Friday, February 5, 2010

The Once and Future King by T.S. White

"I read this book every two years or so. I love it because no matter how old I am or what I am going through there is something in it that reaches out to me." -Someone whose favorite book is The Once and Future King

Read the synopsis on goodreads here.

If you have ever seen Disney's animated movie The Sword in the Stone then you are at least a little familiar with the first of 4 books that comprise T.H. White's The Once and Future King. The only major difference (that I can remember, I haven't seen the film in ages) is that Arthur (lovingly named Wart) was more than loved by Sir Ector and his household. He had a wonderfully happy boyhood where he and Kay were tutored by Merlin. It is a whimsical world where witches live in gingerbread houses, bumbling knights good naturedly joust (with tea planned afterwards) and being tutored by a magician is about as ordinary as apple pie. (mmmmm . . delicious apple pie) Everyone loved the Wart, an orphan they took straight to their heart and home. I also fell in love with the young King Arther, which makes the tragedy of his later life even more potent.
If you know the story of King Arthur you know that it ends badly. The most notable history of King Arthur, Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory actually means The Death of Arthur. It is inevitable that the Future King must eventually become the Once King. T.H. White will make you laugh and giggle and love the young Wart, and then in no time at all he turns it all around and you will find your heart breaking with your now beloved, aging King. I have to disagree with anyone who feels like White's writing in the light and whimsical Sword and the Stone does not reconcile with the last sorrowful 'book' The Candle in the wind. It is this contrast that most honestly reflects life. Where youth is young, hopeful and laughable, the end is often bleak, heartbreaking and full of regrets.
I had only two real issues with the book. The first being length. White doesn't ramble too often, but when he does ramble it takes the desire to trudge on right out of you. Press on! It is worth it. The other real issue was Guenevere. As much as I loved Arthur, and even the terribly ugly Lancelot, I hated the Queen. Someone who enjoyed the adoration of two of the most noble characters in history surely had to have one redeeming quality. I found her to be wretched and selfish.
Overall a beautiful, whimsical, sorrowful story. Absolutely classic.
4 and 1/2 stars

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