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The Once and Future King Paperback – 1 Oct 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Oct 1996
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Product details

  • Paperback: 677 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books; Reprint edition (1 Oct. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441003834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441003839
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,799,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Magnificent and tragic, and irrestible mixture of gaiety and pathos’
The Sunday Times

‘This ambitious work will long remain a memorial to an author who is at once civilized, learned, witty and humane’
Times Literary Supplement

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

T.H. White's masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend is an abiding classic. Here for the first time all five volumes that make up the story are published in one volume, as White himself always wished.

Exquisite comedy offsets the tragedy of Arthur's personal doom as White brings to life the major British epic of all time with brilliance, grandeur, warmth and charm.

The complete edition

'The Sword in the Stone
The Witch in the Wood
The Ill-made Knight
The Candle in the Wind
The Book of Merlyn'

“Magnificent and tragic, an irresistible mixture of gaiety and pathos”
THE SUNDAY TIMES

“This ambitious work will long remain a memorial to an author who is at once civilized, learned, witty and humane”
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The telling of this story was an epic undertaking for T.H.White, who adapted it from Mallory's Morte d'Arthur. The first book, The Sword in the Stone, is rather protracted and the fact that most will be familiar with the plot tends to put off many who would read it. However, the four remaining books are a revelation; White's glorious and rich narrative paints a vivid picture of twelth century adventure, chivalry, treachery, despair and ultimately, tragedy. This is an absolute must read, for it is of a style that one rarely encounters today, written by a literary genius and exceptionally intelligent man. White is over-looked to a great extent in modern literature. Read this book and wonder why.
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Format: Paperback
One commentator once said, 'T.H. White has a genius for recreating the physical conditions of the past; the child who reads him will learn far more than all the historians and archaeologists could tell of what England was like in the Middle Ages.' This tale, 'The Once and Future King', is a classic of English literature, crossing the ages to be a tale both of modern times in the language and treatment of characters as well as the misty, mystical past with its subject matter.
Like many classics, this book inspired both great love and great irritation. It is a classic retelling of the Arthurian legends - White does not add to the legends with his own additions, but rather sticks closely to manuscripts and stories that have gone before, most notably Thomas Mallory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur', also considered a classic. The book is divided into four major sections: 'The Sword in the Stone', 'The Queen of Air and Darkness', 'The Ill-Made Knight', and 'The Candle in the Wind'. The overall tone of Arthur's legend goes from hopefulness to tragedy, as even the final conflicts become unresolved, hence the idea that Arthur will come again.
The title of this work comes from the supposed inscription on Arthur's tomb: HIC IACET ARTORIVS REX QVONDAM REXQVE FVTVRVS. The sweep goes from Arthur's childhood to the final battle with his son Mordred. Like many works, this is both a piece of entertainment as well as a political commentary (think 'The Wizard of Oz' here) - Mordred's thrashers are Nazi stormtroopers, for example. This book was the product of the time just before World War II. Merlin's preaching of just war theory (the only acceptable reason for going to war is to prevent another war) is apropos of the time.
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Format: Paperback
You may have met the Sword in the Stone either as the Disney animation (which I confess I have never managed to sit through) or as a standalone book for children - which is how I first encountered it.
The Sword in the Stone, it turns out, is just the first part of T H White's retelling of parts of the Arthur cycle. But it is very, very unlike the parts that follow, and it's probably worth considering them separately, even though they appear under one cover.
The Sword in the Stone, then, is a rumbustiously delightful re-envisioning of Arthur's youth as a second class child in the home of Sir Ector and his son Kay. There are two things which make this book delightful. The first is the character writing, which is witty and insightful. This is something that runs through the entire sequence of books. The second is the rampant imaginative disregard for any kind of historicity. This book is a firework display of deliberate anachronisms. The famous set pieces, including the magician's duel, crop up frequently in comprehension pieces in schools. TH White has no compunction in putting Robin Hood in with the mix, even though five centuries or so separated the purported dates of Arthur and Robin.
Before you imagine this to be a flaw, think again. The nature of the Arthurian cycle, whether in Chretien de Troyes, Geoffrey of Monmouth, the anonymous middle-english ballads, or Mallory's late sometimes tedious, sometimes brilliant retelling, is that they mix things from all over the place. Almost none of the adventures attributed to Arthur could have taken place in the time of the war-leader that the historian Nennius describes - even if they were possible anyway.
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Format: Paperback
Bored with the novels we had to study for A levels, I wandered into our school library one lunch time and picked a book at random to read. It was The Once and Future King, and I'd never heard of it. I was entranced from the first page, I think because it had its own distinctive spirit; not quite like any literary style or trend. Whatever, forty-two years later, it remains my favourite book of all time. White pulls off a very difficult feat for an author: to tell a classic tale in a personal way. For there's no doubt much of the views and passion expressed through the characters belong to White. Yet it works, I think because much of his essential soul matched the subject matter. This was no case of an author finding something he believed could sell, or which would make him a literary name (although I suppose White might have wanted those things too); this was an author strongly driven to tell his tale. I don't think it's any accident that so many films have been based on this book; what White adds to Malory's structure are characters we care about.

The book is not actually that long for the huge scope of life it covers. If this was a modern fantasy, it would probably be stretched out at least three times the length. Also, the four books are very different, matching the period in Arthur's life they cover. So, we have the child-like wonder underpinning The Sword in the Stone, through to the utter, adult tragedy of The Candle in the Wind. It's not without faults but somehow these add to its charm; they're part of White's passion, sometimes unchecked, and that's no bad thing when the story-telling is so brilliant.
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