a good read. I can only assume that you will enjoy it.