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Book Of Merlyn by T. H. White

Book Of Merlyn (1977)

by T. H. White

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Once and Future King (5)

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The subtitle "The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future King" is ridiculous of course. I have a copy, which proves it was published. But never mind, it's sort of cute.
  BarkingMatt | May 29, 2017 |
What an amazing book. I started reading it late last year after not having read Once and Future King for about 30 years, and it didn't quite make sense. So I re-read King and am now reading this book to finish the story.

Once again, Merlyn arrives to teach Arthur, but it is an aging King whom he sees bent over his war plans with tears on his face. Merlyn realizes that the King has forgotten the lessons of the Wart, as so many of us do when we become older and forget the beauty and joy that was sometimes in the world when we were younger. The idea of a single thing that could grab your attention to the exclusion of all else - this is a remembrance that Arthur finds when he is with the geese.

As polarized as this country is now, there are some who will object to T.H. White's thinly-veiled essays against war. The geese do not fight against their own kind just because": they see the world as one great big planet over which they fly and land when they need to. Different species share the same rock in the middle of the North Atlantic. By the same token, ants from different "tribes" will start the drumbeat and the propaganda for war the minute another ant arrives.

And of course, it is into misunderstanding and an ultimate war that Arthur faces as his reign comes to an end. He is heartbroken that his Round Table has come to its end: his best friend is exiled, his wife is trapped in the Tower of London, and his son wants to kill him. It is a tragic end to an otherwise beautiful story, and I am glad that White wrote these chapters and that they were finally published." ( )
1 vote threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
This is the fifth part of The Once and Future King that was never published with the rest of the novel. It picks up right at the end of The Once and Future King with King Arthur preparing to go to war against Mordred. Merlyn returns to him and takes him to a cave where the two men and several of the animals that Arthur learned from as a child discuss the nature of man, why men fight wars against other men, and how and if war can be eliminated.

This is my favorite of the five parts that make up White’s King Arthur story. White raises a lot of philosophical questions, but the only answer he comes to is that there is still hope for mankind. I can see how it might come across as too preachy for some people, but I don’t think it is because I see a lot of questions and very few answers. The novel is especially meaningful when you consider that it was written during and as a response to World War II. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Lovely. I might disagree wiþ some of White’s moralising þru Merlyn & Arþur, but yet it is touchingly told. ( )
  leandrod | Feb 10, 2015 |
T.H. White’s Arthurian saga The Once And Future King has a troubled publication history. The final volume, The Book of Merlyn, was submitted to his publishers in 1941 but was rejected as part of a collected volume due to wartime paper rationing. Undeterred, White took two major sequences in it – in which Merlyn transforms Arthur into an ant and then a goose – and inserted them into the first book, The Sword in the Stone. The Book of Merlyn was thus unincluded in later collected editions of the series, until the manuscript was discovered amongst White’s papers after his death in 1964. It was included in future collected editions from 1977 onwards, but – in order to present everything as accurately as possible – retains the ant and the goose sequences in The Sword in the Stone, while also later repeating them in The Book of Merlyn. (This is particularly notable because the goose sequence is probably the most famous and well-loved thing White ever wrote.)

It’s a bit less confusing when you’ve read it all the way through, but the funny thing is that those sequences feel a lot more like they belong in the first book, when Arthur was a child being transformed into animals all the time as part of his education with Merlyn, rather than the final book, where Arthur is whisked away on the night before the great battle with Mordred to discuss human nature and warfare with Merlyn and his council of wise animals. The vast majority of The Book of Merlyn takes place in the badger’s cosy underground den, which has the air of a cluttered library or gentleman’s parlour, as White (through Merlyn) expounds his philosophy about the wretched, violent nature of man.

Understanding T.H. White goes a long way towards understanding The Once and Future King, and my edition has an afterword discussing how the book came about. White was an unhappy man for much of his life: an alcoholic, a closeted homosexual, and a pacifist in a time of just war. When World War II was looming in 1939, he relocated himself to neutral Ireland and spent the rest of the war there as a conscientious objector. At this stage The Sword in the Stone had already been published, but it’s clear that the outbreak of WWII greatly influenced the rest of the series. “I have suddenly discovered that… the central theme to Morte d’Arthur is to find an antidote to war,” White wrote to his publisher. The Book of Merlyn expresses this more clearly than any other volume in the series; along with The Sword in the Stone, it effectively bookends the series, as Merlyn compares mankind to various animals – only now, with Arthur as an adult, he is no longer teaching him but rather discussing an intractable problem with him, to the king’s increasing weariness and despair.

The Book of Merlyn ultimately presents no conclusion on the matter, no coherent moral or philosophy, because White himself didn’t have one. He was a confused man, a man full of doubt, a man aghast at the horrors of the world, a man who tried to make sense of it all as best he could. He was a writer, in other words, who moulded his love of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur into his own unique, funny, beautiful epic, a meditation on the failures and foibles of the human race.

I liked The Book of Merlyn a lot; it’s probably my favourite out of the series. Despite a current of nihilism and despair, White brought back all the elements that made The Sword in the Stone such a success, and the result is a sweet and affecting tale of a man who tried to do his best. I didn’t always enjoy The Once and Future King, but The Book of Merlyn is a strong conclusion which serves the series well. And as for the series overall? I may not have always liked it, I may have been bored and frustrated with it at times, but I can nonetheless appreciate it objectively as a powerful and important work of English fantasy. ( )
2 vote edgeworth | Dec 18, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
T. H. Whiteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stubley, TrevorIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, Syliva TownsendIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The New York Times bestseller...now in a beautiful new trade edition.

An evocative and exciting tale of wizardry and war, this magnificent fantasy of the last days of King Arthur, his faithful magician and his animal teachers, completes the tragedy and romance of T. H. White's masterpiece The Once and Future King.

"And so the grand epic comes full circle, 'rounded and bright and done,' as White had wished it would be."--Boston Sunday Globe
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425038262, Mass Market Paperback)


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Follows the events of the last days of King Arthur and his magician, Merlyn, in this conclusion to "The Once and Future King." An evocative and exciting tale of wizardry and war, this magnificent fantasy of the last days of King Arthur, his faithful magician and his animal teachers, completes the tragedy and romance of T. H. White's masterpiece The Once and Future King.… (more)

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