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The Sword In The Stone

(The Once and Future King #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  23,824 ratings  ·  1,017 reviews
"Learn. That is the only thing that never fails."--Merlyn the Wizard

Before there was a famous king named Arthur, there was a curious boy named Wart and a kind old wizard named Merlyn. Transformed by Merlyn into the forms of his fantasy, Wart learns the value of history from a snake, of education from a badger, and of courage from a hawk--the lessons that help turn a boy in
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published by G.P.Putnam's Sons (first published 1938)
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Pamela Huck You should so do this. I've been reading it out loud - to myself. It is so lively and true to the spoken language. …moreYou should so do this. I've been reading it out loud - to myself. It is so lively and true to the spoken language. (less)
Cassandra No, it's actually more of an adult book that kids will enjoy. I read it some time before I was 10 and really enjoyed it, but everything went waaaaaay …moreNo, it's actually more of an adult book that kids will enjoy. I read it some time before I was 10 and really enjoyed it, but everything went waaaaaay over my head. Returning at age 20 I was pleasantly surprised at how much more sense the whole thing made! (less)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  23,824 ratings  ·  1,017 reviews

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Jason Koivu
A time-traveling Merlin? Stop it, White ol' boy, you're killing me!

TH White's version of the King Arthur myth is...unusual. It's not a straight up retelling of the tale that tries to pinpoint any kind of actual date upon when the "real" King Arthur lived and base the story in that period. It floats about, taking little bits of history from here, a legend or two from there, and cobbles them together. It makes for an interesting fantasy.

It's also distracting. I'm the sort that likes to get immerse
Leonard Gaya
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Once and Future King is, obviously, a modern variation on the Arthurian cycle. Allegedly, T. H. White’s primary source was Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur . However, while Malory starts his book with the story of Uther and Igraine, White hardly mentions Arthur’s birth parents. Moreover, while Malory sweeps away Arthur’s youth in less than ten pages and a couple of short chapters (I,3-7), T. H. White stretches this indefinite period into a full novel of more than 200 pages. The segment ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
If you are looking for my review of this book please head for my long winded review of The Once and Future King as this book is Part 1 thereof. If, on the other hand, you are not looking for my review... Hello! ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“The best thing for being sad ... is to learn something.”
― T.H. White, The Sword in the Stone


I loved it and will definitely write more later as I read the follow-ups with the kids. My brats absolutely enjoyed it, even if many of the jokes, the funky blending of the Medieval with the Modern, might have floated a bit over their tiny wee heads. We three (my brood and me) are excited to push forwad and read the rest of The Once and Future King.

Anyway, I think White perfectly captured the magic, p
I'll say I really enjoyed parts of this book and I zoned out during other parts of this movie. I'm a huge fan of the Disney cartoon and the characters and scenes they left out for the most part were smart and I didn't miss them.

I am glad that I read this classic and I want to finish the Once and future King. There is a lot going on here and much of it is the myth of King Arthur. I feel like this was written for a different time and when it was written it revolutionized the Arthurian Myth.

I stil
Bionic Jean
The Sword in the Stone is a novel by the English author T.H. White. It was published in 1938 as a stand-alone work, but it later became the first part of a tetralogy, called “The Once and Future King”. Although broadly categorised as Fantasy, in fact it is hard to define. The Sword in the Stone is very much one of a kind, and does not fit conventional genre boundaries. It has been called a “sui generis” work, and whether you like it or not is very much a matter of taste.

The classic work which te
I read this when I was younger, but I don't remember loving it so much then. I didn't remember how the narrative voice blended humour and beautiful descriptions, anachronisms and explanations of relatively historically accurate details. I forgot how intertextual it is -- Merlin putting his fingers together like Sherlock Holmes, and all the hints at Lancelot's doings and so on, and Robin Hood...

But it is all those things. There are parts of it that are beautiful, parts that are so wonderfully wel
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, classics
Sometimes, I choose the next book I am going to read based on the sound of the narrator's voice. That was the case with this book. It was the middle of the night and I couldn't relax enough to go to sleep, so, I listened to excerpts from my queue of audiobooks. I was looking for a narrator that had a pleasant voice that I could relax to, as the story unwound. Neville Jason does a wonderful job of narrating all the characters and is lovely to listen to.

As for the story itself, I wanted something
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, ya
My love of the television show Merlin, could not get me through this book. I finally finished it, and all I really have to say is that I shall not be starting "The Once and Future King" any time soon.
When I picked up this book up at a library book sale I had such high expectations for the story, which quickly evaporated within the first four chapters. The book was not exactly poorly written (and I've read worse), but the tone of voice conflicts with the overall narration, which prevents the rea
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Disney movie is only about the first twenty pages of this book...and not really because they changed all the characters. This book is sweet, intelligent, funny, and endearing.
Deborah Pickstone
Can you believe I had never read this? As I began it seemed so clearly for children that I was a little put off. Then it occurred to me that I was reading one of the grandparents of modern magical fantasy and very funny in parts, too! It comes complete with it's own made up language and a cast of utterly barmy characters. J.K. Rowling certainly read it - it's all over HP and some items are taken straight from this book and embellished to fine art. Not to mention it being 'written' in Northern En ...more
This one was a lovely book that took me right into my childhood.
The story is very well crafted and I loved how Wart learns from animals and plants and people like Robin Wood (nono, of course he isn't Robin Hood).
His little adventures were interesting and funny and I loved how the narrator sang the songs.
Michael Gardner
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t read The Sword in the Stone for [spoiler removed] years. It has been far too long. I’d forgotten how good it is, funny, deliberately anachronistic (and brilliantly so) and moving at the end. T.H. White’s Merlin is right up there as my favourite characterisation of the great wizard, no mere Obi Wan Kenobi of a mentor, but a being who has a very complex story all in itself as he traverses life in reverse time.

I’m not sure I got all the humour when I read it in my teens. I was just so in
Sep 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

If you decide to read this, look for an unabridged edition with the author's illustrations. I read the Time-Life edition. There should be lots of words and terms you've never encountered before. Unless, of course, you are an expert on Norman England, falconry, hunting boars, long-ago dog breeds, tilting, jousting and medieval butchery.

I want to label this a quirky fantasy. It's certainly can't be taken seriously. The audience seems to be juvenile, but the language, specifically the terminology,
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still dunno why I loved this so immediatley & so intensely.

Everything in it spoke to me.

Wart's lack of self worth, Merlyn's oddball lessons and habits, all the animals from the stupid falcon to the questing beast, and most of all the way White can be counted on to lose the thread of seriousness halfway through a sentence and throw in some pure sparkling nonsense.

I started reading the next book in the series, and it seems to be written by a completely different guy. Not in a bad way- just jarri
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wasn’t sure of this to begin with; it was recommended as a ‘lord of the rings’ epic, but this is much more aimed at children.

However, I came to rather enjoy it to be honest, enough to pick up book 2. It rather cleverly mixes the ancient and the modern, assisted by the wonderful backwards-traveller Merlin.
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Arthurian legend
Shelves: fantasy, classics, series
Setting: Great Britain
Time Period: Middle Ages
Series: Part 1 of The Once and Future King series

Plot Summary: Wart (Arthur) is a young orphan living with Sir Ector and working as a page in medieval Great Britain. While fetching one of Sir Ector’s birds, which his companion and foster brother Kay has lost, he encounters the wizard Merlin who becomes his and Kay’s tutor. Through a series of adventures made possible by Merlin, Wart learns about the world, nature and man’s duty to nature. His adventu
Dissertation reread time! I acquired a distaste for T.H. White sometime during my MA, and I'm not sure exactly why: rereading The Sword in the Stone, I still rather loved it, with its gentle humour and the character of the narratorial voice and its understanding of each character. I note that in my first review I noticed the way it treats Kay, which is a good sign for this dissertation...

It's written in a conversational way, but it's also beautiful. There are descriptions of the natural world th
Scott Sheaffer
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is a great book for anyone into medieval, Arthurian legend. I enjoy stories about chivalry and white knights in search of damsels in distress but just can't get thru the lengthy and boring Sir Thomas Mallory text, "La Muerte De Arthur". This book is a fine combination between Alice in Wonderland and Sir Thomas’s work. In other words it's the entire story with more fun and imagination. I'm glad this is only part of a series. I'm off to start book two. ...more
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Sword in the Stone” is the first book of “The Once and Future King” volumes written by T.H. White during the same period Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings and C.S Lewis creating the world of Narnia—other epic, fantasy novels, which gave birth to the new movement of magical realism—a movement in which magical elements are part of an otherwise realistic environment. The Once and Future King is such an Arthurian fantasy novel.

Although it might appear as a novel for young readers, it’s
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy Fiction Readers / Anyone Interested in King Arthur Stories
A young boy named Wart, being fostered in the home of Sir Ector, finds himself being tutored by the wizard Merlyn in this classic treatment of the youth of King Arthur. Transformed into various different creatures during the course of his education - a fish, a hawk, an ant, a goose and a badger - Wart learns about the nature of power and of warfare, and is taught to question the issues of fairness and justice. Unbeknownst to him, he is in training for his future as a king, and the book ends at t ...more
Amanda Hupe
This is the first book in my Arthurian Legend book stack. I read The Sword in the Stone by TH White when I was younger, but it was one of those, children abridged versions. I love Arthurian Legend so I figured this is a must-read. Wart, also known as Arthur is a young boy. He lives with his foster father, Sir Ector, and foster brother, Kay. One day, Wart gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon Merlyn and his owl, Archimedes. Merlyn decides to come back with Wart to become his tutor. However, Me ...more
Carrie ReadingtoKnow
I've been waiting for years to read this book aloud to my kids (now aged 5 - 14). I first read this by myself years ago and found it charming, witty and hilarious. And it is all of that with a vocabulary that is probably well above the age of most 10 year old heads. I might have done better if I had gone on waiting to read it, but I wanted to share it with my oldest and I do not regret the choice.

Stretching your kids to read above their level is never a bad thing. Even though they didn't underst
Ok, so the story part of the book is really good. I like Merlin's attitude towards education "education is experience!" and the stories where Wart gets turned into animals are cool and philosophical.

(Except there is no squirrel story! I was waiting the whole book for a squirrel story and there is none!)

The pacing of the book is very good, and you learn a lot of new words from the medieval period. I like how because Merlin has come from the future, he can mention things like cars and stuff l
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this on a list somewhere of 'books everyone should have read', so picked it up from the YA section of the library and dutifully did so. It was a bit of a curate's egg. The anachronisms were a bit strange and the plot was light-to-non-existent. I found the dialogue punctuation irritating after a while - there were a lot of new paragraphs with the same speaker as the previous one, where the quotation marks suggested it should be a new one. Often I wasn't sure which 'he' was being referred ...more
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-years-ago
One of my very favorite books as a child--what I loved most about it was being transformed into the various animals and other incarnations along with Wart, the future King Arthur. How it felt to be a hawk in the mews...a fish in the moat... the strangeness of becoming a tree, or a mountain, and viewing the world with that change in time perception. Always stayed with me, that feeling, of being a mountain, what the world would look like if you lived so slowly... it truly expanded my life. I read ...more
I read this book after reading about White in 'H is for Hawk', not really having any expectations about it. But I loved it! Wart's relationship with nature and Merlyn and his family are all quite interesting. And the writing is good, and knowing some about White and his closeted homosexuality and other issues made it all the more fascinating to read. ...more
David Wreesman
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in White's Arthurian tetrology. This series is one of my favorites, perhaps my favorite ever. It is equal parts funny, poignant, insightful, entertaining, profound, engaging, and more. This is my second read through, and I enjoyed it just as much the second as the first. ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hate when I feel like I'm missing something when I read a novel. Although there were brief moments I found charming, mostly in dialogue, overall I found this book meandering and slightly confusing. There is no real plot to speak off, except at the end, but I have no desire to read the other books. I had to force myself to read on, and the humor and oddness of the book was just not enough to hold my attention.

There is nothing really "wrong" with this book, it was just not for me. I was looking
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book.
Went in thinking it would be some sort of taking-itself-seriously book of lore... and ended up giggling at it on the subway many, many times.

The little 20th century pop-culture references and Merlin getting flustered and Pellinore getting flustered and the Questing Beast and the hedgehog and the song of Wold King-Cole and THE ANTS and and and just everything was so smart and silly and sweet. And it begs to be read aloud.

Was kinda sad about the gender ratio- boys had the majo
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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.

Other books in the series

The Once and Future King (5 books)
  • 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)

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