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

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,861 Ratings  ·  247 Reviews
This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that will turn my completed epic into a ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 1st 1988 by University of Texas Press (first published 1977)
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Bryan It is absolutely necessary to understand the relationship that White has established between Arthur and Merlyn before starting this book.
From the…more
It is absolutely necessary to understand the relationship that White has established between Arthur and Merlyn before starting this book.
From the name "The Wart," to the original lessons the Merlyn teaches Wart, and especially the shortcomings that Arthur confronts (fails at) and suffers from during the end of The Once and Future King as well as during The Book of Merlyn, it would really be stealing the experience and power of The Book of Merlyn away from you if you didn't give yourself the background of The Once and Future King. (less)
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
The Arthurian Legend Retold
52nd out of 448 books — 681 voters
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Best Arthurian Fiction
77th out of 387 books — 1,307 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Miriam
Nov 15, 2009 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthurian, ideas
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.
Eveningstar2
May 29, 2012 Eveningstar2 rated it did not like it
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
Nikki
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
Jason
Jun 25, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing
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
Tiara
I’m not going to say a lot about this book because this book was somewhat unnecessary, in my opinion. The 4th book was the perfect ending. This book seems to rehash many things from the earlier books as well as mentioning how Guinevere went on to live and die in a covent. Lancelot lived as a hermit. His last miracle to the world releasing a scent of Heaven upon his death. Mostly, though this book seemed to be a philosophical look at the recurring theme that might isn’t always right as once belie ...more
Kristy
Mar 16, 2014 Kristy rated it it was amazing
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
Adam
Jan 09, 2009 Adam rated it it was amazing
"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
Edward C.
Feb 16, 2013 Edward C. rated it really liked it
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
Nikki
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.

Stil
...more
Joell
Feb 03, 2016 Joell rated it it was amazing
Every five years or so, I find a book I think is so important, I buy a second copy. One to mark up or to loan or both and one just for the joy of owning. Yes, I said it, some books are here just for the joy of owning them, of having them around - and this is one of those books. When I do find these important books that I need two copies of, they are not often fiction. I love this one not for the style of writing - which is often rough and some passages are taken verbatim from The Once and Future ...more
Darwin8u
Sep 21, 2014 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
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
Maggie
Apr 18, 2012 Maggie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!~
Agus
Feb 05, 2016 Agus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comienza donde termina Camelot (The Once and Future King).
Mayormente este libro es una última reunión de Arturo con Merlin junto con otros animales, algunos ya conocidos, en donde discuten básicamente en si fue correcta la forma en que Merlin enseñó sobre la vida a Arturo cuando éste era Verruga.
El comentario del editor creo que ayuda bastante cuando leemos los diálogos de Merlin, (ya que yo, por lo menos, quería juzgarlo constantemente) quien tiene una postura en contra de la raza humana, por
...more
Jeanne
Jun 11, 2015 Jeanne rated it liked it
White had wanted this book to be published as part of Once and Future King (OTFK), to bring the quintet full circle (his editor refused). As a result he stole some parts for OTFK, especially the ant and goose segments, while also leaving them in Book of Merlyn. This makes Book repetitive, overly pedantic, and plodding (from my point of view), as Merlyn continues to explore the Human Problem, war, and species specialization, in much of the same way that he may have taught. His last chapter, thoug ...more
Nathan Dehoff
Feb 10, 2014 Nathan Dehoff rated it really liked it
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
Fiver
Oct 08, 2011 Fiver rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing  ·  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
Alex Baker
Apr 15, 2012 Alex Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Book of Merlyn is overall, a good ending to the pentalogy of The Once and Future King. This is despite the fact that 90% of the book is a discussion about war and politics, which forces White to limit the progression of the Arthurian Legend. Despite this, the book is still interesting. It has parallels with the works of other English authors, namely Lewis Carroll and George Orwell. It also uses two interesting themes present in movies to close out the book: the Final Goodbye and the Hero's R ...more
John
Sep 15, 2010 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, classics
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
Ann
Apr 11, 2016 Ann rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Wonderful illustrations.
More than a little of an anti-war rant, hence has not the wider appeal of the preceding four parts of "The Once and Future King". Very personable animal characters who act as his advisers on the night before the fatal battle of his life.

p.108
There is nothing so wonderful as to be out on a spring night in the country; but really in the latest part of the night, and, best of all, if you can be alone. Then, when you can hear the wild world scamper, and the cows chewing just
...more
Elena
Mar 06, 2016 Elena rated it really liked it
First, am I wrong that the ants and the geese were animals that Arthur visited with in the Once and Future King? It seemed remarkably familiar to me. Second, I was surprised by this book, both by the subject matter it dealt with, and how much I enjoyed it. Much of it is a discussion of power, of ruling, and of the nature of humanity, and while it is much philosophy and a sort of rudimentary political science (both of which I despise) I never found it preachy at all, and actually found it quite e ...more
Devon Flaherty
Jan 13, 2016 Devon Flaherty rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people curious after they read "The Once and Future King"
The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, by T.H. White. This five-part series (four of which are included in The Once and Future King) was published as a complete novel, in 1958, and The Book of Merlyn posthumously and largely unedited, in 1977. The Book of Merlyn was always meant to be the fifth part of the series, but White’s publisher thought otherwise.

T. H. White was born Terence Hanbury White to English parents in India in 1906, and was educated in England. “Tim”‘s interests include
...more
Ryan
Dec 07, 2015 Ryan rated it it was ok
The final installment to "The Once and Future King" -- unfortunately, it was never fully revised by White (its two animal scenes -- the ants and the geese -- were incorporated into "The Sword and the Stone"), and so it would be unfair to judge it too harshly. As Sylvia Townsend Warner notes in her prologue, much of the book is taken up with Merlyn's declamatory "spleen" about man's inferiority to other animals and the causes and remedies for war. Still, the most memorable moment is Arthur's time ...more
Jason Pym
A dark and bizarre end to The Once and Future King series. However, this edition has great illustrations by Trevor Stubley which redeemed it for me.

Very heavily influenced by World War 2,there's a lot about war, and Communism (Arthur gets turned into an ant to experience totalitarianism) but nothing on Fascism oddly. Here's the kind of mood the book keeps lurching into:

"The treachery to which he had been subjected by his human race had only just begun to weigh upon him. He had never put it in p
...more
Michelle
Jan 09, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
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
Jim
This short book was originally written by T.H.White as the fifth and final book of his planned five book volume THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. It was written while England struggled against the might of Hitler’s Germany in World War II and none of the books were actually published until many years after the war was over. The edited version of his works that emerged was published in 1958 as a tetralogy. It contained two episodes from THE BOOK OF MERLYN which were taken out of context and inserted into ...more
Mitchell
Dec 18, 2014 Mitchell rated it really liked it
T.H. White’s Arthurian saga The Once And Future King has a troubled publication history. The final volume, The Book of Merlyn, was submitted to his publishers in 1941 but was rejected as part of a collected volume due to wartime paper rationing. Undeterred, White took two major sequences in it – in which Merlyn transforms Arthur into an ant and then a goose – and inserted them into the first book, The Sword in the Stone. The Book of Merlyn was thus unincluded in later collected editions of the s ...more
Shinju
Sep 03, 2014 Shinju rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, favorites, ficcion, life
¡Una maravilla de libro! Merlín, a través de sus preguntas y discursos, volvió para orientar nuevamente a su alumno y que así este pudiese recuperar sus fuerzas y su camino. Esta es básicamente la lección final que recibirá el Rey Arturo en su vida por parte de Merlín, su sabio mentor del antaño y quien por varias décadas no se supo nada de él.
El re-encuentro fue hermoso, y muy nostálgico. Lo que le faltó en magia y enseñanzas a los libros anteriores lo tiene este, pero es precisamente por eso q
...more
Joy Bischoff
Apr 20, 2009 Joy Bischoff rated it liked it
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.
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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...

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)

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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.” 90 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.” 71 likes
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