Werner's Reviews > The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T.H. White
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's review
Mar 22, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy
Recommended for: Fantasy fans (especially of Arthurian fantasy)
Read in January, 1984

As the above description notes, this collection (it includes The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, and The Ill-Made Knight, plus, I believe, some additional material) is "different" in it's approach to the Arthurian legend; but whether it represents "the modern" view of Arthur is dubious --White's view is pretty much unique. (If there is such a thing as a "modern" view of Arthur, it would probably be the historical view that tries to place him the actual historical-cultural setting of his time, an approach exemplified in Catherine Christian's The Pendragon, a novel I'd also heartily recommend --but to fans of historical fiction, not of fantasy!)

White takes as his stating point Sir Thomas Malory's Morte de Arthur, the apex of the high-medieval reworking of the legend, with its importation of armored knights and chivalry into the story, and its transformation of 6th-century Britain into a magic-infused fantasy world. But to this anachronism, he adds his own layer of deliberately anachronistic features of material and social culture and attitudes from his own time, and instills a considerable amount of running socio-political commentary and serious philosophical/moral reflection. (The many Christian elements in the original material are handled respectfully.) He mixes much of the work with exuberant humor, but the tone can vary from the whimsical and comic to the serious and tragic. Obviously, this would be an extremely difficult work to pull off successfully --and it's a great tribute to White's literary gifts that, somehow, he manages it!
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09/30/2016 marked as: read

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