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The Sword in the Stone Hardcover – September 15, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

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 the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel Books; Ill edition (September 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399225021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399225024
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Finding a COMPLETE version of this book is difficult. When the Sword and the Stone was grafted onto the rest of the series to form the Once and Future King, T.H. White removed several scenes from the book. Growing up enjoying the Walt Disney version of the film, I was disappointed when I read the Once and Future King. Where was the wizard's duel between Merlyn and Madam Mim? Surely, Disney didn't come up with that on their own.

Well, the truth is these lost parts are still out there if you wish to find them. Some of the lost episodes include: Kay and Wart taken captive by Madam Mim, a wizard's duel between Merlyn and Mim, Wart and Kay battle a giant who has taken King Pellinore captive, Wart becomes a snake, and Archimedes takes the Wart in bird form to meet his mother Athene and hear a song from the trees. The version I found that still contained these passages was published in 1963 and features Disney illustrations on the cover. I do not know if other versions include these chapters, but the Once and Future King does not.

Some speculate that White thought these episodes to be too childish and light-hearted, but I think they are wonderful. The Sword in the Stone is a very difficult book for children. I believe it needs these light-hearted moments to offset the preachy life lessons. Don't get me wrong, I think the lessons that can be learned from the book are innumerable, but everyone needs a little fun with their learning.

If you are looking to read the Sword in the Stone, I encourage you to seek out the oldest version with the chapters still in tact. They're worth it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Sword in the Stone" is the must-read book of Arthuriana, an imaginative fantasy romp that has inspired all our ideas about the venerable Merlin and about King Arthur's boyhood. White infuses the book with whimsy, poignancy, and a mixture of early 20th-century England and medieval times.
Sir Ector's ward Arthur (known as "Wart") has no idea what he's in for when he accompanies Ector's son Kay out on a hunt. When a bad-tempered hawk escapes and refuses to come out of a tree, Wart ends up staying behind all night in the hopes of recapturing it. But he's interrupted by an odd old man called Merlin and his talking owl Archimedes. Merlin captures the hawk -- and then comes home with Wart. Soon he is firmly established as tutor to the two boys.
But they soon discover that nobody is quite like Merlin, and the lessons he has to teach Wart are more than just math and Latin. Merlin transforms Arthur into a fish, an owl, a hawk, and sends him on bizarre journeys with Robin Wood (Wood, not Hood -- a common mistake) and his band of Merry Men, a duel with an evil witch, a gathering of trees, a fumbling King and the Questing Beast, and capture in a sinister giant's castle.
T.H. White was a wonderful author, and an even better comic author. His characters are fully fleshed and endearing (even the nasty ones), but at the same time there is a delightful lightness to them. There isn't a speck of realism in the entire book -- chronology is bent and spindled, magic and realism are twisted together, and readers won't care at all. In a sense, "Sword" seems almost to exist in a parallel universe where animals talk, Robin Hood chit-chats with the once and future king, and carnivorous humanoids roam through Britain.
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By A Customer on April 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Sword in the Stone is a truly wonderful book. It is the classic story of young King Arthur, but told in greater depth and detail, and filled with wonderful, humorous characters. The tale so many times retold suddenly becomes fresh and original, as T.H. White's stunning narrative sweeps the reader into the world of Midieval England, and makes the old story come alive in a new and delightful way. Never before has anyone been able to make the old characters of Arthur and Merlyn, Sir Ector and King Pellinore come alive in such a real and fantastic way. The story is brought to life, and is better by far then the traditional telling of the tale. White does not only tell the simple story of the sword in the stone- here he tells the story of the boy who pulled it out. He goes back and tells us about the growing up of this boy, that we might better understand why it was he that was meant for this destiny, and what it was that shaped him for this task. And throughout the entire story, the book sparkles with humour, wit and charm, which is all the better because it is told in Old English. There are too many books these days written in modern language, using slang and twentieth century dialect, so the Sword in the Stone is a delightful change of pace. And while the Old English sounds perfectly authentic, it is not overly used, and is never difficult to understand. My nine year old sister understood it perfectly, when I read it to her. All in all, this story is the best retelling of any Arthurian legend that I have ever read. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in King Arthur to read this book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Once and Future King, which is built upon and uses text from the Sword in the Stone, is one of my favorite books. Much like the Hobbit is a sometimes silly preamble to the Lord of the Rings, The Sword in the Stone is the less serious story of King Arthur as a boy that sets the stage for the novel, The Once and Future King. And like the Hobbit, while it can be occassionally silly- a deadly serious and powerful story is just below the surface.

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.
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