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The Book of Merlyn

(The Once and Future King #5)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  8,631 ratings  ·  382 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 June 1st 1977 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 nam…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)

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Eveningstar2
May 29, 2012 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
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Tom Quinn
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"One more try," [Merlyn] asked. "We are not quite done."

"What is the use of trying?"

"It is a thing which people do."

"People are dupes, then."

The old fellow replied frankly: "People are dupes, and wicked too. That is what makes it interesting to get them better."


A lovely conclusion to the circle of Arthur's life, and a worthy coda to The Once and Future King. The introduction from the publisher explaining the history of its publication is interesting as well, but the real value of course comes fr
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Bastard Travel
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Merlyn's back, so everything's zany again, and we're talking to the representatives of the animal kingdom that in their turn represent various systems of belief and politic. He starts changing Arthur into various animals as an allegory for systems of government, all of which is an elaborate lead-in to Merlyn's final discourse at the end of the book, a long-winded wizardsplanation of how Hobbes was right, public property and an innate human desire for adrenaline are the cause of war, nationalism ...more
Mir
Nov 15, 2009 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. ...more
Brian Eshleman
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This is more a wandering philosophical addendum than a book. It is White adding an exclamation point and a flourish to his work, making clear just how much of a mess he thinks modern man at mid-20th century has made of the world. I don't blame him for his outlook at that juncture, but his way of communicating it is not compelling. There is very little action that makes the reader want to join the narrator on these little asides.

SECOND READING: To my more critical self, as quoted above, the other
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Michael Gardner
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Book of Merlyn uses two of my least favourite structural elements in fiction. First, it’s a story about a meeting. Second, it’s a dramatised essay about the human nature, might and war. However, it also contains some of T.H. White’s most delicious prose and is inescapably good reading.

I feel it is also the necessary end to The Once and Future King, wrapping up all the loose threads and bringing all the themes to a rounded conclusion. Even though the book lacks the dramatic tension of the pre
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Jason
Jun 25, 2009 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 con
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Lylah
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a shame that White never got the chance to edit this one, because it would have been just perfect.

A lot of this book is dialogue; a political and philosophical diatribe about how mankind should live. In a lot of ways it goes on too long and is rough around the edges, but I'm glad I read it. It's full of White's charm (with some fun fourth-wall breaks!) and it was lovely to see the story come full-circle back to the good times of Wart's adventures in The Sword in the Stone, though tinged wit
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Nicky
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
Katie
This last part of the quintet goes back somewhat to the style of the first book. We have Merlyn teaming up with his animal friends to help the now elderly King Arthur figure out what the point of it all was. It's not as good as the previous two books in the saga, but it gets three stars because of its focus on humanity and morality.

White is very interested in the role of humanity. What are we good for? Is there any point to us at all? Why do we think we're better than other animals? Are we, in f
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James Swenson
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am deep in love with The Sword in the Stone, the classic in which T.H. White imagines how Merlyn and the animals educated the young Wart. In The Book of Merlyn, Merlyn returns to an old and despairing King Arthur, his armies massed against Mordred. With the help of the beloved Committee -- Archimedes the owl, Cafall the greyhound, Balin the hawk, T. natrix the snake, Goat, Badger, and the hedgepig -- the King faces the temptation and hopelessness of the end of his reign.

Writing in 1940, White
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Fiver
Aug 22, 2010 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
Christian Schwoerke
I was eager to read this book after I’d finished The Once and Future King, because in my ignorance I thought it might offer some more background on Merlyn’s life and origins. One of the things intriguing me in The Once and Future King was White’s description of Merlyn as living backwards in time, implying that Merlyn had his origin in the 20th or a later century. Merlyn’s knowledge of 20th-century history (adverted to in the majority of Merlyn’s anachronistic allusions/similes in The Once and Fu ...more
Adam
Jan 07, 2009 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
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Darwin8u
Jan 24, 2014 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
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Nathan Dehoff
Feb 10, 2014 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
Garret Macko
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, literature, fantasy
The final installment in The Once and Future King is a delightful journey through the mind of T.H. White. The book consists mostly of dialogue on human nature (In a seemingly Socratic manner). It is a thought-provoking and beautiful ending to White's rendition of the Arthurian legend.

I initially read the first four books in the series in rapid succession, so upon finishing The Candle in the Wind I decided to take a break from the series and return to The Book of Merlyn at a later time. Having fi
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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
Jennifer M.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best word for this really is 'superfluous'. TOAFK ended perfectly, and there was no need for anything to be tacked on. It isn't ruinous to TOAFK, but it is wholly unnecessary. This is really a three star read; but I am a weak bitch and gave it four because there's the beautiful writing to be expected from White, plus some meditations on War and the human beast that made me feel something in the cold black space where my heart is supposed to be.

Honestly, read it only if you're a die-hard fan
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Ethan
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TH White has put together one of the most accessible discourses on sociopolitical philosophy ever written. It's extremely interesting and informative, with a coherent plot, to boot! ...more
Tyler Jones
This is a more satisfying conclusion to The Once and Future King which, for reasons I am a bit foggy on, was not included until a decade after White's death.

Philosophy, social studies, nature, violence...each takes it's turn beneath the microscope. Kindness and humanity are extolled. Nationalism is exposed for the evil it is. I can't say I could follow every train of thought, but that's probably a good thing as I have lots to look forward to in the many re-readings of this that I hope to have be
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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 animals
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Edward C.
Feb 16, 2013 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
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MB (What she read)
After The Sword in the Stone, this is my favorite in the Once and Future King series. (The impending tragedy of Arthur, Mordred, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin, etc. just takes too much of a toll on me after this point. The other books are an amazing piece of art, and beautiful--but they are tragic. I feel the same way in preferring The Hobbit to the 3 books in The Lord of the Rings.)

Be sure and read Mary's review which references Sylvia Townsend Warners' review. (I think that if the reader und
...more
Erik Graff
Jan 11, 2009 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
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Joell
Feb 03, 2016 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
Nicky
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
Maggie Baker
Mar 27, 2012 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!~ ...more
Matt
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Simple but beautiful book. I came to this after reading Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, which takes up Merlyn's question, How do you end war? Ishiguro made me want to go back to the source (one of them, anyway). White offers no answers, but who does? ...more
Caleb
"The cheek of the human race," [Merlyn] exclaimed, "is something to knock you footless. Begin with the unthinkable universe; narrow down to the minute sun inside it; pass to the satellite of the sun which we are pleased to call the Earth; glance at the myriad algae, or whatever the things are called, of the sea, and at the uncountable microbes, going backwards to a minus infinity, which populate ourselves. Drop an eye on those quarter million other species I have mentioned, and upon the unmentio ...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 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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