The Once and Future King, part 1

Alan_Lee-TheSwordInTheStone.2

Painting by Alan Lee…

The stories of King Arthur have long captured my imagination. I’ve read many different versions and enjoyed each one. Many years ago, (to be truthful, it’s been 41 years!), I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I loved it! So for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge this year, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this wonderful classic, and revisit an old friend, so to speak.

It’s a very long book, divided into four parts which were written and published at different times. The Sword in the Stone tells of the boyhood of Arthur, called “Wart” by his family, and of his education by the wizard, Merlin. And what a wonderful education! –full of nature and folklore and imagination! It was a very enjoyable “listen,” and, if I were still teaching 6th grade, I would consider reading it aloud to my students as a stand-alone book.

The Sword in the Stone is very much about learning and about the relationship between this special student and his teacher. I retired last year after 27 years of teaching, and one reason I chose to become a teacher in the first place was because I love to learn, so this quote from the book speaks a particular truth for me about the joy of becoming a lifelong learner.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

Other hidden pleasures in this section of the book were the many quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and also the inclusion of Robin Hood in the story. What fun! This part of The Once and Future King was written for the child in all of us.

1916_Wyeths_Merlyn

Painting by N.C. Wyeth…

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7 thoughts on “The Once and Future King, part 1

  1. cherylmahoney

    I’d say that book falls under the category of “books I ought to get to someday…” You do make it sound good!

    And I’m fascinated by the illustration at the top…mainly, why is there a stuffed alligator, and is this picture the original for all the “magicians with stuffed alligators in their workrooms” I’ve seen float about? Conundrums!

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  2. deslily

    I read this trilogy eons ago.. and read them backwards! Merlin first! duh.. well I found the merlin book and didn’t realize it was a trilogy lol…eventually I read them all LOL loved them!

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  3. lynnsbooks

    I really want to read this and in fact ordered it from the library – however, about 6 books came in at the same time so I didn’t get time to pick it up and somebody else had it reserved! Will have to try again.
    Lynn 😀

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  4. Robin Post author

    Cherylmahoney, I love Alan Lee’s artwork, so I was particularly interested in this one, too. He was very true to the descriptions in the story!

    Thanks, Kelly. It’s an interesting re-read for me, as I remember loving this first section. If you don’t read the whole book, I think you’d enjoy this part.

    Pat, I’ve never read the Merlin book, so I’m looking forward to that one after I finish this re-read.

    Thanks, Delia! You’re right. Revisiting this book through a different medium is a very different experience. I’ve downloaded the book onto my Kindle because there are parts that I want to go over again as I listen, so I’m really experiencing it in both mediums!

    Jenclair, I love all the artwork inspired by the Arthurian tales! It’s fun to search for just the right illustration, so I was excited to find one by Alan Lee.

    Lynn, you definitely need a block of time for reading this one. It would be a great vacation book!

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