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Sword in the Stone (Essential Modern Classics) Paperback – March 3, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Neville Jason's approach, he says, is to be humble to the material he is working with and to let the powers of absorption work. It is apt that in this classic retelling of the King Arthur legend, the wizard Merlin often teaches the boy Arthur (aka Wart) by changing him into other creatures—a fish, a bird—to learn by absorption, by being, with empathy being the least of the lessons taught. It is a perfect fit of sensibilities. Jason, who was awarded the Diction Prize by Sir John Gielgud at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, delivers fully developed characters with such warmth and spark that listeners are instantly transported to Sir Ector's castle. Originally written in 1938, this audiobook is perfect for any J.K. Rowling fan, as its humor, intellect and playfulness feels as contemporary as a Harry Potter novel. In fact, Rowling has described White's Wart as Harry's spiritual ancestor. Combined with the brilliant performance by Jason, what more could a fantasy fan want? (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Veteran Shakespearean actor Jason reads this classic tale relaying Merlin’s tutelage of young Arthur. Devoid of music or sound effects, the audio allows listeners to step back and savor Jason’s conversational reading. His atmospheric, melodious British accent makes it seem as if White himself is telling the story over a spot of tea. Jason represents characters ranging from bizarre beasts to outlandish eccentrics. He masterfully expresses the wry humor and charming chivalry of White’s 1938 homage to Thomas Mallory’s epic Arthurian legend. Includes a booklet with historical background and text notes. A wonderful family listening experience, especially for Potter and Pullman fans wishing to experience the roots of British fantasy. Grades 4-8. --Mary Burkey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I’d like to share one of my favorite scenes since I first read the book:
“Oh, flout the boy!” cried Merlyn passionately. “You don’t seem to see anything this morning. What is it that you want me to do?”
“Turn me and Kay into snakes or something.”
Merlyn took off his spectacles, dashed them on the floor and jumped upon them with both feet.
“Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!” he exclaimed, and immediately vanished with a frightful roar.
The Wart was still staring at his tutor’s chair in some perplexity, a few moments later, when Merlyn reappeared. He had lost his hat and his hair and beard were all tangled up, as if by a hurricane. He sat down again, straightening his gown with trembling fingers.
“Why did you do that?” asked the Wart.
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Do you mean to say that Castor and Pollux did blow you to Bermuda?”
“Let this be a lesson to you,” replied Merlyn, “not to swear. I think we had better change the subject.”
To conclude, as a child the anachronisms didn’t bother me because early in the novel Merlyn explains to the Wart that he lives backwards in time and knows about the future.
I ultimately enjoyed it! "The Sword in the Stone" was a charming story with interesting characters who went on interesting adventures. The Wart, Merlin (Merlyn) and Archimedes were a little different than their movie counterparts, but I found myself liking each of them in the book. (It was only Kay, Wart's brother, who seemed to have undergone a more major character change for the movie.)
"The Sword in the Stone" was a rather easy, light read. I read it during lunch over the course of several weeks. It was easy to read one chapter (usually depicting one of Wart's adventures, from beginning to end), put the book down, and pick it up another day. Perhaps it can't be considered extremely exciting, but it's certainly intriguing enough for the reader to want to finish the book.
White was clearly impacted by the struggle to hold views of evolution and a God-centered world view, and was also clearly impacted by the tensions of war torn Europe. He weaves some fun stories of Robin Hood, life in a hawk mew, and light-hearted jousting in with all his explaining and metaphorizing, though. I can't imagine not liking the vivid imagery and exotic story-telling, and if you are a fan of any of the other initialed British writers you'll certainly feel at home with T.H. White. Read the Sword in the Stone- it won't take much time, but then by all means read The Once and Future King one day for the real masterpiece.
But the story is heavy with anachronisms, so that Robin Hood who resisted the tyranny of King John in the 12th and 13th centuries becomes a friend and teacher of Wart who is to become king of England in the fifth century. There are amusing allusions to an electric company and to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and to spectacles worn by King Pellinore and Merlin, though none existed before the 15th century. There is also an excessive reliance on shape changing, so that the Wart becomes a fish, two types of bird and a badger.
The book is most valuable for its psychological examination of the preparation of boy for the throne of England, implying that Merlin was divinely appointed to develop and inform Arthur to be king. It may be the book is a justification of the Divine Right of kings to rule, at least at the court of Camelot.
However, one serious failing with the book is White's outward insistence that Kay, Arthur's foster brother and eventual seneschal, is essentially a good person. But all the evidence is that Kay is mean, selfish and envious.
Otherwise, the book is gently thoughtful though the descriptions of slaughter and killing and violent contests may be troublesome to squeamish parents and teachers who try hard to bowdlerise the writers they approve for their children's reading. The Sword in the Stone