The Once and Future King

  • ISBN13: 9780441003839
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.


Product Description
The world’s greatest fantasy classic is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot, of Merlyn 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.

Recent Comments
  1. E. Scott @ 7:36 am

    I choose to review The Once and Future King by T.H. White, as I consider it the finest specimen of British Literature that has ever been written. I was 17 the first time I read this novel, and I was clearly too young to fully appreciate it. I worry that perhaps now, at age 23, I am still too young. A book with this much depth reminds you just how young you are, no matter your age. It showed me that there is a range of emotions which can only be felt during one’s final days.

    When people think about the subject of this book, the legend of King Arthur, very few would realize that it is a tragedy. The book which originally captured this legend in it’s fullest is called Le Morte D’Arthur, or “The Death of Arthur”. What I mean to say is, even at it’s origin, the legend of King Arthur is a tragedy. In that respect, T.H. White brought nothing new to the legend, he just refined it to a level of beauty without measure.

    Many readers feel that the first quarter of the book -which deals with the Merlyn’s tutoring of young Arthur- is it’s finest section. I think it suffices to say that it has the most mass appeal. While we will be moved by tragedy and depth in the later parts of the books; we come to appreciate White’s grasp of humor and characterization in the beginning. But, I worry that the style of humor is so unique and subtle that many people just won’t see it. But even without humor, there is enough adventure and wonder in the first part to entertain most readers.

    The section dealing with Arthur as a child is the only part in which we are allowed to see Arthur’s thoughts and feelings. White transitions from a first-person perspective to a third-person perspective in the next 3/4 of the book. We are left to guess Arthur’s feelings while he is at his highest and lowest. We can sense his pride as he commands a table of the 150 best knights in the world. He is admirably able to use them to right all of the world’s -perceived- wrongs. The stories of the famous knights are simply enthralling; and we read about each conquest and tournament with bright eyes and young souls. Without realizing it, we are transformed into men and women with tremendous courage as we fully buy into Arthur’s vision for a better world and a better man. It is a fantastic feeling, I promise you.

    Conversely, we can sense Arthur’s despair as his innovative idea of justice must be used to prosecute his dear wife Guinevere and his best friend Lancelot for having an affair with each other. In bitter irony, we read about the code of justice that Arthur created to make the world a better place; then we watch helplessly as it is used to bring the tragedy of King Arthur to fruition.

    The final fourth of the book is my favorite, although it is the darkest part. I refuse to ruin the plot for you, but it suffices to say that the legend of King Arthur would not be a tragedy if not for the final 4th of the book. It’s almost not fair that we should have to read about such an amazing man (our hero!) fall so far from grace. But, this is the beautiful and tragic legend, and White writes about it with a style of writing as grand as the castles contained in the novel.

    The Once and Future King has a hold on me that I won’t soon shake. It is no wonder that so many people read this voluminous book over and over. It inspires us. It encourages us. Each time we hold on to our integrity in the face of a world without integrity…we honor King Arthur and his innovative code of ethics which you can bring back to life by reading this wonderful story.

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  2. Anonymous @ 9:15 am

    As this is my favorite book, I couldn’t help but take a look at all the reviews. It seems to me people either love it (4 or 5 stars) or hate it (1 star to remarks of minus 50). This may be very confusing to prospective buyers. It’s very simple, folks:
    if you’re looking for accurate, ‘historic’ information on King Arthur or the Middle Ages, if you’re the type that likes to finish a book in an hour’s reading, if you’re only interested in fantasy/action packed novels of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ type (also an excellent book by the way), if you don’t like vast, almost poetic descriptions of landscapes, seasons, moods, etc., or if you simply don’t like complicated storylines, then steer clear of this book. There are many other novels which will give you far better value for money. For the others: it takes empathy and erudition to fully grasp the depth of this book. Empathy will make you love it when you’re young and erudition when you are older and wiser. Added plus: each time you read it you’ll discover something new. For the details, I refer to other reviews…

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  3. not4prophet @ 11:53 am

    “The Once and Future King” is children’s fantasy as it should be, a delightful read for both kids and adults. Author T. H. White manages to mingle the humorous and the sad portions of the King Arthur story successfully, and he never talks down to his audience or tries to oversimplify the events. The result is a wonderfully entertaining book that never slows down, one that’s both amusing and serious.

    I won’t try to summarize the entire book. Suffice to say, White covers the entire story of King Arthur’s life and remains pretty faithful to the traditional version of events throughout the book. What’s really amazing, though, is the way that he captures the spirit of the times, making you feel like you’re actually in England during the Middle Ages, watching the tournaments and quests and battles yourself. His descriptions are beautiful without ever being unnecessarily lengthy, his characters seem to come alive (especially Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot), and his handling of some of the classic scenes is unforgettable.

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  4. Debbie Lee Wesselmann @ 12:32 pm

    Somehow, I missed this classic when growing up, so when my daughter was assigned this book for her eighth grade honors English course, I eagerly picked it up. I was well rewarded for my efforts.

    The Sword in the Stone, the most famous of the quartet and the first, was for me the least interesting, perhaps because of its lack of driving conflict. It concerns the education of Arthur, called The Wart, in often hilarious scenes as Merlyn sets out to instruct him in the way of all creatures.

    The Queen of Air and Darkness is a better story than the first, though it lacks the substance of the two later books. It tells of the history and childhood of the Orkney clan (Sirs Gawaine, Gaheris, Agravaine, Gareth, and Mordred) as well as preparing for the emotional battles about to begin.

    The Ill-Made Knight is simply brilliant, giving Sir Lancelot a humanity I never thought possible, not for a knight living in legend. The love triangle of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenever (called Gwen by Arthur and Jenny by Lancelot) is given life and understanding, real force. When I finished this book, I had to stop and swallow all the angst and love before I could continue.

    A Candle in the Wind begins with some of the most monotonous descriptive writing possible, with White devoting ten solid pages to Lancelot and Guenever looking out a window onto medieval England. I began to believe that White was desperate to incorporate all his research. Once the story got going, however, I couldn’t put it down as the tragedy of King Arthur’s life unfolded.

    Although these four separately published books are often described as a modern retelling of the legend of King Arthur, readers should be aware that they were written in the late thirties and early forties, a time when readers tackled demanding reading more readily than people do today. Do not expect to breeze through the volumes; even The Sword in the Stone, long regarded as a children’s classic, is written in language far too complicated and scenes much too descriptive for a casual reader. White engages in expository pages – about Arthur’s philosophy, the history of the feudal system, the evolution of courts of law, etc. – that for me watered down the narrative drive. This is my reason for taking away a star from the rating.

    The characters, however, are drawn with precision. I took delight in White’s imagining of Sir Gawaine (“Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight”, if you can remember from freshman English) and his rough-and-tumble brothers. Lancelot and Guenever are drawn with affectionate details of their strengths and failings. Mordred is a wonderfully villain, a man both mad and cunning, with a history that makes his actions seem not only believable but inevitable. Arthur, too, is given flesh, although his generosity and lack of brilliance make him less interesting than the others.

    I could write on and on about this book, but has a word limit. Read The Once and Future King, and see for yourself.

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  5. Kendal B. Hunter @ 12:32 pm

    I remember reading an anthologized fragment of this book in high school. I thought it was hilarious, forgot about it, and was glad to rediscover it by way of the second X-Men film.

    This book is about adolescence. Because of the themes of maturity and growing up, I exhort (yes, EXHORT!) all parent to get their teen-age children to read this book.. This book is literary “Pet Sounds,” and covers all the emotions that we feel when we grow up. I was taken back decades, and personal involvement the key to good literature.

    Before reading this book, keep in mind that it is shaped by two forces. First, the Arthurian legends, primarily Mallory and Tennyson. Second, World War II. Keep both in mind, or the book makes no sense. White makes the point that the Round Table is the solution to World War II.

    This book is in four parts. The first one is “Sword in the Stone,” the basis for the Disney movie of the same name. It is Arthur’s tutelage under Merlyn. White captures Arthur’s adolescence perfectly-it is a stunning work that made me feel thirteen again. Merlyn is the mentor, but he has his loveable foibles that make his charming. It also makes him very believable and antithetic. And the relationship between Kay and Wart is male Cinderella.

    The second part is “The Queen of Air and Darkness.” Once again, White shows his genius for showing family relationships. We add to Wart and Kay’s relationship Gawain and families rather complex relationships. It reminded me of my own family. The different personalities makes the story so spicy. It is all personalities and relationships.

    I think this story gets more poignant that the first since we both Gawain and Arthur cross into manhood. Gawain with the killing of the unicorn, and with Arthur the battle and the decision to found the Round Table to end war.

    The third story is “The Ill-made Knight,” which focuses on Lancelot coming to the Round Table and his affair with Genevieve. This book is about idealism and love, which is a form of idealism. Lancelot is in love with both Arthur and Guinevere, and this hero worship almost becomes “Hero Idolatry”

    What bedazzled me was the lies that Lancelot believed about his affair with Guinevere. Chapter 5 sums up all of the Knight’s lies:

    “But please don’t talk to me about the queen. I can’t help it if we are fond of each other, and there is nothing wrong in being fond of people, is there? It is not as if the Queen and I were villains. When you begin lecturing me about her, you are making it seem as if there was something between us. It is as if you thought ill of me, or did not believe in my honor. Please do not mention the subject again.”

    These lies and Lancelot’s capacity to lie and speak white lies is amazing. It is genius on White’s part to come up with these half-truths. And a half truth is a total lie

    This book is rather long, and I would have divided it a Chapter 13, which is where Greymere changes from medieval to renaissance culture. Arthur succeeds with Camelot, for “one brief shining moment.” He then turns the Table’s energy to finding the Holy Grail. This is the point: Arthur does not solve the violence problem, but merely sublimates it.

    The last book is “Candle in the Wind.” It is the rise of Mordred, and the fall of the Round Table. The book is about adolescence, but White is able to convey an old, tired, and very lonely Arthur who’s past sins come to haunt him. In fact, the entire downfall of Camelot is due to the chastity sin.

    Mordred is as good a liar as Lancelot. His problem is that Lancelot has some degree of virtue-maybe naiveté-but Mordred is a chainsaw. He lies to scheme, and then gets back at his derelict father. Another timely message.

    The book stops suddenly, without a real resolution. Camelot dims, and it seems like Arthur’s work has been for naught. But remember that the book is really finished in “The Book Of Merlyn.”

    White’s Round Table was the United Nations, but in a sense, we are all still adolescents.

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