The Book of Merlyn
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The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King #5)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  5,435 ratings  ·  176 reviews

King Arthur, now old and world-weary, is visited by Merlyn on the eve of his last, fatal battle...Arthur undergoes transformations into an ant and goose, both brilliantly described - and then goes forth to face his doom. The final chapter, in which Guenevere and Lancelot meet their quieter ends, contains some of White's finest wri...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published 1978 by Fontana Books (first published 1977)
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This is a longer version of the last book in the collected The Once and Future King and also includes some material (the ant and goose segments) that was incorporated into The Sword in the Stone before this was published. If you've read both of those already what this adds is mostly, erm, depression. Sorry, Wart. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and all that.
What's the point?

The Book of Merlyn, published posthumously, was T.H White's "True" ending to the otherwise beautiful Once and Future King. Having finished Once and Future King just a few days earlier, I was touched by the elegaic, bittersweet note upon which it ended. Once and Future King may be the finest fantasy novel ever written, and its final page is consequently one of the loveliest parting sentiments given to its eponymous hero.

The Book of Merlyn takes place during the night prior to Art...more
The Book of Merlyn is a bit odd to read, particularly in the omnibus edition, because T.H. White cannibalised it for the version of the novels which were published together -- if I'm remembering the publishing history right, anyway. It's also not really much of a story: just an old Arthur reunited with Merlyn and the animals of his education, trying to puzzle out where things went wrong. It's all very political, with references to socialism, communism, capitalism, Karl Marx, anarchism, etc, and...more
I must admit some bias associated with this unfortunately short novel. Although it is a little weak when trying to read it independently of The Once & Future King, when you read it immediately after that greater work it is pure brilliance.

White's narrative tone draws you into a deceptive bedtime story world that swiftly moves with old/young Arthur through more metamorphic juxtapositions than a week's worth of "Wild Kingdom," as the fabled sorcerer returns on the night before Arthur's fateful...more
Edward C.
The Book of Merlyn is White's initially unpublished conclusion to his masterpiece The Once and Future King. In this book, Merlyn takes the aged King, on the eve of his battle with Mordred, to the Badger's cave, where Nimuë left the negromancer. The animals, with Merlyn as their spokesman, present to the King an argument proposing that Homo sapiens be renamed Homo ferox.

It is, no doubt, White's obvious venting of spleen against violence that kept this book from initial publication and continues...more
The Book of Merlyn is a bit of a disappointment in some ways. Parts of it, for a start, were cannibalised for The Sword in the Stone, in the collected edition, and so they've lost their freshness and originality when read again here. For another thing, the whole book is basically a philosophical treatise on the possibilities of the prevention of war. It goes on and on in a rather didactic fashion, and one could skip whole chunks of Merlyn's dialogue in particular without losing out on story.

Kristy Powers
I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions the author seems to come to, but this is a fabulous book. T.H. White was brilliant and self-aware, I think, if troubled. His arguments, if they are in fact his personal arguments, make sense if you keep in mind this was written in the midst of WWII.

The book is heavy on animal parables, like the first in this series, The Sword in the Stone. Although The Book of Merlyn was not published in the author's lifetime, the stories of the ants and the geese ma...more
I have four chapters left of this book and it is terrible. I don't understand a darn thing about it! No plot at all, Arthur is a communist ant and then a peaceful goose! I'm only a kid though and havent read once and future king. Thats why its so confusing probably. Advice to British Literature students dont choose this book for a project, BIG mistake!Finished It and it was terrible just like I found out four chapters before the end!~
The titular end of 'The Once and Future King'. This book was refused publication originally. Paper rationing during WWII and the anti-war tone were probably equally responsible for its refusal. It sat, unmolested in T.H. White's papers at UT - Austin. Why Texas ended up getting T.H. White's papers is a mystery to me.

Anyway, it was discovered in the late 70s and published excitedly by University of Texas Press. While I loved The Once and Future King, and rather enjoyed The Book of Merlyn, the bo...more
Nathan Dehoff
Intended as the final part of The Once and Future King, this tale of King Arthur and his wizardly tutor wasn't published until 1977, after White's death. Arthur, now old and faced with Mordred's rebellion, is taken by Merlyn to pay a visit to a council of animals. These include Archimedes the owl and the philosophical badger who played a role in Arthur's education. I've always liked White's version of Merlyn, a brilliant old man who is somewhat absent-minded due to his living backwards in time....more
"Even the Greek definition anthropos, He Who Looks Up, is inaccurate. Man seldom looks up above his own height after adolescence."
Page 53

"He knew suddenly that nobody, living upon the remotest, most barren crag in the ocean, could complain of a dull landscape so long as he would lift his eyes. In the sky there was a new landscape every minute, in every pool of the sea rocks, a new world. He wanted time off, to live."
Page 99

"There is nothing so wonderful as to be out on a spring night in the coun...more
Too easily overlooked and very underrated, T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn is the keystone and fitting conclusion to the Once and Future King collection. Published posthumously, The Book of Merlyn serves as the resounding epilogue to first four books: the Round Table is no more, the kingdom is well-nigh collapsed, and the once innocent and naive young Wart is now an aged, broken, decrepid King Arthur, waiting alone in his tent, fully expecting to die in the next morning's battle. To this defeate...more
Erik Graff
Aug 14, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff Jr.
Shelves: literature
I originally picked up a paperback edition of this addition to T.H. White's The Once and Future King while in Oslo, Norway during the summer after seminary graduation. I read it, leaving the copy behind for Mother, then found a used hardcover edition when back in Chicago and read it for a second time.

The text of The Book of Merlyn, while set at the occasion of Arthur's dying, is substantially an expansion of the training he previously received from the sorcerer in the art of kingship. Indeed, Me...more
For me, this was a disappointing follow-up to The Once and Future King. Most of the book is a conversation between King Arthur, Merlyn, and a council of animals regarding the pros and cons of various types of government and the nature of man and beast. Although it is considered the fifth and final part of the story, it is not at all like the first four parts.

For a good portion of the book I felt like White was using the authoritative aura of Merlyn to advance his own ideas on government, and th...more
Mary Overton
Sylvia Townsend Warner, in her preface "The Story of the Book," does an excellent job of putting into context both this final volume of THE ONCE & FUTURE KING and the entire Arthur legend, as interpreted by T.H. White. She quotes extensively from his notes and his letters.

In December of 1940, as WWII rages, White writes to his former Cambridge tutor:
"...I am going to add a new 5th volume, in which Arthur rejoins Merlyn underground (it turns out to be the badger's sett of Vol. I) and the ani...more
First paragraph second anachronism. An arthurian story and the word "Nazi" don't belong together. I gave the book away
A wonderful book! I just love Merlyn. I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed the first four books of the Once and Future King. I overall enjoyed the Once and Future King but I felt the stories were drawn out. With the book of Merlyn you get to see the nature of King Arthur and see who he has become. Much of this is lacking in the Once and Future King. The book of Merlyn is a great quick read full of fantasy, values, and insight on the affects of the decisions people make. A book to be enjoyed by all...more
Joy Bischoff
The author, T.H. White, titles this book "The Once and Future King" because he is one of those who believe that the story of King Arthur is filled with esoteric meaning and that Arthur will one day return. Many Celtics and other mystery religions believe this or similar events. I found the author's interpretation of the story of the Holy Grail to be intriguing. This is not a fast read, being from an older generation, but it is an experience.
Reading this book was an odd experience, since it was so long ago that I finished the first four 'official' volumes of The Once and Future King. The closest experience I can relate it to is watching the recent fourth season of the TV show "Arrested Development," which picks up, like The Book of Merlyn more or less immediately after the last one ended.

The Candle in the Wind worked perfectly as a conclusion to the Arthurian saga, ending somewhat ambiguously, but still bittersweet in the probabilit...more
Hay una buena razon por la que TH White no incluyó este libro con los demás tomos, es más, incluso recicló las mejores partes para incluirlas en el primer tomo. Y es que no está a la altura del resto. Triste pero cierto.

Mi edición de Once and Future King (Camelot, como se tituló en españa) es de bolsillo, de mi padre, de 1968, con las páginas tan amarillas que ya son marrones. Amenizó mi infancia y lo leí muchas veces, pero no incluía este último libro ni había alusión alguna a su existencia. Ló...more
I hate to do this - normally I love T. H. White. But "Merlyn" was merely an excuse to rant about war and politics and the over-all nastiness of humanity. No action whatsoever, only rant, rant, rant. I did like the idea that geese are anarchists - but the rest was tiresome.
I had high hopes for the Book of Merlyn, as I thought it would provide more details or further insight into the character of Arthur's wise old man mentor. Instead, the plot is a re-hashing of Merlyn and Arthur's time together in The Sword in the Stone, with less subtlety, probably due to the fact that this books was published posthumously (by none other than the HRC at my Alma Mater UT Austin). In The Sword and the Stone, the political philosophy derived seems rather socratic, based on Arthur's...more
TH White has put together one of the most accessible discourses on sociopolitical philosophy ever written. It's extremely interesting and informative, with a coherent plot, to boot!
To call "The Book of Merlyn" the conclusion of "The Once and Future King" is a bit of a misnomer. Although it takes place the night before Arthur meets Mordred for their final battle, the final, "unpublished" section of White's "The Once and Future King" is utterly dominated by an increasingly annoying Merlin holding forth ad nauseum about different political philosophies. It is more of an essay on political science than a conclusion to the life of Arthur, et. al.

It is not great.

However, certai...more
Nice ending to the larger story of the Once and Future King, however, there was a large chunk in the middle of this one that had been in the Sword and Stone, which we had already listened to. This small part of the over all work (can you call it a series?) gives lots of food-for-thought as White is reading it while WWII is approaching. I enjoyed the parallels being drawn between communism and the totalitarian society of the ants and so forth. The discussion of whether their is a need for war in...more
After The Sword in the Stone, this is my favorite in the Once and Future King series. (The impending tragedy of Arthur, Mordred, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin, etc. just takes too much of a toll on me after this point. The other books are an amazing piece of art, and beautiful--but they are tragic. I feel the same way in preferring The Hobbit to the 3 books in The Lord of the Rings.)

Be sure and read Mary's review which references Sylvia Townsend Warners' review. (I think that if the reader und...more
There is a small disclaimer at the beginning of my copy of The Book of Merlyn that tells of White revising for the complete collection and that some of the stories will be repeated. The publisher left these repeats in there to maintain the author intent which was nice. These are events from the early years of Arthur so it was nice to revisit them because after so much and so many books I had forgotten these adventures. And after following Arthur's entire life it seemed a lifetime ago I had read...more
Oct 17, 2011 K. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: utopian society seekers, arthurian lore lovers
I only have about 25 pages of this left, and yet I've had those 25 pages left for about a month. It just didn't grab me as much as "The Once & Future King." Deciding to push through with all of White's cynical, and somewhat flawed philosophy that he puts in the character's mouths gets tedious. I would like to finish it, but I keep forgetting...
Once I wrapped my mind around the fact that this is more a philosophical treatise than a story, or rather, a treatise with only small shreds of sto...more
Wes Moerbe
T.H. White's final book in the Once and Future King series does round off his work. But if you hope for the humor and good cheer of the earlier chapters in the Once and Future King you will be disappointed.
Arthur is old and near death when we meet him in The Book of Merlyn. He has given the best years of his life to service, to righting injustice, and improving the human condition. White does allow him a brief sojourn to a happier time, like when he was a boy. But we know that Arthur must ret...more
All this book was in many ways, was a re-done version of the "Sword in the Stone." For one considering reading this book I would recommend that you start to read it, quit reading when he becomes the ant again, and then start reading it again in the final chapter. I feel that this was White's way of voicing his opinion about government, violence, mankind, and the such. I feel this would have been a better opinion essay that finale to the series. I hate that I spent money on this book. I am only g...more
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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...
The Once and Future King (The Once and Future King #1-4) The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King, #1) 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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“We find that at present the human race is divided into one wise man, nine knaves, and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them, and become 'politicians'; the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics, or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off under the banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observes Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why the politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism, they will become party leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will be still fools, the knaves still leaders, the results still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated.” 68 likes
“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.” 59 likes
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