The Once and Future King Paperback – 1 Oct 1996
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|Paperback, 1 Oct 1996||
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‘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
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an odd book, and there is something oddly uneven in the writing. The first part describing the childhood of Arthur is a children’s story. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Anna Lowenstein
A book you have to read whethet child or adult,not the easiest of reads,needs some perciverencePublished 3 months ago by Roger Wilkes
Rating is about the "Library Binding" and not this eternal work of T. H. White.
I've loved this book for decades, so much so that I wanted a hardcover version... Read more
Overall, I really enjoyed this mountain of a novel. The edition I have is the collector's edition, so has five novels (it includes The Book of Merlyn) in it rather than the normal... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Rebekah-May