519 of 544 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2001
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...
168 of 176 people found the following review helpful
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 Amazon.com has a word limit. Read The Once and Future King, and see for yourself.
93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2002
"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.
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 1999
I first read this book when I was 14 years olds in 1963. Since that time, I have reread it six times, the last being c. 10 years ago. I now feel a need to read it again as I approach my 50s. First time I read it, I read it much as a fairy tale. In latter readings, it came across very much as an adult novel. Something for everyone in it -- love, war, good, evil, quest for the Holy Grail, etc. My readings of the Once and Future King caused me to read Mallory's Le Morte de Arthur, Tennyson, as well as some of the original French and English legends about the subject. So, it incited a life-long passion in Arthurian drama although I don't think any of them ever approached the majesty of The Once and Future King.
50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2003
When I read this book in my mid-teens, I absolutely LOVED it, because it nurtured and excited my imagination.
"THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING" combines all the elements of Arthurian legend, adventure, and history in describing the lives of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and some of the other notables of Camelot. (This is the novel, some of whose elements were later adapted to the screen as the Disney movie "The Sword in the Stone".)
White has written a delightful, entertaining story not without its harrowing moments. We first see Arthur as a boy ("The Wart") living with his adoptive family and serving as a page to his older brother. Merlin's role at the beginning of the novel is as a teacher for Arthur. (Note. Merlin had been entrusted by Arthur's real father with protecting his son.) He leads Arthur on a variety of adventures, which I won't go into here, except to say that the reader will be amazed with the rich imagery White creates.
The novel progresses through Arthur's life, his reign, his sorrows and joys, and the perils and highpoints of life in an England mired in upheaval and turmoil. White shows the reader how the forces of light and darkness interplay in the shaping of a society where magic can be a real factor in everyday life. It's a long novel, so brace yourself for a healthy sprint.
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2003
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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2011
Search here on Amazon for "The Once and Future King, Complete Edition", and buy that one. It's the only edition that includes "The Book of Merlyn", the fifth volume that T. H. White intended as the conclusion of "The Once and Future King".
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2013
Print-to-order rip off with the ink still wet. No copyright information supplied. Low resolution scanned cover from another edition.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2004
This is, by far, the best telling of the Arthurian Legend - yes, even better than Geoffrey of Monmouth or Sir Thomas Mallory. White makes the story new again by infusing it with strong characterizations and humor. The story is told in twentieth-century dialogue, making all the characters seem witty, urbane, and intellectual. Each one is given his own personality. Lancelot, for instance, is rendered totally human. He might have a beautiful body, but he has an ugly face. The reason he tries to act so virtuously is that he is convinced he isn't a virtuous person.
The book is a compilation of four separate books, bound together. The first, The Sword in the Stone, is a children's book, but an adult would have to be seriously jaded not to enjoy it. There is a lot of overt humor, in-jokes, and even an appearance by Robin Hood. Afterwards, the novels take a more "adult" and "realistic" feel. White does his best to make these icons seem like real people in real situations with real motives. He even allows time to pass and his heroes grow old, instead of staying eternally young as they do in other versions.
The primary source White bases this on is Le Mort D'Arthur. When I learned more about the history of Britain, I realized that White had fused the Arthur story with the story of Henry II. Arthur is supposed to have lived around fifth century. White transposes the story to the twelfth century. He acknowledges this by claiming that Arthur was real and Richard the Lionhearted was fake! The deeds he attributes to Arthur - like the creation of the English law system - was really the work of Henry Plantagenet. It is only fitting because Henry always saw himself as King Arthur. Apparently, T.H. White sees him the same way.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2000
Whenever I need to truly escape, to take my heart and my mind to a far away place, I re-read the Once and Future King. My mother, who calls this a classic, took lessons from it to teach us when we were young (about growing up and becoming self-aware). This is the story of the boy who will be King Arthur, and his friend, mentor, and guide, Merlin. The boy (called "Wart") spends a childhood of magnificent talking beasts and fascinating creatures. He develops with guidance into the kind and balanced King Arthur. It is the tale of Camelot as one might imagine it long before Hollywood glossed it over. T. H. White wrote this in 1939. To old to be relevant today? You will find this paperback on the front counters of every and any Border's and Barnes and Noble's you enter. The reviewer who mirrored closest my own feelings wrote, "...a warm, sad, glinting, rich, mystical, true and beautiful tapestry of human history and human spirit. Read it and laugh. Read it and learn. Read it and be glad you are human." Exactly.