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The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

The Sword in the Stone (1938)

by T. H. White

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Once and Future King (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
  mshampson | Feb 23, 2015 |
I really did enjoy this. I was swept away into the world. Its a strange sort of book and seems to exist in a world all of its own making.
A really enjoyable reading experience. ( )
  kaipakartik | Jul 22, 2014 |
This is the first novel in a larger work by T.H. White called The Once and Future King, a wonderful title. Most people are probably more familiar with it as a Disney film adaptation from the 1960s, even if they haven’t seen it; for some reason I also always confuse it with the Black Cauldron film/video game, which is apparently based on a different series of novels called The Chronicles of Prydain by one Lloyd Alexander, loosely based on Welsh mythology.

The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy, and The Sword in the Stone focuses on Arthur’s childhood as a boy nicknamed “the Wart,” growing up with his older brother Kay in a castle in England. Their father, Sir Ector, secures a tutor for them who happens to be the great wizard Merlin, and most of the book is a series of loosely connected little adventures, usually revolving around Merlin transforming the Wart into different animals so he can learn about how they live.

I’ve heard The Once and Future King described as one of the greatest fantasy series ever written, and I was surprised to find that The Sword in the Stone, at least, is extremely whimsical and not particularly serious. It’s not exactly a children’s book – I imagine a lot of the lengthier passages about bird calls and the finer points of jousting and hunting would bore most children, because they certainly bored me. But it sort of has the style of a children’s book; a whimsical fairytale set in Merry Old England, with White deliberately marking it as such:

In the Old England there was a great marvel still. The weather behaved itself.

In the spring, the little flowers came out of the meads, and the dew sparkled, and the birds sang. In the summer it was beautifully hot for no less than four months, and, if it did rain just enough for agricultural purposes, they managed to arrange it so that it rained while you were in bed. In the autumn the leaves flamed and rattled before the west winds, tempering their sad adieu with glory. And in the winter, which was confined by statute to two months, the snow lay evenly, three feet thick, but never turned to slush.

The novel is also full of anachronisms, usually expressed through wizard and time traveller Merlin, who constantly references people and inventions from the future which have no place in the Dark Ages. (Robin Hood also makes an appearance; my English mythology is a bit rusty but I’m pretty sure he’s not supposed to turn up until several centuries after King Arthur at least.) The Sword in the Stone is a funny little novel and not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and from what I’ve heard it grows considerably darker and more serious later in the series. ( )
  edgeworth | Jul 2, 2014 |

a humane story of magic transforming a lonely child's life, which perhaps speaks to a lot of us, in a world where traditional social structures are not as strong as they appear and where external threats are potentially deadly - the sequence with Madam Mim, for instance, is pretty alarming (and it's unfortunate that she is the only real female character in the book). Some of the transformation sequences - the birds and the fish, for instance - are freighted with symbolism. I had forgotten, or perhaps never noticed on previous readings decades ago, that the ending is reasonably well signalled in advance, mainly (though not exclusively) by Merlin. ( )
  nwhyte | Jun 9, 2014 |
Loosely based on the legend of King Arthur, this novel reads in places like something Lewis Carroll would have composed. Its language is reminiscent of Barrie's Peter Pan: very advanced for today's young readers, too much for my nine year old who lost interest in the first chapter. Anachronisms crop up throughout, probably for fun; the author acknowledges them subtly and makes little effort to reconcile them. Merlyn is said to live backwards through time as justification, but small details invalidate this explanation. His student Wart is a rather dull character and develops not a whit: he is good-natured and sensible on the first page, and remains so to the last. There's no evident value gained from the so-called education he receives, and by the fourth or fifth time Wart was made an animal I was exasperated.

For a positive there are fascinating descriptions that display the author's enormous medieval knowledge: detailed contents and operations of the hay field, the mews, Merlyn's study, Sir Ector's fortifications, jousting, the uses for various woods, etc. Even an adult can learn a lot here (except from the astronomy, which states the universe began "a few thousand million years ago".) There's some interesting things about this novel and relating to it, but judging this book on its own merits it's not really that brilliant and a bit of a relic. I won't trouble my son with it again.

Note: my review is for the original edition with Madam Mim, the troubling anthropophagi, etc. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
T. H. Whiteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, PatrickDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jason, NevilleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawson, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nolan, DennisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Sir Thomas Maleore

"I pray you all, gentlemen and gentlewomen that readeth this book, from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am on live, that God send me good deliverance, and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul."
Sir Thomas Maleore, Knight.
July 31st, 1485.
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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.
"Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
That boy is called Wart,
But Merlin knows he's destined
For far greater things.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399225021, Hardcover)

An old wizard named Merlyn takes care of a curious young boy named Wart and transforms him into Arthur, the future king of Britain, in a beautiful new edition of the classic tale, enhanced by luminous paintings. Children's BOMC Main.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:46 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A retelling of the Arthurian legend.

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