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The Sword In The Stone

(The Once and Future King #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  22,799 ratings  ·  895 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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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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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
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
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: ya, 2010
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
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,
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Arthurian legend
Shelves: series, fantasy, classics
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
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
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.
Juho Pohjalainen
I'll be honest, I don't know the Arthurian Myth in any detail - just what popular culture and Monty Python, and of course the Disney version, have shown me. So I don't know how accurate this retelling is to the history, how many of them already tell of Arthur's childhood, whether Merlin always aged and lived backwards in time and knew stuff about twentieth century... all right, so that part likely was never there.

But anyway, I enjoyed this version a great deal. It consists largely of short inter
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
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
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.
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.
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
Highness Atharva
I started with the first part of the Once and the Future King cause I wanted to explore more into the Middle Age European Arthurian Legends. I knew the basic characters like Arthur, Merlin (here Merlyn), Sir Kay, Sir Ector, Lancelot, etc. Many people recommended this book 'The Sword in the Stone' which is the part 1 of the OATFK therefore I took it into consideration and started reading. It was far better and at the same time far worse from my expectations. The book is the classical retelling of ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I loved The Sword in the Stone. I watched the Disney movie before I read the novel and I loved that too. However, the book is a lot different from the movie and even though I know the story I still enjoyed it immensely. The book is about a boy named Wart who lives with Sir Ector and his son, Kay, in a castle. Wart never knew his real parents, but Sir Ector treats him like a son and Kay is a brother to him. Wart's adventures begin when he is lost in the woods and stumbles upon the cottage of the ...more
Brigid ✩
3.5 Stars

I think my plan was originally to read all of The Once and Future King and then review all the books at once. But oh well, to hell with that plan. I haven't started the other books in the collection and it's been like three months and I've been sidetracked by too many other things, so ... oops.

I will keep this pretty short since I am trying very frantically to catch up on reviews and I don't remember enough about what I was going to say to write a detailed review. This is what I get for
Kate Forsyth
I had to re-read this book after reading Helen Macdonald’s extraordinary memoir H is for Hawk, which revealed much I did not know about T.H. White and his life and sorrows and struggles.

A classic of children’s fantasy, The Sword in the Stone is a funny and inventive story of King Arthur’s childhood. It was first published in 1938, but it feels incredibly fresh. Much of the book is made up of a series of set pieces in which Arthur (known as the Wart) is changed into different animals like a fish
Jun 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ambleside-year-7
Let me just say that I am REALLY proud of myself for finishing this book. It's very well written and imaginative and descriptive, it's just not at all my genre. ;) So there were some days I had to tell myself, "Okay, 10 minutes of this book and then you can read whatever you want to read."

It's on the Ambleside Year 7 list for two of my kids for next year so I wanted to pre-read it, and if I'm going to have them read it, I figured I'd better read it, too. I loved the character of Wart, and Merly
Dec 10, 2017 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference  ·  review of another edition
Because much was cut from the trilogy for the 'fix-it' Once and Future King, including some bits other readers describe that tempt me so much, like food and a duel....
Too soon after reading the omnibus to read now, but my comment in the buddy read thread:
I found an early (first?) edition in my library system and it's glorious. So much was cut for the omnibus. I don't have time/energy to read it now, but I did skim through the wizard vs. witch duel and that was fun. I love the endape
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books, 2019
I loved the Disney film so much as a child and watched it more times than I can count. There was so much more to the story and I'm so glad I finally got to find out more about the young King Arthur and his magical adventures.

I was a bit disappointed to see Morgan LeFay portrayed the way she was but Madam Mim was infinitely better in the book! So creepy and beautiful. I also really loved White's version of Maid Marion.

Overall the book was almost a 4 star read but it seemed to lose the plot compl
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
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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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