Book Review: The Once and Future King

Rating: 4/5

Author: T.H. White

The Kid Who Would Be King is a new movie out in theatres, and it’s yet another movie about King Arthur, or some version of him.

I’m not complaining, because I am a big fan of the Arthurian legend, but when we get a movie adaptation of the story every few years, it’s a little too much.

Now I haven’t read that book, but one Arthurian legend book that I have read is The Once and Future King.

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T.H. White got the name of the book from Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur”, where he claims that King Arthur’s tomb has Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus”. 

For those who aren’t fluent in Latin, basically what that means is “Here lies Arthur, king once, and king to be.”

I heard about it from watching X2 when Professor X talks to Magneto about what a man can do when he has power.

As Arthur becomes king, he attempts to go against the “might is right” attitude that was common at the time in a historical context.

Since Arthur wasn’t a real person, White’s retelling of the story differs slightly from what people commonly associate to Arthur, but it is still the same idea.

The Once and Future King ends just before Arthur’s final battle against his illegitimate son Mordred, but follows the basic story people often know about King Arthur:

  • His training with Merlyn (no battle with Madam Mym though)
  • His seduction by his half sister Morgause, and the adoption of the chivalric order of the Round Table
  • The love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere
  • The eventual downfall of Camelot because of Mordred’s hatred of Arthur/the love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere

Now I’m a sucker for the medieval era with knights and sword fights. I’ve loved that idea since I was a kid, and I probably wont stop, and I think The Once and Future King is a great depiction of the era, using the Arthurian legend to show the code of chivalry that has come and gone through history.

What’s great about it though, is the fact that it really doesn’t much of its time on knights and fighting. I mean yeah, it is part of the story, but probably about 1/4 of it focuses on Arthur’s (or Wart as he is known at the time) training by Merlyn as different animals.

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I always thought that was a movie thing from watching The Sword in the Stone. You know, kids movie, funny talking animals that teach you a lesson. But no, it’s actually how the story was written, and being an adult I kind of understand how the lessons make sense.

I tried not to let my love of knights and the medieval era stain my judgement of this one.

I did genuinely really enjoy The Once and Future King though. I had read it a few years ago and couldn’t stop myself from reading it when I had a free moment.

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Since there are so many different adaptations of the Arthurian legend, what’s your favourite? Let me know in the comments.

Next week I’m gonna take a look at a book, named after a guy who has a metal heart. Maybe you can guess that one. 

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