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The Once and Future King #1

La Espada en la Piedra

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La espada en la piedra es el primero de los cuatro libros de su obra "The Once and Future King" .

Mediante un estilo sencillo, pleno de humor y fantasía, el autor nos introduce en una serie de prácticas mágicas que servirán al niño llamado Verruga para alcanzar el fabuloso destino que le aguarda. Siempre guiado por las artes de encantamiento de su preceptor, el mago Merlín, Verruga debe superar las diversas pruebas que le ayudarán a dominar el mundo que le rodea. A pesar del tratamiento desenfadado, a menudo satírico, que el autor da a la narración, las costumbres medievales aparecen descritas con extraordinaria fidelidad, prueba de los grandes conocimientos adquiridos por White sobre la época arturiana.

De este modo, la obra consigue unir de modo hábil la atmósfera fantástica que deleitará al lector con una visión precisa de las formas de vida vigentes en la Edad Media.

250 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 1938

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About the author

T.H. White

85 books1,087 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,248 reviews
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,226 followers
June 15, 2015
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 immersed in my fantasy. I want to feel like I'm in that world. So, when a ghost knight is questing after a mythical beast and out of nowhere the author is talking about police officers it breaks up my willing suspension of disbelief. Funny, I know, that something that's real should ruin my belief of something fake. It worked so well in Python's "The Holy Grail"...


Ah, but I'm making too much of this and right from the start of my review. The fact is I really enjoyed The Stone in the Stone. The above gripe is a relatively minor one. For the most part I was able to sit back and enjoy the fantastical scenes, colorful imagery and oddball characters cooked up by White. It's an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink kind of book at times, but you just have to go with it, because of course it would be a kooky life, the adolescence of the man who later drew a sword from a stone in order to become king, referenced water spirits for his life choices and overcame the Knights Who Say Ni with a two letter word and a herring. Damn it. Now I'm the one mixing things up!

Profile Image for Murray.
Author 148 books488 followers
March 17, 2023
🗡️🪨 🧙🏻‍♂️ Here is a tale of young Arthur. Read by young Murray years ago. And what young Murray - Mhoireach in the ancient tongue - what young Mhoireach found most fascinating was the training Arthur received from Merlin, including the wizard turning him into animals, and more, so that Arthur better understood the world around him and grew empathetic towards it. I particularly remember Arthur becoming a fish 🐠

🗡️🪨 A wonderful re-telling of the early part of the Arthurian legend.

And he does pull the sword from the stone 🪨 🗡️ 👑
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book862 followers
November 16, 2020
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 about the sword drawn from the stone is only retold — beautifully and emotionally — at the very end of White’s novel.

The bulk of The Sword in the Stone is an episodic narrative that consists of a series of adventures and considerations around young King Arthur, from the time when he was just a young boy and was called, in an affectionate yet slightly insulting way, “the Wart”. Around this young boy, a few older men, such as his foster father Sir Ector, his tutor Merlyn, his stepbrother Kay, the whimsical King Pellinore chasing the Questing Beast and the clumsy Sir Grummore (a character invented by T. H. White, playing opposite Pellinore, like the muppets Statler and Waldorf). The whole novel revolves around Sir Ector’s castle and the neighbouring forest, and quite a few episodes are about Wart being magically turned into animals by Merlyn: a fish in the moat, a hawk in the falconry, a wild goose, etc. In these woods, we also get to meet a character from another legend altogether: Robin Hood.

All in all, T. H. White’s novel displays a somewhat loose, slow-paced plotline and focuses on atmospheric and idyllic descriptions of the forest and countryside, the sky and stars, the techniques of jousting and falconry, the seasons that come and go, the pranks and funny episodes, the songs and fairytales by the fireside. It is a utopian and delightful book for all ages, that reads as a mellow, decorative and nostalgic reverie around the legends of young Arthur, with a narrator that is always gently present and introduces subtle and unworried references to the 20th century — never hinting at the fact that the book was written just before World War II’s darkest hours. It has very little to do with Le Morte d’Arthur : it instead made me think of the old infancy gospels (the legendary Apocrypha around the childhood of Jesus) or, even more, of the idealised images of the Middle Ages in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Obviously (quite explicitly in fact), the story of this young Wart is also in line with the tale of Cinderella.

Walt Disney’s adaptation of The Sword in the Stone (1963) is not top of the line. However, it is still a charming slapstick musical comedy — the adaptation of The Jungle Book that would be released a couple of years later is very similar but better developed. In a way, T. H. White’s novel has also been a model for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for young Luke Skywalker (Wart) and Yoda (Merlyn) in The Empire Strikes Back, and even J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, a few decades later.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,687 followers
August 11, 2016
“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, power, fears and the joy of both youth and myth with this retelling of early Arthurian legend. White's theme of power and justice ("Might Makes Right") seem to perfectly capture the political Zeitgiest of now. Perhaps, White like Merlin was just writing through time backwards and wanted to capture the queer contradictions of Imperial Democracy in the global 21st century, but wanted to write it in the 1930s so Disney would be around to animate it in the 60s and thus make his point resonate better in the early 21st century.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,874 reviews31.2k followers
February 8, 2018
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 still love the story of the boy Wart learning from Merlin and not understanding what a gift that is. He got to be animals and learn the lesson of putting yourself in another's shoes and what is life like for them. I think it's a powerful story. I also love love that British Dialect he gave to so many of the characters. It was amazing. Whatever is in the water in Britain gives the people the power of words. I love it. They are so descriptive. I think as an American we have lost a little of that gift as a whole and reduced our language down. I know not everyone. I also love how many times Wart puts the sword back in the stone to prove he can pull it out. Made me laugh.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
December 31, 2010
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 well described, like Wart's time with the geese, or when he's turned into a fish, and the narrative voice is so wonderfully understanding of what goes on inside people's minds. I like the way it treats Kay -- like he's good at heart, but he messes things up by trying too hard to be what he's not, the pride in him. And one of my favourite moments is when Ector says to him that he will always be proud of him, and Kay then decides to tell the truth...

So glad I came back to this book. I'm pretty sure I never really got beyond it, now that I'm looking at the opening of the next book, so I hope I do this time, and I hope all the books are as good.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,948 reviews38 followers
February 10, 2020
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 interesting, but not too exciting, after all, my eventual goal was to get some sleep. This was perfect! I have always loved the legends surrounding King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable and have devoured various interpretations. This story built slowly, but steadily. I would say that I would have rated the first half at 3-stars. However, as I continued to listen the next day as I walked the dog I became engrossed and invested and found I couldn't put it down. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the 5-volume set.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,062 followers
December 12, 2020
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 tells the story of King Arthur is Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur” of 1485, and many use this as their basis. However, T.H. White decided to write a fantasy about the boyhood of Arthur, which had not been covered by Malory. In The Sword in the Stone, the boy who will become King Arthur is tutored by Merlyn, to prepare him for the use of power and royal life. Following Malory, T.H. White places this loosely in Medieval England, of which he was very knowledgeable. Therefore much of the book describes medieval culture and pastimes, such as hunting, falconry and jousting.

There is no mention of Arthur at the beginning of The Sword in the Stone. Instead, we are introduced to “The Wart”, a young boy who is growing up in Sir Ector’s castle, which is situated in the middle of a wild English forest called the Forest Sauvage. Sir Ector has a son, Kay, who is his heir. Although both boys are taught chivalry and mathematics, it is Kay who will be instructed in the proper ways of knighthood. The Wart knows that because of his common birth, he can only ever be Kay’s squire, or servant. When Kay makes mistakes in his lessons, he is rarely disciplined, since he will one day be powerful, inheriting his father’s lands and title.

The story begins with whimsical humour. Sir Ector and his friend Sir Grummore Grummursum are in the process of getting very drunk on port wine. But rather than speaking in the language of the time, this tipsy and pompous pair of medieval knights conduct a drunken conversation in the speech of the post-World War I British aristocracy. Also, they don’t seem particularly intelligent. Having these two English aristocrats hemming and hawing while they drink port makes for a comic scene; very much at odds with what medieval knights would really have sounded and acted like.

Sir Ector and Sir Grummore decide to go on a quest to find a new tutor for the boys, since the previous tutor has gone insane. However, they cannot, since it is July, and Sir Ector needs to supervise his tenants while they put the year’s hay out to dry.

After Kay and The Wart finish helping the work in the fields, they go to practise their falconry. They take a tiercel goshawk called “Cully” from the Mews, and head out into the fields. The Wart is better at handling Cully, but Kay is proud, and aware of his station. He insists on carrying the hawk, and he releases him far too son, hoping that he will catch a rabbit. Cully, however has his own ideas, and flies into a nearby tree instead, perching there, glaring at them, before flying deeper and deeper into the forest. We see The Wart’s empathy contrasting with Kay’s arrogance, as The Wart worries about Hob, who takes care of the hawks. He knows that Hob will be disappointed to have lost Cully, but Kay does not care. He says that Hob is just a servant, and he storms off.

The Wart waits by a tree where Cully has perched, until it is quite dark. He is shot at by an unseen bowman, and The Wart runs deeper into into the forest, until he is quite lost. Then he meets a kindly, bespectacled man who says he is King Pellinore, on a hunt for a magical creature known as the “Questing Beast”. The Wart invites King Pellinore back to Sir Ector’s castle, in the hope that he will knows the way. However King Pellinore suddenly hears the Questing Beast, and runs off in keen pursuit.

The Wart eventually falls asleep in the dark forest. In the morning, he sets off again, and meets an old man, with a long white beard, dressed in a pointed cap and a gown with embroidered stars and signs. He is drawing water from a well outside his cottage, and introduces himself as Merlyn. Merlyn seem to already know The Wart’s name, and he invites him into his cottage, which is full of magical items and strange artefacts. Here The Wart meets a talking owl, called “Archimedes”. Merlyn frequently speaks of things that he has seen in the future. He explains to The Wart that he is a wizard, who lives backwards in time, and that he is to be The Wart’s new tutor.

Both leave together for Sir Ector’s castle, catching the hawk, Cully, on the way. When they arrive at the Castle, Merlyn demonstrates his magical powers, and although Sir Ector dismisses them as sleights of hand, he nevertheless hires Merlyn. Kay, predictably enough, belittles The Wart’s adventure. However Merlyn, becomes quite terrifyingly angry, and reprimands Kay. This makes everybody feel uncomfortable, and Merlyn seems to regret his bad temper, apologising to Kay and giving him a silver hunting knife.

We have now been introduced to the five main characters in the book: The Wart, Merlyn, Sir Ector, Kay, and King Pellinore. We can tell their personalities from T.H. White’s droll account of their actions and conversations. The novel continues, telling of the adventures of Kay and The Wart. The Wart always seems good-natured: a familiar staple of English literature, a marginalised stepchild, always behaving decently and being eager to please. He is not particularly courageous, but always does what is right, however frightened he is. Kay, on the other hand, haughtily behaves like the spoiled, selfish and angry child he is. He is so used to being told that he is superior, that he cannot stand to have his authority challenged. In a way though, he is a product of his position. It is only really when The Wart earns too much praise, that Kay begins to criticise and belittle him. We hope that as he matures, some of Kay’s selfishness may lessen.

As the story proceeds we see many magical adventures. Each one is designed by Merlyn to give the Wart a carefully calculated lesson.

Although The Sword in the Stone is geared more towards children and young people than the rest of the books in the “The Once and Future King” tetralogy, they all explores parallels between the Arthurian world and the modern one. T.H. White frequently tries to link its morals to contemporary events.

The years pass, and eventually Kay is ready to be knighted. Great preparations are made, and Sir Ector and his retinue travel to London. However, as Kay approaches the tournament field, he realises that he has left his sword behind, at the inn.

Some readers may find that this story is very familiar, since it is a retelling of the traditional tales of medieval England—with a quirky modern touch. The Arthurian tradition is a body of stories and myths about a legendary king of Briton, which date back at least to early twelfth-century Britain and France.

The Sword in the Stone is classed as a “Junior” book, suitable for ages 9 to 12. This puzzles me. Perhaps it may have appealed to some youngsters of this age when it was written, especially the privileged prep school boys. But now, I wonder. I suspect it appeals more to adults. I first read it in my 20s, and again now. It has a quaint drollery, and is full of facts about medieval times, which some may become immersed in. It is a classic, and the tetralogy is unique. Perhaps this may be why of those of my friends who have read it, nearly all seem to have rated it at 5 stars, (although few have reviewed it).

When Disney hacked the story about and made it into a film in 1963, he concentrated on the humorous episodes, and the animal transformations. If you have a particular bent for the ridiculous, then the battle between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore Grummursum is hilarious. T.H. White is clearly poking fun at traditional notions of knighthood. The only reason for the joust is because this is appropriate for their social station. Each man is so heavily padded that he cannot hurt the other—or even see well enough to avoid running into a tree. The fact that both knights address each other in the most formal medieval English also encourages us to laugh at them. Knighthood and battles play an important part in “The Once and Future King”, but here these two knights are little more than buffoons, with T.H White mocking the formal address that is traditionally found in Arthurian tales.

I can see why the book has attained its status, but to me it is too quirky, and of its time, class and culture to be very appealing. It is perhaps the most self-indulgent book I have ever read, and peppered with anachronisms. Perhaps they are an hilariously inappropriate delight to scholars of medieval history, but for a general reader, they seem merely puzzling, and for a child, surely misleading.

Thus The Sword in the Stone, regretfully, must remain at my default of 3 stars.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
Profile Image for Anne.
401 reviews73 followers
April 17, 2022
“The best thing for being sad ... is to learn something.”

The Sword in the Stone is a 1938 novel of an orphan named Wart who comes to be tutored by the wizard Merlyn in unconventional ways that prepares him to assume his destiny as King Arthur. This is book 1 of 4 in the series The Once and Future King. It covers multiple genres elements: fantasy, legend, and comedy.

Most readers know, at least heard of, some format of this story. I know I’ve read various abridged books to my children when they were young. Perhaps you’ve seen the 1963 Disney film adaptation The Sword in the Stone. I decide to listen to an audio format narrated by Neville Jason after seeing the book on Guardian 1000 Books to Read and 1001 Children’s Books to Read list.

Set in Medieval England, Wart is a young orphan being raised by Sir Ector in his castle in a forest alongside Ector’s son, Kay. The boys are training as a knight, though Wart could only become a squire because of his common birth. Wart meets Merlyn after becoming lost in the deep forest while chasing a falcon. Merlyn returns Wart to his castle home, staying to become the boys’ tutor.

Fantasy allows for unique worldbuilding. My favorite element here was that Merlyn knew things about the future because he was living backwards in time. During the novel, Merlyn turns the Wart into various forest creatures as part of his tutelage. I thought this was a clever way to show empathy to children and make simple some explanations. It is only near the end of the book that the legend of King Arthur is introduced.

As much as I loved the narration by Neville Jason, whose gentle soothing voice was perfect for Wart and the woodland creatures, I would have an illustrated print copy of the book available if I were reading this with a child. Yet I would not forgo the audio because it made the many songs and poems and Latin phrases most enjoyable. It also helped to gloss over digressions off the main story that occasionally had religious themes.

This romping adventurous children’s tale has plenty of medieval culture for those fans – castles, a castle moat, falconry, jousting. And there is enough for fantasy fans – Robin Hood, shapeshifting, magical beasts (griffin). It is a timeless classic that should appeal to all ages.

Profile Image for Darkiknowwell.
14 reviews14 followers
November 29, 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 reader from being fully invested in the characters and overarching story.

Being part of the Arthurian legend, the fantasy and magic one would expect to find contained within its pages just was not there; as the story seemed to be grappling with too little plot and an author who could not make up his mind about who their audience is. Most of the adventures that Wart went on were both boring and tedious and whilst clever the additions of modern topics such as Eton College, or Nazism seemed asynchronous to the main plot. However it should be noted that as Merlin lives time in reverse order perhaps it does make some sense to have references to a more modern age.

Perhaps T.H. White improved the story when he included "The Sword in the Stone" as the first part of "The Once and Future King", but having looked at the latter book very little of the story seems to have been edited or changed. While one can commend T.H. White for trying the story never came off the page as it should have done. When this book was purchased I was hoping to step into a world of wonder, steeped in the lore of King Arthur, instead the reader is immersed in a book that appears cobbled together and no adventure for Wart has any connection to the chapters that came before it.
Profile Image for Kodama.
15 reviews
June 14, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Suhailah.
177 reviews23 followers
March 16, 2023
“Snylrem stnemilpmoc ot enutpen dna lliw eh yldnik tpecca siht yob sa a hsif?”

That quote pretty much sums up the magic of this entire story! A grand adventure it was!

This was a super fun and entertaining audiobook read for me. I’ve always been fascinated by the King Arthur/Merlin lore. I’ve been wanting to dive into it so badly ever since watching the Merlin show a couple of years ago!

The Sword In the Stone book seemed like a happy place to start. It was actually one of my most favorite Disney movies to watch as a child. I just remember being sick and curling up in my pajamas next to a bowl of chicken noodle soup with this playing on the TV. The magic scenes and the catchy songs were so memorable! I still to this day catch myself randomly singing the song “That’s what makes the world go round” from the movie quite often!

The book did have a slightly different feel. It was a bit scattered plot wise and mostly composed of a series of little adventures but nonetheless it was a magical adventure I really enjoyed taking! It was pretty enjoyable to get a deeper glimpse of King Arthur’s childhood being known as Wart! Following him all the way through meeting Merlin and learning was fun, and the ending had that sparkling spread of warmth effect, and everything just felt rightly in its rightful and true place. Long Live the king!

And I think I’ve earned myself one more reason to rewatch the Disney movie, right? 😉
Profile Image for Deborah Pickstone.
852 reviews91 followers
October 11, 2016
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 English (Wart rhymes with cart not tort). The two 25 stone knights' jousting was peerless - I collapsed completely at the vision of them getting up a head of steam and then sailing straight past each other, unable to stop before hitting respective trees!

Anyone viewing it through the lens of the Disney film is at a disadvantage; it oversimplifies a book that becomes ever less simple as you read on.
Profile Image for Michael Gardner.
Author 21 books70 followers
March 2, 2019
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 love with the Arthurian legend that I wanted to read everything I could find, including Malory’s Le Morte d'Arthur (which has every sentence about conflict resolution finishing with “...and smote of his head.”) Even as a Classical scholar, the Arthurian legend remains my favourite myth of all time and by a long way. I’m still so absolutely fascinated with the stories. Onto book two...
Profile Image for ♥Milica♥.
888 reviews259 followers
July 16, 2022
What a delightful book!

The Sword in the Stone is one of my favourite Disney movies, so of course I had to read the book(s) eventually too. And doing it though audiobooks was definitely the right choice because the narrator made my life.

His voice is so comforting, and he gives every character a unique voice so you don't mix them up. And his delivery of funny lines is excellent, I spent so many parts smiling and laughing.

All five books are available in the Plus catalogue till the 27th, and I hurried to start them so I'd have enough time, but with this narrator I don't think it'll be a problem. I zoomed though the first book faster than I anticipated and I think the rest are a bit shorter so they should go even faster.

Profile Image for Nanu.
291 reviews34 followers
September 14, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Mmars.
525 reviews96 followers
March 30, 2014

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, is challenging. (But then, young fantasy fans expect unknown names, kingdoms, objects, etc. to appear in their stories.) And the humor had me laughing out loud.

Disney fans know how Wart became Arthur, and that Merlin wears a robe of stars, and all that other Sword in the Stone stuff, and may think it all child's play, but this is not a dumbed down book. Seriously. It's well-written and delightful, an overlooked classic that ought to be discovered by the many fans of Harry P.

Looking for a diversion, I happened upon this and read it on a whim. What fun!
Profile Image for Pearl.
244 reviews18 followers
February 15, 2017
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 jarring after all that fun. Does that change? Or is it serious town from The Witch in the Woods onwards?
Profile Image for Tony.
486 reviews37 followers
February 2, 2021
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.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
948 reviews89 followers
June 1, 2022
I'm actually listening to the omnibus version of The Once and Future King, but I stopped after this first book to read other books. I will get back to it eventually.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,113 reviews186 followers
June 6, 2020
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 the tournament in London, where the future monarch will be revealed by his ability to pull the sword from its stone...

Originally published in 1938 in a slightly different form than its current one - I believe the episode with the ants was added later - The Sword in the Stone was eventually published, together with three sequels - The Witch in the Wood , The Ill-Made Knight and The Candle in the Wind - as the first part of The Once and Future King , T.H. White's epic reimagining of the Arthurian saga. Although the larger work is not considered a children's book, The Sword in the Stone often is, and I recall reading it myself as a girl. White's work was included in the syllabus of the course on the history of children's literature that I took while getting my masters, and I was glad to encounter it again. I found the animal transformations here quite interesting, and was quite struck by the passage in which Wart reflects on Merlyn's teaching style: "the Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas."

This is an influential book, inspiring a Disney animated film, and providing the template, in the figure of Merlyn, for such authors as Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling, who have both acknowledged a debt to White. I think I also see White's influence in some of Susan Cooper's Arthurian-linked fantasy series, The Dark Is Rising Sequence . Well worth the time of any reader who enjoys fantasy fiction. For my part, I'd like to get to the longer work, The Once and Future King at some point.
Profile Image for Lisa.
222 reviews3 followers
September 19, 2007
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 adventures include but are not limited to rescuing people with Robin Hood and Maid Marian, questing for the Beast with King Pellinore and turning into a wide array of animals. Through these adventures he learns the skills necessary to become a great ruler and these enable him to pull the sword from the stone.

Subject Headings: King Arthur, knights and knighthood, Arthurian romance, Fantasy fiction-English, wizards, Merlin, Robin Hood, Great Britain-History- Anglo-Saxon Period 449-1066.

Appeal: quirky, familiar and vivid characters, relaxed pace, coming of age story, third person omniscient, cinematic, detailed, rural, bittersweet, humorous, poetic, nostalgic with unusual and conversational language.

Related Authors and Works (Fiction): J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings trilogy which is also a coming of age story filled with adventures involving wizards, like this series it starts out lightly and gets progressively darker; Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur which is one of the most famous accounts of the Legend of King Arthur (written in the 15th century); Mary Stewarts Merlin Trilogy which chronicles the life of Merlin vividly and poetically.

Related Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Sean Martin, The Knights Templar: The History and Myths of the Legendary Military Order which is a clear account of both the history and myths surrounding the Knights Templar, who are prominent players in Arthurian legend; Geoffrey Ashe, Mythology of the British Isles which contains not only the actual myths, but their history and illustrations; C. Warren Hollister Medieval Europe: A Short History.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
August 19, 2012
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 that are almost breathtaking, and Wart can at once be a silly little boy and a very noble one. And Kay can at once be a proud big kid, prone to bullying, and a scared boy who really just wants to hold his own. And Merlyn can be a mysterious wizard and a kindly old man.

I'm looking forward to rereading the rest of it now -- although I think the warm sympathy for Kay is less of a thing in the other books, and they're probably not going to be so useful.
Profile Image for Scott Sheaffer.
208 reviews68 followers
May 7, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Amalie .
765 reviews219 followers
October 16, 2021
“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 really a satire on myth and chivalric nature of warfare, and the idealized and romanticized version of the legend. May be also “a growth-novel” tale of Arthur. There were a lot of comical scenes. For example Wart’s first meeting with King Pellinore, with a knight dressed in full armor is first heavily romanticized and soon we see he is clumsy and wearing spectacles and accidently drops his lance several times. He is a really a
parody of the chivalrous knight.

“The Sword in the Stone” introduces Wart who later becomes King Arthur, Merlyn a magician (who is the teacher to Wart and Kay, Sir Ector’s son) and Morgan Le Fay.

This was a good read. I was confused about Robin Hood/Wood though.
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews57 followers
July 25, 2020
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, Merlyn is not a normal tutor, he is a wizard which makes for some interesting lessons.

AHHHHH! This is an awful way to kick off my summer reading list. I HATED this book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Wart and Merlyn and the few little Arthurian details. HOWEVER, this book is filled with racism. There were so many problematic scenes that I almost couldn’t finish it. It was like HP Lovecraft all over again. There are racial slurs and little sayings that insinuate that slaves were happy. It was difficult to read. It took away from the magic of the bones of the story–which should be about Wart’s coming-of-age. There were also other political points that weighed down the story. JUST GIVE ME WART PULLING THE SWORD FROM THE STONE AND BECOMING KING ARTHUR. I guess I will just have to settle with the Disney movie. (One of my favorites.)

However, I hated this book so much that I will not continue with the rest of the Once and Future King Series. I think I am going to pick up the Arthurian Romances and Legends next and maybe a couple of the nonfiction reads that talk about the historical connections of the story. I have a few other books left…so hopefully they don’t let me down. 1 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for abthebooknerd.
271 reviews144 followers
July 1, 2021
Alas, I’m not quite in the mood for this one. Deathly Hallows is calling my name, so I’m setting this one aside for now. But not because I didn’t enjoy the few pages I read!

Profile Image for Lea.
852 reviews177 followers
September 4, 2020
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 for a nice Arthurian saga and I got a "comedy" instead - which I should have figured out before buying it.

Profile Image for Janet.
Author 22 books87.7k followers
March 1, 2012
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 it every few years, just to reexperience the magic.
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