Monday, 4 May 2009

Group Reading: The Once and Future King

Based on medieval Arthurian legends, The Once and Future King is a twentieth-century version of young Arthur's quest for the sword Excalibur and his claim to the throne of England. Including many well-known and much-loved episodes with Merlyn, the sorcerer; Morgan La Fay, the witch; and knights jousting and hounds engaged in the hunt, White's novel adds to the lore surrounding the person of King Arthur.

Quartet of novels by T.H. White, published in a single volume in 1958. The quartet comprises The Sword in the Stone (1938), The Queen of Air and Darkness--first published as The Witch in the Wood (1939)--The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and The Candle in the Wind (published in the composite volume, 1958). The series is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, from Arthur's birth to the end of his reign, and is based largely on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. After White's death, a conclusion to The Once and Future King was found among his papers; it was published in 1977 as The Book of Merlyn.

The Once and Future King defies classification. Is it for children, or for adults? Is it fantasy or a psychological novel? In its great range, it encompasses poetry and farce, comedy and tragedy -and sudden flights of schoolboy humour. White's footnote to Malory' (his own phrase) resulted in the last major retelling of the story based on Malory's Morte DarthurWhite's story of Arthur begins with his enfances', set in an imaginary medieval England, but it is far removed from the conventional historical novel. White was writing in wartime England, a country increasingly absorbed by a need to find an antidote to war. Through the medium of the Arthurian story he found his own voice, his unique contribution to keeping alive the flame of civilisation. Malory's chivalric virtues are rejected in favour of White's own twentieth-century values; the love affair of Lancelot and Guenever is interpreted in terms of modern psychology. The books which eventually made up The Once and Future Kingof 1958 appeared in distinctly different editions
In discussing these, we need to look at some of the ways in which White drew on his own personal experience at a deep psychological level, while also incorporating into his story material inspired by his antiquarian pursuits and by his years as a schoolmaster. White's use of historical material, and the relationship of The Once and Future King to the Morte Darthur


One of the most fascinating figures in the Welsh mythology and the Arthurian legend is Merlin, the great wizard, prophet and adviser to several kings, including King Arthur.
Name Merlin.Myrddin (Welsh).Merlinus (Latin).
Emrys (Welsh), Ambrosius (Latin);
Merlin Ambrosius.Merlin Calidonius.

Historia regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain", c. 1137) andthe Vita Merlini ("Life of Merlin", c. 1152) were written by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Roman de Brut ("Story of Brutus") was written by Wace, c. 1155.
Brut was written by Layamon, c. 1200.
Merlin was written by Robert de Boron, c. 1200.
Vulgate Merlin or Prose Merlin was adaptation of Boron's Merlin, c. 1210.
Suite de Merlin was part of Post Vulgate Cycle, c. 1240.
Le Morte d'Arthur was written by Thomas Malory, 1469.
Historia Brittonum was written by Nennius (9th century).

"In dark age Britain we have to recognize various adverse factor, such as the loss and destruction of manuscripts by invading armies; the character of the early material, oral rather than written; the decline of learning and even literacy among the Welsh monks who might have kept reliable records. The whole period is plunged in obscurity from the same causes. People who were certainly real and important are no better attested."

Since we don't have the necessary fifth and sixth century records, it's impossible to say absolutely that Merlin did or did not exist.

- From Tennyson's "Idylls"

The pale blood of the wizard at her touch

Took gayer colours, like an opal warmed.

She blamed herself for telling hearsay tales:

She shook from fear, and for her fault she wept

Of petulancy; she called him lord and liege,

Her seer, her bard, her silver star of eve,

Her God, her Merlin, the one passionate love

Of her whole life; and ever overhead

Bellowed the tempest, and the rotten branch

Snapt in the rushing of the river-rain
Above them; and in change of glare and gloom

Her eyes and neck glittering went and came;

Till now the storm, its burst of passion spent,

Moaning and calling out of other lands,

Had left the ravaged woodland yet once more

To peace; and what should not have been had been,

For Merlin, overtalked and overworn,

Had yielded, told her all the charm, and slept.

Legendary Roots - Possible Merlins
Transformation of Celtic Mythology in Arthurian Legend
There may have been a real Merlin, such as the one Nikolai Tolstoy describes in Quest for Merlin: "...Merlin was indeed an historical figure, living in what are now the lowlands of Scotland at the end of the sixth century authentic prophet, most likely a druid surviving in a pagan enclave of the north."The Merlin prototype may have been a Celtic druid named Lailoken who gained second sight after he went mad and escaped society to live in the forest.
A poem from A.D. 600 describes a Welsh prophet named Myrddin
The 9th century monk Nennius, described as "inventive" in his history writing, wrote about Merlin, a fatherless Ambrosius, and prophesies. Despite Nennius' lack of reliability, he is a source for us today because Nennius used fifth century sources that are no longer extant.
In Math The Son of Mathonwy, from the classic collection of Welsh tales known as the Mabinogion, Gwydion, a bard and magician, performs love spells and uses cunning to protect and help an infant boy. While some see this Gwydion trickster as Arthur, others see in him as Merlin. Passages from Nennius' History(
Sections on Vortigern include the following prophecy referred to in Part I of the Merlin television mini-series: "You must find a child born without a father, put him to death, and sprinkle with his blood the ground on which the citadel is to be built, or you will never accomplish your purpose." The child was Ambrose.ORB -- Sub-Roman Britain: An Introduction Following barbarian raids, troop withdrawals from Britain ordered by Magnus Maximus in A.D. 383, Stilicho in 402, and Constantine III in 407, the Roman administration elected three tyrants: Marcus, Gratian, and Constantine. However, we have little information from the actual time period -- three dates and the writing of Gildas and St. Patrick, who rarely writes about Britain.
In A.D. 540, Gildas wrote De Excidio Britanniae ("The Ruin of Britain") which includes an historical explanation. This site's translated passages mention Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus.
Geoffrey of Monmouth
In 1138, combining Nennius' history and Welsh tradition about a bard named Myrddin, Geoffrey of Monmouth completed his Historia Regum Britanniae, which traces the British kings to the great-grandson of Aeneas, Trojan hero and legendary founder of Rome. In about A.D. 1150, Geoffrey also wrote a Vita Merlini. Merlin: Texts, Images, Basic Information(Merlin) Apparently worried that the Anglo-Norman audience would take offense at the similarity between the name Merdinus and merde, Geoffrey changed the prophet's name. Geoffrey's Merlin helps Uther Pendragon and moves the stones to Stonehenge from Ireland. Geoffrey also wrote a Prophecies of Merlin which he later incorporated into his History.

Merlin is best known as the wizard featured in Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a northern madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of Aurelius Ambrosius to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius.
Geoffrey's rendering of the character was immediately popular; later writers expanded the account to produce a fuller image of the wizard. Merlin's traditional biography casts him as born of mortal woman, sired by an incubus, the non-human wellspring from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities. Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue. Later, Merlin serves as the king's advisor until he is bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake.)
Katharine Mary Briggs (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, p.440. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
(Katharine Mary Briggs (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, p.440. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-73467-X

Geoffrey's composite Merlin is based primarily on Myrddin Wyllt, also called Merlinus Caledonensis, and Aurelius Ambrosius, a mostly fictionalized version of the historical war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus. The former had nothing to do with Arthur and flourished after the Arthurian period. According to lore he was a bard driven mad after witnessing the horrors of war, who fled civilization to become a wildman of the woods in the 6th century. Geoffrey had this individual in mind when he wrote his earliest surviving work, the Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin), which he claimed were the actual words of the legendary madman. Medievalist Gaston Paris suggested he altered the name to "Merlinus" rather than the standard romanization "Merdinus" to avoid a resemblance to the vulgar French word merde, meaning "excrement".
Geoffrey's Prophetiae do not reveal much about Merlin's background. When he included the prophet in his next work, Historia Regum Britanniae, he supplemented the characterization by attributing to him stories about Aurelius Ambrosius, taken from Nennius' Historia Brittonum. According to Nennius, Ambrosius was discovered when the British king Vortigern was trying to erect a tower. The tower always collapsed before completion, and his wise men told him the only solution was to sprinkle the foundation with the blood of a "child born without a father". Ambrosius was rumored to be such a child, but when brought before the king, he revealed the real reason for the tower's collapse: below the foundation was a lake containing two dragons who destroyed the tower by fighting. Geoffrey retells this story in Historia Regum Britanniæ with some embellishments, and gives the fatherless child the name of the prophetic bard, Merlin. He keeps this new figure separate from Aurelius Ambrosius, and to disguise his changing of Nennius, he simply states that Ambrosius was another name for Merlin. He goes on to add new episodes that tie Merlin into the story of King Arthur and his predecessors.
Geoffrey dealt with Merlin again in his third work, Vita Merlini. He based the Vita on stories of the original 6th century Myrddin. Though set long after his timeframe for the life of "Merlin Ambrosius," he tries to assert the characters are the same with references to King Arthur and his death as told in the Historia Regum Britanniae.
Merlinus Caledonensis, or Myrddin Wyllt
The earliest (pre-12th century) Welsh poems concerning the Myrddin legend present him as a madman living a wretched existence in the Caledonian Forest, ruminating on his former existence and the disaster that brought him low: the death of his lord Gwenddoleu, whom he served as bard. The allusions in these poems serve to sketch out the events of the Battle of Arfderydd, where Riderch Hael, King of Alt Clut (Strathclyde) slaughtered the forces of Gwenddoleu, and Myrddin went mad watching this defeat. The Annales Cambriae date this battle to AD 573 and name Gwenddoleu's adversaries as the sons of Eliffer, presumably Gwrgi and Peredur.
Some early references name the madman as "Lailoken"; this name especially used in the hagiography of Saint Kentigern. A version of this legend is preserved in a late 15th century manuscript, in a story called Lailoken and Kentigern. In this narrative, Kentigern meets in a deserted place with the naked, hairy madman Lailoken, also called Merlynum or "Merlin", who declares that he has been condemned for his sins to wander in the company of beasts. He adds that he had been the cause for the deaths of all of the persons killed in the battle fought "on the plain between Liddel and Carwannok." Having told his story, the madman leaps up and flees from the presence of the saint back into the wilderness. He appears several times more in the narrative until at last he asks Kentigern for the sacrament, prophesying that he was about to die a triple death. After some hesitation, the saint grants the madman's wish, and later that day the shepherds of King Meldred capture him, beat him with clubs, then cast him into the River Tweed where his body is pierced by a stake, thus fulfilling his prophecy.
Welsh literature has many examples of a prophetic literature, predicting the military victory of all of the Brythonic peoples of Great Britain who will join together and drive the English – and later the Normans – back into the sea. Some of these works were claimed to be the prophecies of Myrddin; some were not, as for example the Armes Prydein. This wild prophetic Merlin was also treated by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Vita Merlini which looks like a close adaptation of a number of Myrddin poems.
Geoffrey's account of Merlin Ambrosius' early life in the Historia Regum Britanniae is based on the story of Ambrosius in the Historia Brittonum. He adds his own embellishments to the tale, which he sets in Carmarthen (Welsh: Caerfyrddin). While Nennius' Ambrosius eventually reveals himself to be the son of a Roman consul, Geoffrey's Merlin is begotten on a king's daughter by an incubus. The story of Vortigern's tower is essentially the same; the underground dragons, one white and one red, represent the Saxons and the British, and their final battle is a portent of things to come.
At this point Geoffrey inserts a long section of Merlin's prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character; in the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin's magic enables Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur on his enemy's wife, Igraine. These episodes appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey's account.
Several decades later the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account Merlin is begotten by a devil on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blaise of her predicament; they immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan. The demonic legacy invests Merlin with a preternatural knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to shapeshift, on his joking personality and on his connection to the Holy Grail. This text introduces Merlin's master Blaise, who is pictured as writing down Merlin's deeds, explaining how they came to be known and preserved. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia. Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 12th century as the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail; brought from the Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, and eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival. The Prose Merlin was detached from that shorter cycle to serve as a sort of prequel to the vast Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Vulgate Cycle. The authors of that work expanded it with the Vulgate Suite du Merlin (Vulgate Merlin Continuation), which described King Arthur's early adventures. The Prose Merlin was also used as a prequel to the later Post-Vulgate Cycle, the authors of which added their own continuation, the Huth Merlin or Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin. These works were adapted and translated into several other languages; the Post-Vulgate Suite was the inspiration for the early parts of Sir Thomas Malory's English language Le Morte d'Arthur.
Many later medieval works also deal with the Merlin legend. For example, The Prophecies of Merlin contains long prophecies of Merlin (mostly concerned with 13th century Italian politics), some by his ghost after his death. The prophecies are interspersed with episodes relating Merlin's deeds and with various Arthurian adventures in which Merlin does not appear at all. The earliest English verse romance concerning Merlin is Arthour and Merlin, which drew from chronicles and the French Lancelot-Grail.
As the Arthurian mythos was retold and embellished, Merlin's prophetic aspects were sometimes de-emphasized in favor of portraying Merlin as a wizard and elder advisor to Arthur. On the other hand in Lancelot-Grail it is said that Merlin was never baptized and never did any good in his life, only evil. Medieval Arthurian tales abound in inconsistencies. In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts Merlin's eventual downfall came from his lusting after a woman named Nimue (or Ninive, in some versions of the legend), one of the maidens serving the Lady of the Lake, who coaxed his magical secrets from him before turning her new powers against her master and trapping him in an enchanted prison (variously described as a cave, a large rock, an invisible tower, etc.) This is unfortunate for Arthur, who has lost his greatest counselor.

The Book of Merlyn is an Arthurian fantasy book written by T. H. White. It is the conclusion of The Once and Future King, but it was published separately and

Plot summary

The book opens as King Arthur prepares himself for his final battle. Merlyn reappears to complete Arthur's education and discover the cause of wars. As he did in The Sword in the Stone, Merlyn again demonstrates ethics and politics to Arthur by transforming him into various animals.
The last chapter of the book takes place only hours before the final battle between King Arthur and his son and nephew Mordred. Arthur does not want to fight after everything that he has learned from Merlyn. He makes a deal with Mordred to split England in half. Mordred accepts. During the making of this deal, a snake comes upon one of Mordred's soldiers. The soldier draws his sword. The opposing side, unaware of the snake, takes this as an act of betrayal. Arthur's troops attack Mordred's, and both Arthur and Mordred die in the battle that follows.
Guenever joins a convent, and remains there till death. Lancelot becomes a hermit and dies a hermit. His last miracle was making the room that he died in smell like heaven.
[edit] Concept & CreationWhite was inspired to write this book upon determining that the key theme of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur is to find an "antidote for war". Rather than containing a distinct plot, this book reads more like a discourse on war and human nature.[1]
Originally submitted for publication in 1941, due to wartime paper shortages, White was unable to convince his publisher to include The Book of Merlyn as part of the collected edition of The Once and Future King (which was first published in its entirety in 1958).[1] Perhaps this is also due to this book's philosophical and plot-light nature.
He nevertheless managed to salvage parts of this rejected text. While revising The Sword in the Stone for the collected edition, he adapted scenes from The Book of Merlyn. The unfortunate consequence is that parts of The Book of Merlyn appear to be rehashing things White has already covered earlier in the collected version of The Once and Future King.
[edit] Rediscovery & PublicationThe Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin purchased the bulk of White's personal papers and manuscripts between 1967 and 1969. The original manuscript for The Book of Merlyn was discovered amongst this collection, and was prepared for publication by the University of Texas Press in 1977.

Townsend Warner, Sylvia (1978). "The Story of the Book". in White T.H.. The Book of Merlyn. London: Fontana/Collins. ISBN 0-00-615725-4.
This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that "will turn my completed epic into a perfect fruit, 'rounded off and bright and done.'"
More details

The book of Merlyn: the unpublished conclusion to The once and future king

By Terence Hanbury White.

Edition: 6, reprint, illustratedPublished by University of Texas Press, 1988ISBN 029270769X, 9780292707696137 pages

T.H. White: The Once and Future King

T.H. White's The Once and Future King is easily the most accessible Arthurian work of the 20th century. It appeals to audiences of all ages and to readers on many different levels. Its use of humor and anachronistic references help ground the reader in the subject matter in a way that no one before or since has accomplished.

The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T. H. White. It was first published in 1958 and is mostly a composite of earlier works.
The title comes from the supposed inscription of the marker over King Arthur's grave: HIC IACET ARTORIVS REX QVONDAM REXQVE FVTVRVS — "Here lies Arthur, the once and future king."

The Once and Future King is a tetralogy consisting of four previously published works: The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind.

T. H. White uses The Once and Future King as his own personal view of the ideal society. The book, most of which "takes place on the isle of Gramarye," chronicles the raising and education of King Arthur, his rule as a king, and the romance between his best knight Sir Lancelot and his Queen Guinevere (which he spells Guenever). It ends immediately before Arthur's final battle against his illegitimate soOne often quoted passage from the book is the story which the badger calls his "dissertation," a retelling of the Creation story from Genesis.
Plot summary
The story starts in the last years of the rule of king Uther Pendragon.

The Sword in the Stone chronicles Arthur's raising by his foster father Sir Ector, his rivalry and friendship with his foster brother Kay, and his initial training by Merlyn, a wizard who lives through time backwards. Merlyn, knowing the boy's destiny, teaches Arthur (known as "Wart") what it means to be a good king by turning him into various kinds of animals: fish, hawk, ant, owl, goose, and badger. Each of the transformations is meant to teach Wart a lesson, which will prepare him for his future life.
In fact, Merlyn instills in Arthur the concept that the only justifiable reason for war is to prevent another from going to war then, and that contemporary human governments and powerful people exemplify the worst aspects of the rule of Might.
The Queen of Air and Darkness, White sets the stage for Arthur's demise by introducing the Orkney clan and detailing Arthur's seduction by their mother, his half-sister Morgause. While the young king suppresses initial rebellions, Merlyn leads him to envision a means of harnessing potentially destructive Might for the cause of Right: the Round Table.
The Ill-Made Knight, shifts focus from King Arthur to the story of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guenever's forbidden love and its effect on Elaine, the mother of Lancelot's son, and the King.
The Candle in the Wind unites these narrative threads by telling how Mordred's hatred of his father and Agravaine's hatred of Sir Lancelot caused the eventual downfall of King Arthur, Queen Guenever, Sir Lancelot, and the entire ideal kingdom of Camelot.n Mordred. Though White admits his book's source material is loosely derived from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur), he creates a personal reinterpretation of the epic events, filling them with renewed meaning for a world enduring the Second World War.
The book begins as a quite light-hearted account of the young Arthur's adventures, Merlyn's incompetence at magic, and King Pellinore's interminable search for the Questing Beast. Parts of The Sword in the Stone read almost as a parody of the traditional Arthurian legend by virtue of White's prose style, which relies heavily on anachronisms. However, the tale gradually becomes darker until Ill-Made Knight loses much of the original humor and The Candle in the Wind is mirthless.

In the first book, The Sword in the Stone
We see Arthur's education at the hands of Merlyn, a learned but frazzled character who is living backwards. (Thus, he already knows what's going to happen; he strives, therefore, to impart on his subject the importance of doing right.) Arthur is here called the Wart, a nickname given him by his foster brother, Kay, son of Sir Ector, lord of a castle in the Forest Sauvage. As a student of Merlyn, Wart encounters three different kinds of governments--feudalism in his daily life with Ector, totalitarianism in his time as an ant, and anarchy in his time as a goose. As always, Merlyn's point is that knowledge is power. One of the prime lessons of this education is that a goose (or any winged animal) can see beyond boundaries on land. In other words, a man's worth is not only based on how much land and property he has; also, a government is not nearly as important as its leader.

Wart's adventures continue with Merlyn and with Kay until the fateful day of the tourney, at which Wart pulls the Sword from the Stone.
Arthur the King faces many troubles right away, including a strong claim from Lot, King of Orkney. His wife, Morgause, is the subject of the second book,

The Queen of Air and Darkness (originally The Witch in the Wood). The sons of Orkney, Gawain foremost among them, cause no end of trouble for Arthur and Lancelot throughout the last three books.

The Ill-Made Knight, the third book, is concerned mainly with Lancelot, who is portrayed by White as being amazingly ugly though competent in arms. Despite this ugliness (and probably because of this competence), Guinevere falls in love with him. The book ends with their at-long-last tryst.

In the last book, The Candle in the Wind, Arthur becomes the main character again. His past comes back to haunt him as Mordred arrives in Camelot. The bastard uses the Lancelot-Guinevere affair to his advantage in breaking apart the Round Table.

The book ends
with Arthur telling the story to a young man named Tom on the eve of the Battle of Camlann. Overall, the book has a different feel from other Arthurian tellings. These books have humor, chiefly in the form of Merlyn and of King Pellinore, whose efforts in hunting the Questing Beast and at fighting Sir Grummore Grummersom are shot through with gentle and broad humor.

Finally, there is the theme of war.
White, a pacifist, fills his hero, Arthur, with a war-weariness and a determination to do what is right: "Might for Right." From the very beginning, Arthur has to fight to keep what he has earned. He fends off challenges from Lot and from outsiders; he tries to keep his Round Table intact in the face of a serious challenge from Mordred and the sons of Orkney; he tries to keep his kingdom intact by fighting for his very life against Mordred and his growing number of allies.

He fights, fights, fights. His tone at the end of the fourth book, in the chat with young Tom, is one of acceptance of his fate. However, even weighed down by the knowledge of certain death, he finds the strength to encourage young Tom to survive the battle and tell the story.
Now, since The Once and Future King ends on the eve of the Battle of Camlann, the book has no mention of what eventually happened to Arthur. T.H. White wrote The Book of Merlyn to tell that story. Left out of the set by the publishers, this book was published in its own right several years later. In it, Merlyn returns to Arthur and returns Arthur to happier days, when he visited the ants and geese and came face to face with the war-crazed ants and the happy-go-lucky geese. Buoyed by this return to the innocence of his youth, Arthur intends to ask Mordred for a truce.

But fate intervenes: Echoing Malory, White has a snake cause the fateful, final battle. We see the end of Arthur and of Lancelot and Guinevere. We see the end of an era. But we see the future, too, and it is filled with hope.
This condemnation of the evils of war is a vast departure from the Welsh war songs that began the story of Arthur. As the 20th century winds down, we see many more departures from the common theme. Two of the greatest and most successful departures are written by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart.

Characterisation in the work
Perhaps most striking about White's work is how he reinterprets the traditional Arthurian characters, often giving them motivations or traits more complex or even contradictory to those in earlier versions of the legend. For example:
Arthur is a well-intentioned king as trained by Merlyn, but it seems that his greatest flaw is his inability to adapt once Merlyn leaves him: he comes off as well-meaning yet rather ineffectual Lancelot is no longer the handsome knight typical in the romantic legends but is instead portrayed as the ugliest of that lot. He is also a sadist, a trait he represses, but which leads to bouts of self-loathing. He seeks to overcome his flaws through full devotion towards becoming Arthur's greatest knight Merlyn lives through time backwards, making him a bumbling yet wise old man who is getting younger It is also interesting to note that White allows Thomas Malory to have a cameo appearance towards the end of the final book. Also of note is White's treatment of historical characters and kings as mythological within this world that he creates. In addition, due to his living backwards, Merlyn makes many anachronistic allusions to events in more recent times; of note are references to the Second World War, telegraphs, tanks, and "an Austrian who … plunged the civilized world into misery and chaos" (i.e. Hitler).
Usage of Political Ideals
Underscoring the story of Arthur's life, from his youth and education to the end of his reign, is a well thought out commentary on how mankind should govern itself, written in the context of the Second World War. The political stand points are totalitarianism, communism, anarchy, and socialism.
When Arthur first ascends to the throne, the country is ruled by what he calls Fort Mayne, or the rule of the strongest. The barons and nobles ride around the countryside doing whatever they wish--being unpleasant, exploitative, and sometimes murderous. Despite the ongoing question of whether humanity is naturally evil, through most of the book King Arthur is optimistic that there is a means to curb humanity's tendency toward violence and cruelty. The latter three parts of the book show the progression of his search for a solution. His first solution to the rule of power is to crush it with power ("Might is Right"). As a young king, he conquers rival barons in a war in which Arthur dispenses with gentlemanly protocols so as to force the barons to experience the horrors of war firsthand. However, this is clearly not a permanent solution, but merely perpetuates the problem.
His next move is to channel power into something worthy. He reinvents Chivalry, and forms the Round Table, making it a goal for his knights to use their Might to rescue maidens and right wrongs ("Might for Right"). However, this solution does not last for long. Once all the wrongs are righted, and England settles into a golden period of peace and lawfulness, the knights grow bored, and things at court start to go badly. Pettiness and squabbling arise, and society stagnates. This is what Merlyn calls "Games-Mania": the knights become caught up in Jousting and Tourneys, to the point that vicious rivalries are established, especially the Orkney-Lancelot one. A better solution is needed.
Arthur's next move is to seek the solution from outside the mundane world. He sends his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail — aiming their power toward God instead of toward worldly things ("Might for God"). This, however, is a failure, too, because any knight who achieves the quest is perfect, and thus no longer suitable to live in an imperfect world. The other knights who fail are for a time positively affected by the quest (Sir Lancelot in particular), but it does not take long for them to fall back into their old ways. In addition, many knights who fail the quest (Gawaine) feel humiliated by Lancelot and Galahad, and many good knights end up dying in the quest for the Grail.
Arthur's final solution as king is to formalise power: he reinvents Civil Law ("Right is Right"). Instead of power being wielded by the knights, it now belongs to the state. An example of this would be the replacing of trial-by-battle with trial by jury. This solution comes back to bite Arthur when the affair between Guinevere and Launcelot is exposed: adhering to his new law means that he must punish his beloved wife and his best friend, by banishing Lancelot and burning Guinevere. However, he knows that Lancelot will rescue her, and Lancelot does indeed end up rescuing Guinevere and they escape to his castle together. However, in the process he unintentionally kills the unarmed Gaheris and Gareth.
Almost everyone considered Gareth the "best" or most "knightly" of the Orkneys; he was knighted by Lancelot, and his brother Gawaine loved him. When Lancelot kills Gareth and Gaheris while they are unarmed during the rescue of Guinevere, not recognising them in his fury, Gawaine flies into a rage and Arthur into deep depression. Gawaine tells Arthur he has no choice but to go to war with Lancelot so Gawaine can extract vengeance.
The book ends with Arthur, weary and aged, in his field pavilion on the eve of the final battle between his knights and Mordred's Thrashers. He reflects upon where he has gone wrong, and whether humans can ever learn to renounce violence. Before going forth, Arthur charges a young page (Malory) with keeping alive his legend and his ideals until a better day.
This is where The Book of Merlyn fits in: Arthur is taken to Merlyn's cave, where he meets many of his old friends from The Sword in the Stone — animals with whom he has spent time. He then spends some time as an ant, and as a goose, experiencing the structure of their societies. The ant is a fiercely territorial animal, with a rigidly structured life. The goose, on the other hand, is free, without any boundaries or borders, flying where it wants. Arthur spends an idyllic few days as a goose, before he is dragged back to Merlyn's cave. He realises that boundaries, which don't actually exist, but are purely mental constructs in human minds, are the real cause of the strife in the world, and that humanity should do away with them if he wants to achieve a successful and peaceful society.
Film, television and theatrical adaptations
Walt Disney made an adaptation of The Sword in the Stone in 1963. This movie reflects more the sense of humour of Disney's team of animators than White. The movie adds a more comical side to the original story, including song and dance, as in most Walt Disney films. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1960 musical Camelot (which was made into a movie in 1967) is also based on The Once and Future King, and features White's idea of having Thomas Malory make a cameo appearance at the end. Warner Bros. has announced that they will be releasing a film adaption with Kenneth Lonergan directing. also lists the title "The Once and Future King (2008)," but refers to a story about an Australian farmer who could possibly be an heir to the throne of England.

T.H. White

"Who so Pulleth Out This Sword of this Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of All England."

Terence Hanbury White (29 May 1906–17 January 1964) was an English author best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King, first published together in 1958.
Born 29 May 1906(1906-05-29)Bombay, India Died 17 January 1964 (aged 57)Piraeus, Athens Occupation Writer Genres Fantasy InfluencesThomas Malory, J. R. R. Tolkien[1] InfluencedGregory Maguire, Ed McBain, Michael Moorcock, J. K. Rowling
White was born in Bombay, India, the son of Garrick Hansbury White, an Indian police superintendent, and Constance White.[2] Terence White had a discordant childhood, with an alcoholic father and an emotionally frigid mother, and his parents separated when Terence was fourteen.[3][4] White went to Cheltenham College, a public school, and Queens' College, Cambridge, where he was tutored by the scholar and occasional author L. J. Potts. Potts became a lifelong friend and correspondent, and White later referred to him as "the great literary influence in my life."[3] While at Queens' College, White wrote a thesis on Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (without reading it),[5] and graduated in 1928 with a first-class degree in English.[2]
White then taught at Stowe School, Buckinghamshire, for four years. In 1936 he published England Have My Bones, a well-received memoir about a year spent in England. The same year, he left Stowe and lived in a workman's cottage, where he wrote and "revert[ed] to a feral state", engaging in falconry, hunting, and fishing.[6][2] White also became interested in aviation, partly to conquer his fear of heights.[citation needed] White wrote to a friend that in autumn 1937, "I got desperate among my books and picked [Malory] up in lack of anything else. Then I was thrilled and astonished to find that (a) The thing was a perfect tragedy, with a beginning, a middle and an end implicit in the beginning and (b) the characters were real people with recognisable reactions which could be forecast[...] Anyway, I somehow started writing a book."[5] The novel, which White described as "a preface to Malory",[5] was titled The Sword in the Stone and told the story of the boyhood of King Arthur. White was also influenced by Freudian psychology and his lifelong involvement in natural history. The Sword in the Stone was well-reviewed and was a Book of the Month Club selection in 1939.[2]
In February 1939, White moved to Doolistown, Ireland, where he lived out the international crisis and the Second World War itself as a de facto conscientious objector.[7] It was in Ireland that he wrote most of what would later become The Once and Future King; two sequels to The Sword and the Stone were published during this time: The Witch in the Wood (later retitled The Queen of Air and Darkness) in 1939, and The Ill-Made Knight in 1940. The version of The Sword in the Stone included in The Once and Future King differs in several respects from the earlier version. It is darker, and some critics prefer the earlier version. White's indirect experience of the war had a profound effect on these tales of King Arthur, which include commentaries on war and human nature in the form of a heroic narrative.
In 1946, White settled in Alderney, one of the smaller Channel Islands, where he lived for the rest of his life.[6] The same year, White published Mistress Masham's Repose, a children's book in which a young girl discovers a group of Lilliputians (the tiny people in Swift's Gulliver's Travels) living near her house. In 1947, he published The Elephant and the Kangaroo, in which a repetition of Noah's Flood occurs in Ireland. In the early 1950s White published two non-fiction books: The Age of Scandal (1950), a collection of essays about 18th-century England, and The Goshawk (1951), an account of White's attempt to train a hawk in the traditional art of falconry. In 1954 White translated and edited The Book of Beasts, an English translation of a medieval bestiary originally written in Latin.
In 1958 White completed the fourth book of The Once and Future King sequence, The Candle in the Wind, though it was first published with the other three parts and has never been published separately. The Broadway musical Camelot was based on The Once and Future King, as was the animated film The Sword in the Stone.
He died on 17 January 1964 aboard ship in Piraeus, Greece (Athens, Greece) of a heart ailment, en route to Alderney from a lecture tour in the United States.[2]
He is buried in First Cemetery of Athens. In 1977 The Book of Merlyn, a conclusion to The Once and Future King, was published posthumously.
Personal lifeAccording to Sylvia Townsend Warner's biography, White was "a homosexual and a sado-masochist."[6] He came close to marrying several times but had no enduring romantic relationships, and wrote in his diaries that "It has been my hideous fate to be born with an infinite capacity for love and joy with no hope of using them."[6] White was also an agnostic,[8] and towards the end of his life a heavy drinker.[3][9]
InfluenceScience-fiction writer Michael Moorcock enjoyed White's The Once and Future King, and was especially influenced by the underpinnings of realism in his work.[10] Moorcock eventually engaged in a "wonderful correspondence" with White, and later recalled that "White [gave] me some very good advice on how to write".[10][11] J. K. Rowling has said that T. H. White's writing strongly influenced the Harry Potter books; several critics have compared Rowling's character Albus Dumbledore to White's absent-minded Merlyn,[12][13] and Rowling herself has described White's Wart as "Harry's spiritual ancestor."[14] Gregory Maguire was influenced by "White's ability to be intellectually broadminded, to be comic, to be poetic, and to be fantastic" in the writing of his 1995 novel Wicked,[15] and crime fiction writer Ed McBain also cited White as an influence.[16]
Selected bibliography
England Have My Bones (1936)

The Once and Future King /The Sword in the Stone (1938)

The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939, originally titled The Witch in the Wood)

The Ill-Made Knight (1940)

The Candle in the Wind (1958)

Mistress Masham's Repose (1946)
The Elephant and the Kangaroo (1947)

The Age of Scandal (1950)

The Goshawk (1951)

The Book of Beasts (translator, 1954)

The Book of Merlyn (1977)
1 Attebery, Brian (1980). The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin. Bloomington: Indiana University. ISBN 0-2533-5665-2.

2 "T. H. White Dead; Novelist was 57" (fee required), The New York Times, 1964-01-18. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.

3 c Craig, Patricia. "Lives and letters," The Times Literary Supplement, 1989-04-07. p. 362.

4 Annan, Noel. "Character: The White-Garnett Letters and T. H. White" (book review), The New York Review of Books 11.8, 1968-11-07. Retrieved on 2008-02-13.
5 Gallix, Francois, ed (1982). Letters to a Friend: The Correspondence Between T. H. White and L. J. Potts. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-3991-2693-7. p. 93-95. (Reprinted here.)

6 Allen, Walter. "Lucky In Art Unlucky In Life" (fee required), The New York Times, 1968-04-21. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.

7 "The Importance of The Second World War to T. H. White's "Once and Future King"". Retrieved on 2008-04-30.

8 Wilson, A. N. "World of books: The knights with right on their side", The Telegraph, 2006-06-03. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.

9 Cantwell, Mary. "Books of the Times: Letters to a Friend" (book review), The New York Times, 1982-09-10. Retrieved on 2008-02-13.

10 Hudson, Patrick. "Fifty Percent Fiction: Michael Moorcock" (interview), The Zone, 2001-2002. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.

11 Klaw, Rick. "Michael Moorcock serves up sword and sorcery with a new Elric adventure", Sci Fi Weekly, 2001-04-02. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.
12 "Real Wizards: The Search for Harry's Ancestors". (2001). Retrieved on 2007-06-01.

13 Evelyn M Perry. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Novel". Retrieved on 2007-06-01. 14 "JK (JOANNE KATHLEEN) ROWLING (1966-)". Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved on 2007-10-08.

15 Nolan, Tom. "Gregory Maguire Brews Another Wicked Mix of Historical Fiction & Timeless Myth", Bookselling This Week, 2003-09-16. Retrieved on 2008-02-10.

16 "What Authors Influenced You?", Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
Warner, Sylvia Townsend (1967). T. H. White: A Biography. New York: Viking.
The Sword in the Stone is a novel by T. H. White, published in 1938, initially a stand-alone work but now the first part of a tetralogy The Once and Future King.

Walt Disney Productions adapted the story to an animated film, and the BBC adapted it to radio.

The novel is about a young boy named Wart who befriends a magician named Merlyn. As we suspect all along, but only find out for sure at the end, Wart is actually the future King Arthur. The title refers to a sword that was magically embedded in a stone so that only the future, true-born king of England would be able to remove it.
The premise is that Arthur's youth, not dealt with in Malory, was a time when he was tutored by Merlyn to prepare him for the use of power and royal life. Merlyn magically turns Wart into various animals at times. He also has more human adventures, at one point meeting the outlaw Robin Hood, (who is referred to in the novel as Robin Wood). The setting is loosely based on medieval England, and in places it incorporates White's considerable knowledge of medieval culture (as in relation to hunting, falconry and jousting). However it makes no attempt at consistent historical accuracy, and incorporates some obvious anachronisms (aided by the concept that Merlyn lives backwards in time rather than forwards, unlike everyone else).
The version appearing in 1959 in the tetralogy was substantially revised, partly to incorporate events and themes that White had originally intended to cover in a fifth volume (which was finally published after his death, as The Book of Merlyn). To this end, the revised version includes several new episodes, including a pacifist passage in which Arthur is transformed into a wild goose that flies so high as to not be able to perceive national boundaries. It leaves out some of the episodes that had appeared in the original (notably Merlyn's battle with Madam Mim which appeared in the Disney film). Many critics considered that the revised version was actually inferior to the original. Publishers tended to use the original version when it was published independently of the tetralogy; both versions are still in print.
The reasons White made these revisions are open to speculation. The Sword in the Stone, although it includes some serious themes, is to some extent a rather whimsical fantasy of Merry England. Its connection with the classical Arthurian legend was actually rather limited, although what it did take from the Arthurian legend was accurate. It was awkward to treat this as the first part of a more serious treatment of the Arthurian legend. It is also possible that White felt in a darker mood after the Second World War. It has also been said that due to wartime censorship, the publishers did not want to print some of White's more strident Anti-War sentiments (which are very prevalent in "The Book of Merlyn"). White is an example, along with Jerome K. Jerome and Compton Mackenzie, of a serious writer who became best remembered for a comical work .
Walt Disney Productions made an animated movie adaptation of The Sword in the Stone, first released on December 25, 1963 by Buena Vista Distribution. Like most Disney films, it is based on the general plot of the original story, but much of the substance of the story is considerably changed.
A BBC radio adaptation in 1982 starred Michael Hordern as Merlyn. Hordern had already starred as another great literary wizard, Tolkien's Gandalf, in the BBC's 1981 radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.