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The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King #1-4)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  73,341 ratings  ·  2,638 reviews
The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel. It was first published in 1958, and is mostly a composite of earlier works written between 1938 and 1941. The central theme is an exploration of human nature regarding power and justice, as the boy Arthur becomes king and attempts to quell the prevalent "might makes right" attitude with his idea of chivalry.

Paperback, Voyager Classics
Published 1987 by HarperCollins (first published 1958)
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Stven Subhashini, they are similar in that they have the same cast of characters and a lot of the same events and plot. The difference is that The Once and…moreSubhashini, they are similar in that they have the same cast of characters and a lot of the same events and plot. The difference is that The Once and Future King makes a modern novel of those distant times. It's delightfully written and should please anyone who likes 20th century English fiction. Although the story as a whole is written for adults, the first part is about Arthur's childhood and is done in the style of a children's story. Highly recommended.(less)
Contrarywise The Sword in the Stone is the first of four novels dealing with the life of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is often considered and…moreThe Sword in the Stone is the first of four novels dealing with the life of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is often considered and children's book, though containing much that most children would find difficult to understand. The succeeding three novels, two of which were published separately and then after editing, together with the others to make The Once and Future King, are not really suitable for children.(less)
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Community Reviews

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This book terrified me, on many levels. It's 667 pages long, to begin with. It's been a while since I read a serious chunkster like that (besides Harry Potter, which somehow in my mind doesn't really count...).

Besides that, I am just not a fan of "Authur" stories, despite my deep love of the Disney movie The Sword and the Stone, of course. Ever since I saw the musical "Camelot" in the theater when I was in high school, the story just didn't appeal to me. Then my book club chose this as our month
Seriously, how do you review the pinnacle of all fantasy? You can argue with me, but that, in my opinion, is what The Once and Future King is. Sure, the evil enchantresses are stout and grumpy, the magical castles are made out of food, the lily maids are fat and of a certain age, and the knights in shining armor refer to one another as ‘old chap’s. Oh and did I mention that King Arthur’s nickname is ‘the Wart’?
Somehow, T.H. White takes the legend, undresses it, and gives it a new kind of dignit
In case anyone is wondering: I picked this book up for a re-read because of one throwaway line in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal . I haven't read this since high school, but I remember loving it almost giddily as a tween.

Since it's a big monster of a book, I took a steak knife to it, as I often do, and cut it in half so I could carry it about and read it on the subway without breaking my back. Here's the new cover I put on my DIY'd "vol 2," from Vice magazine. I find it creepy & rat
3.5 Stars

Way back when, I took a college class in Arthurian literature. This book was not included in the course which had us read just about everything else written about the legendary king. By the end of the semester I was sick of King Arthur, the round table, the Holy Grail and knights in general; as a consequence, I didn’t bother reading this book until now. Before I finally picked it up I assumed it would be something like Camelot (a crappy musical); I heard Lerner and Lowe based the music

A complex and multi-tiered depiction of the epic Arthurian legend. This book is unlike any other I've read either focusing on the myth or simply in terms of fantasy writing.

While the story begins with The Sword in the Stone, a novel I had already read years ago it was refreshing to re-familiarize myself with T.H. White's eccentric and unique style of portraying the character of King Arthur as a child. In fact I believe The Sword in the Stone is the deepest depiction of the childhood Arthur I ha
Jan 17, 2008 Jeremy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys adventure, romance, history, or fantasy
I read this book about every two years. It is one of my absolute favorites. The stories and the characters are so well-crafted that I can read it over-and-over time and again with just as much pleasure as the first time.
This novel is actually divided into four 'books' within itself, and while you can read the four books out of order, it really is meant to be read from front to back.
The first book, "The Sword In The Stone", is much like the Disney animated movie that was adapted from it. There ar
I carried a quote from this book around in my purse for decades. In my original version of the book, it is on page 111 and begins, "The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour t ...more
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UPDATE: (1/24/14)
1) See here for the association of the musical Camelot with the Kennedy Administration.

2) Here's an extended quote from the first page of the book, to indicate the flavor ... (don't confuse with Harry Potter, this was written in 1938).

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the we
Kee the Ekairidium
I knew enough about the King Arthur mythology through cinematic adaptations I've seen growing up, but this is the first time that I ever read a novel about this legendary hero, and I thought T.H White's classic masterpiece The Once and Future King is the best place to start as any, considering the raving reviews I've encountered about this one every time I browse the medieval literature section in book-related websites. I was also drawn to this book because of this quotation taken from it: 'Per ...more
Travis French
Jul 16, 2008 Travis French rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
Recommended to Travis by: Xavier & Magneto
Just last week I finished one of the greatest books I have ever read. The Once & Future King by T.H. White.

I had never heard of the book until it was mentioned in Bryan Singer's X-Men movies. Xavier talks about it with his students and Magneto can be seen reading it while in his plastic prison. Because all great works of art are connected I had to read the book. I didn't even know it was about King Arthur and his knights until I found it on

Like most people I was familiar with the
Spoiler alert, I guess. But not really. It’s been 600 years.

I love this book so much, you guys. I feel like I can’t even articulate it. It is possibly my new favorite book.

The Once and Future King is a book about nostalgia, though not in the typical sense. It’s hazy and dreamy and romantic, and it has some of the loveliest prose you’re going to find anywhere, but it’s not about the idealization of the past. If anything, it can be read as an examination of its failure: all throughout the book,
I really didn't get what I expected out of this book, which I always thought was a serious retelling of the King Arthur legend. I mean, it is that. Eventually. But it's strangely paced and the work's tone follows this odd arc across its four books that put me off.

The first book, "The Sword in the Stone," follows Arthur's childhood, and it's dippy, whimsical, and laden with fantasy. It is, in fact, not too far from the Disney cartoon adaptation of the same name. Arthur has all kinds of adventures
Where I got the book: on bookshelf. Wasabi's, to be exact.

This is a sad, sad, sad, sad book. And also very funny. The first book is the funniest, and then they get sadder. It's like White took the Malory Morte d'Arthur and sucked all the silly stuff out of it so what's left is the essence of the Arthur legend in all its tragedy and glory.

And it was written at a horribly sad time. After two World Wars, things weren't looking too bright around Europe and that outlook colors EVERYTHING that was wri
I got to page 377 before I resigned to the fact I wasn't enjoying this book and only read a couple of chapters a day after that.

There is so much wrong with this book I cannot understand why it is so popular.

Firstly there is virtually no action, adventures or quests that you would expect from a King Arthur book. It plods along painfully slowly with little or nothing going on for pages and pages at a time. Every thing is described in huge detail, even really mundane activities that are going on t
Loved this book so, so much. Wish the world could read it, if just once. It's quite difficult not to be stirred by it; the narration welcomes you, like an old friend with a warm blanket and cup of tea. It has a quiet, very human dignity to it - a story as old as Arthur's needs such humanity in order to resonate and be remembered, and White succeeds. Arthur's innocence and patience as well as his frustrations endear him eternally. Lancelot and Guenevere, too, were brilliant and foolish and lovel ...more
Jun 08, 2009 Seth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans.
My favorite book in the universe. Decisively not for everyone, it is rambling, preachy, occasionally tedious, and always outrageously British. Much of it consists of a cranky Englishman going on and on about whatever happens to pop into his head, whether it be the intricacies of jousting or lamentations on the current state of film industry (yeah, what?). Many will find it insufferably pretentious. Which it is! But it is also hilarious, and sad, and it contains everything that is good about life ...more
Sean DeLauder
Easily the most enjoyable book I've ever read, with Watership Down putting in a strong second-place finish. Certainly the best ever in telling, and spinning anew, the centuries old Arthurian legend. Gone are the old stories relayed in stark and monotonous detail, replaced by characters bursting with vitality.

The story benefits greatly from White's knowledge of medieval culture, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (review here), whose influence is credited directly in The Book of Merlyn, occasional
TH White, ma quanto sei stato bravo?

Questa saga mi ha davvero sorpresa. Eppure ne ho letti di testi arturiani. Chrétien de Troyes, Thomas Malory, 'Il Cavaliere verde',reinterpretazioni varie ed eventuali... sono arrivata a conoscere la storia a memoria.

T.H. la conosceva ancora meglio, e l'ha compresa così a fondo da riuscire a ridisegnarne personaggi e dinamiche con una scioltezza e una sensibilità uniche. Fra tutti i volumi della materia di Bretagna che mi sono capitati fra le mani, mai ho potu
Mike (the Paladin)
In all fairness I'm sort of sick of the re-re-retelling of the Arthurian Legend. I couldn't get through this without some skimming. This one while older and loved by many is (in my opinion) fairly simplistic and packed to the gills with "slightly under the surface" political clap-trap aimed at kids.

If you hunger for the story of Arthur there are better, even if Disney didn't use them as the source of a movie. Try Mallory, or one of the hundreds of other re-tellings out there on the shelves told
The Once and Future King was recommended to me on Reddit as probably the best Arthurian fantasy book extant. I have read Stephen R. Lawhead's The Pendragon Cycle and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and - if my memory serves me correctly – did not care for either of them. I am still interested in the Arthurian saga though so I proceeded accordingly.

The Once and Future King is divided into four parts, the first three previously published as separate books. The four parts are:

- The Swor
It is easy to forget that the fantasy genre does have other giants besides Tolkien. T.H. White is such a person. If you want a literary step up from the popcorn fantasy out there give this book a try.

This book is divided into four books. They all go together but they are also all different in focus and have a growing change in mood. White is using Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur as the outline for his story. He writes in a very anachronistic and witty manner. He also vaguely dates the story as
I loved it and my two brats (11 & 13) absolutely enjoyed it, even if many of the jokes, the funky anachronistic blending of the Medieval with the Modern, might have floated a bit over their tiny wee heads.

Anyway, I think White perfectly captured the magic, power, fears and the joy of both youth and myth with this retelling of early Arthurian legend. White's theme of power and justice ("Might Makes Right") seem to perfectly capture the political Zeitgiest of now. Perhaps, White like Merlin wa
The life of King Arthur.

It's hard to know how to review this. The Sword in the Stone is quite good; The Candle in the Wind is an absolute punishment to read; the other books are somewhere in between, but mostly on the bad side.

Let's start with the good. The Sword in the Stone gives us a young Arthur who's not so much king material; he's content to tag along behind his older foster-brother, Kay, and more or less accepts that it's Kay's destiny to be a knight and his own to be a squire. And then
Cornelia Funke
The ONE book I'd take to the island. I would chop off a finger to have written this book!
This is my favorite novel of all time. It's a great fantasy and the character development is wonderful. I love how the story starts with a young Arthur and is a more childish fun story, but it ages with Arthur himself and becomes more bittersweet.

Best of all is that I have had this book for ages and it has that wonderful smell of having sat on my own bookshelves for ages. This smell is nostalgic of the way books smelled in our house growing up. My mom has always had loads of books here, there, a
Maia B.
How can you rate the best book you've ever read, the most amazing novel ever written, the most clever, funny, magical, hopeful, tragic, terrible, wonderful, incredible book in the world? How can you quantify its brilliance?

Okay. Take the best book you've ever read. Multiply how much you love it by ten. Multiply its brilliance by a million. You're halfway to imagining The Once and Future King.

There's so much here. Love stories. Rich men. Poor men. Virtuous men. Evil men. Beautifullest women. Adve
i read this when i was a little kid, and have kept rereading it for years. i just love this book. each section is written in prose that suits the time of life of arthur. the sword and the stone is filled with fun and magic and little adventures, perfectly suited to the life of the child. the middle section is a love story with big grand plot twists and that sort of thing, when arthur is a relatively young man. the end, as well as the book of merlyn, is the part of the story that is probably the ...more
Feb 11, 2008 Megan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Angelo, Mara, Jeremy
This is an entertaining and accessible novelization about political theory, told through a rather extraordinary re-imagining of the beloved mythological characters of Arthurian legend. I found White's characterizations of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenevere to be psychologically probing, nuanced, and fascinating, if a little overly tragic. His Merlyn however, was so doddering and wonderful it made me want to cry. If only Merlyn were in more of the book; he was by far my favorite. The Once and Future ...more
Dec 27, 2008 El rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Josiah, Russ (but not Clovis because he challenges Lancelot with his petulance).
Recommended to El by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (199/1001)
I'm sort of particular about my Arthurian legends and for that reason put off reading this book for a really long time. I'm pretty sure one of my brothers read it when I was much younger, back when I was hardcore anti-fantasy/anti-sci-fi, probably back when I was still reading Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine books and considering them quality. During my late high school or early college years I read the, ahem, "feminist" version, Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and was immediately turne ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 15, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: literature
Bored with school books, I asked Dad which of his books he'd recommend. Looking up at his shelves above the desk in a living room nook, he listed Robert Graves' novels, Charles Beard's histories and T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Beard was college reading for him, the kind of book his own father might have recommended. Graves and White were books he had enjoyed during long, boring cruises through the Atlantic and Pacific during WWII.

Although I much enjoyed Graves' novels and made a term
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  • Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table
  • The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga, #1)
  • Arthurian Romances
  • Sword at Sunset
  • Idylls of the King
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights
  • I Am Mordred
  • The Idylls of the Queen: A Tale of Queen Guenevere
  • Queen of Camelot
  • The Arthurian Encyclopedia
  • Arthur (The Pendragon Cycle #3)
  • The Forever King (Forever King, #1)
  • The Mabinogion
  • Queen of the Summer Stars (Guinevere, #2)
  • The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #1)
  • The Road to Avalon (Dark Ages of Britain, #1)
  • The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
Born in Bombay to English parents, Terence Hanbury White was educated at Cambridge and taught for some time at Stowe before deciding to write full-time. White moved to Ireland in 1939 as a conscientious objector to WWII, and lived out his years there. White is best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, "The Once and Future King", first published together in 1958.
More about T.H. White...

Other Books in the Series

The Once and Future King (5 books)
  • The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King, #1)
  • The Witch in the Wood (The Once and Future King, #2)
  • The Ill-Made Knight (The Once and Future King, #3)
  • The Candle in the Wind (The Once and Future King, #4)
  • The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King, #5)
The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King, #1) The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King, #5) The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-5) Mistress Masham's Repose The Ill-Made Knight (The Once and Future King, #3)

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“The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards.” 3596 likes
“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” 2234 likes
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