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The Once and Future King by T.H. White
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The Once and Future King (original 1958; edition 1968)

by T.H. White

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10,138129282 (4.1)2 / 487
Member:herzogbr
Title:The Once and Future King
Authors:T.H. White
Info:Berkley Publishing (1968), Mass Market Paperback
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The Once and Future King by T.H. White (1958)

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English (125)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  All languages (130)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Epic, brutal and funny. Brutally funny, really. Now I see where the Monty Python guys got their inspiration for their Holy Grail movie. The humour is similar in many ways. Python approached it with more silliness but the influence is undeniable. Of the four books, I enjoyed the first two the most.

Book 1: The Sword in the Stone; tells the story of Arthur's childhood and education by Merlyn, the absent-minded magician who is living his life backward in time. It culminates, rather hastily, with Arthur repeatedly pulling the sword out of the anvil to show that he is the new king.

Book 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness, (a.k.a. The Witch of the Wood); tells of Arthur's young adulthood where he conceives the Round Table, defeats King Lot to secure the kingdom, and is seduced by Morgause - thereby sowing the seeds of future ruin.

Book 3: The Ill-Made Knight; the longest book in the volume focuses more on the adventures of Lancelot and his illicit affair with Guenever. In this book, we begin to see less humour as the tone becomes more serious and the narrative veers toward the philosohical and tragic.

Book 4: The Candle in the Wind; sees Arthur in his dotage. Trapped by the ethics of his own Round Table creation, he struggles to hold his kingdom together in the face of treachery, betrayal, and deceit. ( )
  ScoLgo | Dec 16, 2014 |
Great one to listen to on audiobook-- Neville Jason is really fantastic. ( )
  behemothing | Oct 25, 2014 |
This was an incredible read! It's hampered by an unusual sense of humor that freely grabbed at anachronisms as well as a writing style that is quickly dating itself and becoming difficult to read.

I loved the different styles of the four novels. The Sword in the Stone was great. It took me a few chapters to get into it (I almost quit due to the confusingly irreverent and anachronistic style), but I loved the quirky characters, the lessons, and the light tone. Queen of Air and Darkness didn't necessarily have its own personality, as it seemed more like an aid to show us the new kingdom, how Merlin's lessons were being applied and interpreted, and to introduce the Orkneys and their grudge.

Both were completely unlike the beautiful story in the Ill-Made Knight, which makes Arthur a secondary character in favor of Lancelot, and develops him into an extremely benevolent character that can, still, betray his best friend and commit adultery. His appearance is a handicap, and nobody is as hard on him morally as himself. God and Chivalry mean the most to him, yet he still cannot give up Guenevere. It's a beautiful story.

And it all ends sadly in The Candle in the Wind, which is all tragedy after tragedy as Arthur's Camelot comes down around him. It seems like he blames human nature more than anything else, but believes his ideas of chivalry are good. That doesn't stop Mordred and the Orkneys from bringing him down with his own laws.

All of the characters are very human and believable, which is a little at odds with the historical references this is based on. White skips over these bits rather conveniently. It doesn't come up until the very end of the book that the kind, somewhat dense Arthur, so set on the idea of Justice, would drown a boat of newborn babies. Why would the noble and just Lancelot slay Gareth, who he loves, when the latter isn't even armored? The legends themselves are problematic to the story.

As is White's fondness for anachronistic jokes, jokes that have since aged and become somewhat impenetrable themselves. The characters make several odd references to Esquimaux, which took me a minute to puzzle "Eskimo" out of. He compares the behavior of knights often to cricket, descriptions that are lost on me, at the very least, and the historical cricket figures are probably lost on most.

Despite that, this is still an incredibly engrossing story. It moves agonizingly slow sometimes, and continually mires itself in quandries about forcing Justice on people when the point is to make them stop forcing their will on others with military strength. But there are usually incidents to back up these discussions, and they are always exciting. Most fascinating was the portrayal of the Orkneys through the saga. I very much would like to read more about this bizarrely and unevenly portrayed group of brothers.

I knew very little about the Arthurian Saga before reading this, and I'm so pleased that this was my introduction to the stories. It definitely made me want to read more, though I suspect there will be very little material as accessible or thorough as this. ( )
  ConnieJo | Aug 10, 2014 |
The first book, The Sword in the Stone is fun and very enjoyable. Trying to continue it just doesn't work.

This doesn't fit into normal Arthurian literature. White plays too much with anachronisms. he also isn't interested in the chivalry, but only in exploring the ways force breeds force even when used for the best of reasons. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Jul 16, 2014 |
When I was looking for this book, I wanted a book that would tell me definitively the life of King Arthur. Somehow, my knowledge of him was severely lacking: Sword in the Stone, Merlyn, Round Table, Gwenevere and Lancelot...but that's it basically.

I think that I was expecting more stories of the Round Table, or more stories about Knights and chivalry. What I got was, well, not that. The first of four parts dealt solely with Arthur's childhood--which was interesting, but I really didn't feel that the character that White described could have been the same who put forth all the ideas of the Round Table/might vs right, etc. I guess what I'm saying is that he seemed to lack anything of exception--minus his friendship with Merlyn.

Parts 2, 3, and 4 I felt hardly involved Arthur at all. It was almost completely about Gwen and Lance...which I guess could be alright...and may be necessary to understanding Arthur, but dang it! It really just wasn't what I expected.

After it's all said and done, after reading this book, I'm not at all interested in reading any more about Arthur...which is unfortunate. But what's worse, is that I think less of the stories than I did before reading the book.

The book is well written (perhaps too descriptive on some parts, and dreadfully brief on others)...and it tells a story. It's possible it's just not the story I wanted to hear. So I give the book 3 stars, even it wasn't the perfect fit for me. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
It knits together the funny, the moving, the fanciful and the psychologically astute in a rich tapestry of the medieval age of chivalry... Whatever else it is or is not. this is a book of profound patriotic piety which glorifies Arthur as the father of his country, and finds in the childlike wonder and faith of medieval England the crucible of future English greatness.
added by Shortride | editTime (Sep 8, 1958)
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
White, T.H.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jason, NevilleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marvin, FredericCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vat, Daan van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
She is not any common earth

Water or wood or air,

But Merlin's Isle of Gramarye

Where you and I will fare.
When shall I be dead and rid
Of the wrong my father did?
How long, how long, till spade and hearse
Put to sleep my mother's curse?
"Nay," said Sir Lancelot "... for

once shamed may never be recovered."
"He thought a little and said:

'I have found the Zoological Gardens of service to many of my patients.  I should prescribe for Mr. Pontifex a course of the larger mammals.  Don't let him think he is taking them medicinally...'
Dedication
For J.A.J.A.
First words
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 - she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
These editions of The Once and Future King do NOT contain the Book of Merlyn. Please do not combine with the editions that DO contain the Book of Merlyn.
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Book description
The whole world knows and loves this book.  It is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot; of Merlyn and Owl and Guinevere; of beasts who talk and men who fly; of wizardry and war.  It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad.  It is the fantasy masterpiece by which all others are judged.
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No descriptions found.

A revised omnibus edition of White's retelling of Arthurian legends. The first three sections of this book were originally published separately: The Sword in the Stone (1939), The Witch in the Wood (1939; here called "The Queen of Air and Darkness"), The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and the previously unpublished section, "The Candle in the Wind." The Book of Merlyn, written in 1941, was originally intended as the fifth and final book of the saga. It was first published by the University of Texas Press in 1977 and reissued by Berkley, 1978 (pap.). The whole world knows and loves this book. It is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot; of Merlin and Owl and Guinevere; of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war. It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad. It is the fantasy masterpiece by which all others are judged.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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