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The Once and Future King (1940)

par T. H. White

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

Séries: The Once and Future King (compilation 1-4)

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13,013174337 (4.09)2 / 675
"A deluxe hardcover edition of the world's greatest fantasy classic--part of Penguin Galaxy, a collectible series of six sci-fi/fantasy classics, featuring a series introduction by Neil Gaiman T. H. White's masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as the sword Excalibur and city of Camelot that are found within its pages. This magical epic takes Arthur from the glorious lyrical phase of his youth, through the disillusioning early years of his reign, to maturity when his vision of the Round Table develops into the search for the Holy Grail, and finally to his weary old age. With memorable characters like Merlin and Owl and Guinevere, beasts who talk and men who fly, wizardry and war, The Once and Future King has become the fantasy masterpiece against which all others are judged, a poignant story of adventure, romance, and magic that has enchanted readers for generations. Penguin Galaxy Six of our greatest masterworks of science fiction and fantasy, in dazzling collector-worthy hardcover editions, and featuring a series introduction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, Penguin Galaxy represents a constellation of achievement in visionary fiction, lighting the way toward our knowledge of the universe, and of ourselves. From historical legends to mythic futures, monuments of world-building to mind-bending dystopias, these touchstones of human invention and storytelling ingenuity have transported millions of readers to distant realms, and will continue for generations to chart the frontiers of the imagination. The Once and Future King by T. H. White Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein Dune by Frank Herbert 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin Neuromancer by William Gibson For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators"--… (plus d'informations)
  1. 100
    Le roi Arthur et ses preux chevaliers par John Steinbeck (g026r)
  2. 71
    Ivanhoé par Sir Walter Scott (LamontCranston)
  3. 52
    The Earthsea Quartet par Ursula K. Le Guin (LamontCranston)
  4. 20
    Guinevere's Gift par Nancy Mckenzie (wordcauldron)
  5. 20
    The Squire's Tale par Gerald Morris (foggidawn)
  6. 20
    The Age of Scandal par T. H. White (BINDINGSTHATLAST)
    BINDINGSTHATLAST: Anotherside of White
  7. 20
    Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel par Thomas Berger (eromsted)
    eromsted: For a comic take on the legend
  8. 10
    Queen of Camelot par Nancy Mckenzie (wordcauldron)
    wordcauldron: My favorite retelling of Arthurian legend. Period.
  9. 22
    Les magiciens par Lev Grossman (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: I thought of making this recommendation when reading the magical education section of The Magicians, which reminded me of the first book of The Once and Future King. But the wider idea - that magical powers can't stop us from making stupid human mistakes - is also relevant to both books.… (plus d'informations)
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In summary, this is a wonderful, moving collection of books, well worth reading in sequence in their entirety.
The Sword in the Stone is a fantastic children’s story, with plenty of excellent nature writing and humour. The middle books are readable, but workmanlike; however, they are necessary for the overall tragic arc of the stories, which is brilliantly achieved in The Candle in the Wind.
Well worth its place on James Mustich’s 1,000 books to read before you die list.

The book is divided into four parts:
• The Sword in the Stone (1938), detailing the youth of Arthur
This is a jolly, humorous story, which to my surprise is fairly closely followed by the Disney film (as I recall it from years ago), but which also includes other delightful tales, such as the adventure with Robin ‘ood (Wood) and Little John to rescue Friar Tuck from Morgan le Fay.
The book is set in a legendary time, after the Norman conquest of England (1066), whilst the Saxons (earlier invaders of England) were still identifiable, so perhaps 1100 to 1350 (twelfth century, or whenever it was, and in a remote castle on the border of the Marches (English Welsh border)), whilst chivalry was the highest ideal and Uther Pendragon (1066-1216!) was king.
White writes in an easy but verbose style, including many details of the English countryside and chivalry which deepen the story, making it a richer tale, but perhaps making it difficult to read fluidly for a modern reader. However as an older British reader, the book brilliantly conjures up the simple heroic English history that I was taught at school. This is a story of an England that never existed, except in our folk memory, although the deeds of chivalry are now mimicked by the jousting tournaments held occasionally in the summer at English castles and stately homes for the delight of tourists and children.
As first published in 1938, the humorous horror of being transformed into an ant, hearing Antland, Antland Over All being sung and lectures about war, patriotism and the economic situation, would have very pointed contemporary references. This lightly hidden political criticism is immediately followed by an approving description (without apparent irony) of the feudal system and the farm labourers (villeins as they were called) with their freedom of spirit liking their servitude in this medieval rural idyll, compared favourably to town workers.
It is fun to try and work out the hymn or song tunes to match the rhythm of White’ verses included from time to time, which is easy with the Battle Hymn of the (US) Republic.
The countryside and nature writing, especially about the white fronted geese, is wonderful and accurate as well (lyo-lyok is the slightly yodelling call they give), although necessarily anthropomorphic for the purposes of Wart’s education. I am an amateur ornithologist, so all the bird descriptions appealed to me.
However, Wart’s animal education ends with the badger: ”Which did you like best,” he asked, “the ants or the wild geese?”
The winter journey to London following Uther Pendragon’s death is followed, briefly, by a tournament of the knights of England, and Wart’s pulling of the sword from the stone, aided by his friendship with the animals.

I really enjoyed this book, familiar as it might be in outline from the eponymous Disney film, due to its humour, brilliantly descriptive writing and close observation of nature.

• The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939), originally published separately in somewhat different form as The Witch in the Wood
Well, here’s a thing, this second book, which was published separately in somewhat different form as The Witch in the Wood originally, has no witch in the woods in The Once and Future King! I cannot cheaply come by a copy of the original 1939 book of that title, but it has been rewritten substantially, as it is only half the length of the original.
This is a darker book in alternating chapters, which:
• lays the groundwork that explains Igraine’s daughter’s intended revenge for Uther Pendragon’s forceful taking of Igraine, Countess of Cornwall, with slapstick comedy from King Pelinore; and
• Arthur’s triumph as king over a northern rebellion, with the reader being prepared for Merlyn’s departure.

White develops these two storylines:
• the expected story of King Arthur battling against the rebellion of the Gaels (the old people, Picts, Cornish, Welsh and Scottish, also called Celts) against the Gauls (Normans and Saxons); and
• the story of Igraine’s four Orkney grandsons: Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris and Gareth.
Although abounding in surviving prehistoric and later monuments, it is difficult now to consider the Orkneys as a leading medieval kingdom if you look at the small size of the islands off the northern coast of mainland Scotland. However after the initial viking raids, it became the centre of a wide ranging seafaring kingdom which stretched south through the western isles of Scotland to the Isle of Man and Dublin.

Although it might be construed as condescending, I love White’s use of anachronistic, but appropriate, language to conjure up the various characters, particularly in his choice of the occasional archaic word. White uses Halidome, which apparently means a sacred place (Middle English from Old English hāligdōm, from hālig holy + -dōm -dom) and Shillelagh (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shillelagh_(club), where I remember the threat of I’ll give you shillelagh from my youth).

Overall this book was less satisfying for me, as it reads as a prologue (much more so than The Sword in the Stone) to the coming tragedy, and it is explicit at this stage that it will be a predestined tragedy, with apparently no free will to alter events, even with Merlyn’s foresight.

• The Ill-Made Knight (1940), dealing mainly with the character of Lancelot
We have moved forward some years from the second volume in the quartet, The Queen of Air and Darkness, and this is mainly a story of Lancelot, the eponymous ill-made knight.
White assumes familiarity with Malory’s fifteenth century story of Arthur, Le Morte d’Arthur, which may be acceptable, as modern Western readers are probably aware of the general outline of the Arthur story, but I was concerned that it would reduce White’s storytelling. By the end of the book, I thought that it reduced the effort to explain character development for Arthur, who chooses to ignore Merlyn’s warnings about Lancelot and Guinever, and a general lack of character development for Guinever, but the approach worked as an portrayal of Lancelot.
The development of Lancelot’s feelings (and Guinever’s) are explored in depth, but mainly by the author, rather than novelistically, and Lancelot’s feelings gain some depth, especially his feeling for holiness.
However, the author uses time jumps of two years, and then fifteen years, with little development of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinnever. I was unconvinced by this passage of time without emotional development in narrative terms, but White makes it work in terms of the legend, so that I eventually accepted (in storytelling terms) the tragedy as fated, although earlier in the book I didn’t expect to be carried by White’s retelling of the legend at this point.
There are a few chapters joyously recounting the adventures of the knights as they return, unsuccessfully, from the quest for the holy grail, railing against the pacifist, vegetarian, chaste and holy Galahad and Bors. White’s use of dialect to recreate these stories is comic genius, working really well for me, although it will not be to all tastes.
Overall, I felt the book too mannered, lacking emotional involvement, as it felt like an analysis by White of legendary Lancelot’s character, and I don’t think I would have read this as a stand-alone book.

• The Candle in the Wind, first published in the composite edition, 1958
A preordained tragedy, seemingly without dramatic tension over its conclusion, other than as to the “how” element.
Arthur, Guinever and Lancelot have reached old age and move towards their dooms with heavy inevitability, caught by the power of the law, that Arthur has created during his reign, and the “sin” of Mordred.
I was completely unconvinced by Arthur’s statement that he had had all babies when Mordred was born put in a boat and cast adrift. This appeared as a deus ex machina to justify Mordred’ hatred and totally out of character for Arthur.
But then the book changes.
And then I was fortunate, as literary magic happened for me.
I was reading this mannered tragedy, and it was like White changes what I had read.
The story all becomes an epic tragedy of ideas, incredibly sad. Doomed, preordained, fated, but epically so.
Wow, he had me here at the last, blubbering, at the ideals wrecked by humanity. A very humane, wonderful retelling of the familiar Arthur legend.
Masterful and moving.


A final part called The Book of Merlyn (written 1941, published 1977) was published separately following White's death.
This book, which expands upon the events at the end of The Candle in the Wind, consists largely of a philosophical discussion between Arthur, Merlyn and animals from The Sword in the Stone regarding Man and his place in the world.
Although written in 1941, it was not published until 1977, after White’s death, and much of the best writing (about the ants and the white fronted geese) has been incorporated into The Sword in the Stone in 1958 when it was published as The Once and Future King.
There are several extra chapters on the white fronted geese which enjoyably fill out this story, and at the end there is a masterful quoting from William Blake’s Jerusalem, which are the words to a British hymn with music by Parry, which brilliantly encapsulates the argument that it is the striving towards the goal that is important, not the goal, which is unattainable without a loss of humanity.
I am glad to have read this immediately after The Once and Future King, but I think it does need to be read after, as it is more of a philosophical summation of the ideas in the earlier books. ( )
  CarltonC | May 20, 2021 |
I read this book for high school and kept that copy for all these years without rereading it because I loved it so much that I didn’t want to spoil it by reading it again. Time changes things. But I’ve done more rereading this year than most years because there’s something comforting about knowing what to expect in a story, even if you don’t know how you’ll feel about it each time. I don’t know. This book is sad and this isn’t a great time to make yourself sad. But I also find it hopeful in the idea that we can keep trying. Even if the good things we build don’t last and we watch the younger generations fight the same battles. There’s still worth in those good things and in those good moments. The people who had better lives because of it matter. It all matters because if it doesn’t then there’s no point to any of it. That’s what I still take away from this book. They were people and they mattered, even if things still fell apart for them. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
I was really ejoying this book until I realized how much of a mess T. H. White made of the proposed time period. He goes on and on about how the story is set in the 12th century (and rightly includes Robin Hood and company), but King Arthur's legend sets the stories during the 5th and 6th centuries. During the 12th century we have Prince John, King Richard, and the First Crusade so there really isn't room for Uther Pendragon and King Arthur because there is only allowed to be ONE King of England! Yes, I get that Robin Hood and King Arthur ar both figures of semi-historical legend rather than historical reality, but there is no room for them both in Britian at the same time. One historically mythic figure per story monsieur! ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
I was really excited to read the Once and Future King because, well, it feels like it’s one of THE King Arthur novels to read, and I like the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone. Which is why I was surprised when I wanted to quit 50 pages in. It just seemed…flippant, and light-hearted in a way that I guess I don’t like in my Arthur stories? At the same time, I think that’s why it made a good Disney movie, so it was probably silly for me to feel that way. What really irked me, however, was a line about them drinking sherry, that went sort of like “well, it wasn’t sherry they were drinking, but the medieval version of sherry”. That, along with deferring to Malory, seemed like lazy writing. The fact that he puts Arthur into the later centuries, rather than after the fall of Rome bothered the historian in me. As I continued through the book, however, these sorts of things bothered me less and less. He defers to Malory because those are tedious parts of the story he’s not interested in writing. He has specific aspects he wants to focus on (its much more about character development than Malory, thankfully). And in the end, Arthur is a myth, so does it really matter what century he lived in? From about page 300 onward, I sped through, and was very engaged in the story. He mentions that it is “difficult to write about real people”, real meaning characters with myriad emotions and feelings, but he did so with great skill. ( )
  renardkitsune | Feb 15, 2021 |
Not a perfect book - White's "...but you can read about this in Malory" skipping of some parts is cute the first time but starts to feel weirdly elided after a while, and the female characters tend to have weird comings and goings where it feels like White doesn't have any ideas about how to get them anywhere and just dropped them into the story whenever. (This is maybe the first time where I've said, "huh, I can see why someone went back and did a feminist reinterpretation of all of this stuff later" several times before the book was even half over.)

However, all of that being said, there's a lot here that I like. The gradual change in tone from the lighthearted, you-can-see-why-Disney-made-a-movie adventures of The Sword in the Stone to the doomsday-like feeling of The Candle in the Wind is really good. There's a weird sense of time and history where Uther Pendragon seems to be conflated with William the Conqueror, Arthur meets an older Robin Hood when he is a young man, and Merlin constantly speaks in anachronisms -- there are parts where the book feels close to something like One Hundred Years of Solitude (which I still didn't finish, sorry). There are also the moments where White will get wrapped up in the particularities of jousting, or the people passing on the road, or the unique rules of sanctuary, that feel like some of the deep dives that would happen in The Name of the Rose. Best of all is the really strong narrator voice that White has, which would probably be overbearing anywhere else, but here feels like a really good friend walking you through everything.

Altogether, it can be a slog sometimes, but there's a lot here that's worth checking out. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
White, T. H.auteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionsconfirmé
Crossley-Holland, KevinIntroductionauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Howe, JohnArtiste de la couvertureauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Jason, NevilleNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Lawrence, JohnIllustrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Marvin, FredericArtiste de la couvertureauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Schuchart, MaxTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Vat, Daan van derTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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She is not any common earth

Water or wood or air,

But Merlin's Isle of Gramarye

Where you and I will fare.
When shall I be dead and rid
Of the wrong my father did?
How long, how long, till spade and hearse
Put to sleep my mother's curse?
"Nay," said Sir Lancelot "... for

once shamed may never be recovered."
"He thought a little and said:

'I have found the Zoological Gardens of service to many of my patients.  I should prescribe for Mr. Pontifex a course of the larger mammals.  Don't let him think he is taking them medicinally...'
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On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled - she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles.
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“If I were to be made a knight,” said the Wart, staring dreamily into the fire, “I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.”
“That would be extremely presumptuous of you,” said Merlyn, “and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.”
“I shouldn’t mind.”
“Wouldn’t you? Wait till it happens and see.”
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These editions of The Once and Future King do not contain The Book of Merlyn. Please do not combine with the editions that do contain The Book of Merlyn.
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"A deluxe hardcover edition of the world's greatest fantasy classic--part of Penguin Galaxy, a collectible series of six sci-fi/fantasy classics, featuring a series introduction by Neil Gaiman T. H. White's masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as the sword Excalibur and city of Camelot that are found within its pages. This magical epic takes Arthur from the glorious lyrical phase of his youth, through the disillusioning early years of his reign, to maturity when his vision of the Round Table develops into the search for the Holy Grail, and finally to his weary old age. With memorable characters like Merlin and Owl and Guinevere, beasts who talk and men who fly, wizardry and war, The Once and Future King has become the fantasy masterpiece against which all others are judged, a poignant story of adventure, romance, and magic that has enchanted readers for generations. Penguin Galaxy Six of our greatest masterworks of science fiction and fantasy, in dazzling collector-worthy hardcover editions, and featuring a series introduction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, Penguin Galaxy represents a constellation of achievement in visionary fiction, lighting the way toward our knowledge of the universe, and of ourselves. From historical legends to mythic futures, monuments of world-building to mind-bending dystopias, these touchstones of human invention and storytelling ingenuity have transported millions of readers to distant realms, and will continue for generations to chart the frontiers of the imagination. The Once and Future King by T. H. White Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein Dune by Frank Herbert 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin Neuromancer by William Gibson For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators"--

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