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The Sword in the Stone (1938)

by Terence Hanbury White

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Once and Future King (1), Der König auf Camelot (1)

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2,730383,916 (3.93)188
A retelling of the Arthurian legend.
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» See also 188 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
I'm very surprised I never got turned on to this when I was younger, since I loved myths, legends, and fantasy. I suppose I lumped it in with [b:Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table|672875|Le Morte d'Arthur King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table|Thomas Malory|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1309288301l/672875._SY75_.jpg|1361856] or [b:The Faerie Queene|765427|The Faerie Queene|Edmund Spenser|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1328308492l/765427._SY75_.jpg|19904] and thought it would be a straight-forward telling of the King Arthur myths, something dense and old-fashioned that I really ought to read but wasn't very excited about diving into. I had seen the Disney film of "The Sword in the Stone" and really liked it, but it didn't really click with me that I needed to seek out the source material.

It was only in reading [a:Helen Macdonald|314021|Helen Macdonald|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1400594607p2/314021.jpg]'s memoir [b:H is for Hawk|18803640|H is for Hawk|Helen Macdonald|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442151714l/18803640._SY75_.jpg|26732095] a few years back that I got an inkling of what a strange, moving, and hilarious series of tales [b:The Once and Future King|43545|The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-4)|T.H. White|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1338741283l/43545._SY75_.jpg|1140206] really is. The writing is smooth, the humor layered, the central morality of the story is deeply touching. The figure of Merlin, who T.H. White brilliantly envisions as a man moving backwards through time, is absolutely brilliant and delightful.

I'm working through the rest of the cycle now, and I couldn't be more charmed so far. On to "The Witch in the Woods"! ( )
  francoisvigneault | May 17, 2021 |
This book lost my interest in a couple of spots, but overall it was quite enjoyable. My kids and I laughed out loud at several points. I know I read this when I was younger, but reading/listening to it it this time, I only remembered the part about the pike. I have a vague memory of Wart's night in the mews, but I could have manufactured that while reading H is for Hawk.

Actually, I think that part of why I don't remember much from my earlier reading of The Sword in the Stone is that so much of the language went over my head. Reading H is for Hawk just before helped fill in some of the hawking terminology and made my T.H. White experience richer. That's worth a couple of false memories, I think. Now to tackle The Once and Future King...again. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 28, 2020 |
He comes pre-humbled
great leadership qualities
...bit weird about geese. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
A young boy named Wart, being fostered in the home of Sir Ector, finds himself being tutored by the wizard Merlyn in this classic treatment of the youth of King Arthur. Transformed into various different creatures during the course of his education - a fish, a hawk, an ant, a goose and a badge - Wart learns about the nature of power and of warfare, and is taught to question the issues of fairness and justice. Unbeknownst to him, he is in training for his future as a king, and the book ends at the tournament in London, where the future monarch will be revealed by his ability to pull the sword from its stone...

Originally published in 1938 in a slightly different form than its current one - I believe the episode with the ants was added later - The Sword in the Stone was eventually published, together with three sequels - The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind - as the first part of The Once and Future King, T.H. White's epic reimagining of the Arthurian saga. Although the larger work is not considered a children's book, The Sword in the Stone often is, and I recall reading it myself as a girl. White's work was included in the syllabus of the course on the history of children's literature that I took while getting my masters, and I was glad to encounter it again. I found the animal transformations here quite interesting, and was quite struck by the passage in which Wart reflects on Merlyn's teaching style: "the Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise the, pouring and leaping through strange seas."

This is an influential book, inspiring a Disney animated film, and providing the template, in the figure of Merlyn, for such authors as Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling, who have both acknowledged a debt to White. I think I also see White's influence in some of Susan Cooper's Arthurian-linked fantasy series, The Dark Is Rising sequence. Well worth the time of any reader who enjoys fantasy fiction. For my part, I'd like to get to the longer work, The Once and Future King at some point. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
White, Terence Hanburyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, PatrickDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elwell, TristanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jason, NevilleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawson, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nolan, DennisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Sir Thomas Maleore
Knight

"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.
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.
Quotations
"Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A retelling of the Arthurian legend.

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Haiku summary
That boy is called Wart,
But Merlin knows he's destined
For far greater things.
(SylviaC)

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