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New School Classics- 1900-1999 > The Once and Future King - Read Along 3rd Qtr 2018

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message 1: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments This thread is for those who wish to read along with us at a 3-month pace for the book The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Please do not post any spoilers past the section listed for the read along.


message 2: by Pink (last edited Jul 01, 2018 03:17AM) (new)

Pink | 6554 comments If we split the four books over the next 13 weeks, that gives us the following schedule -

Jul 1
The Sword in the Stone

Jul 23
The Queen of Air and Darkness

Aug 13
The Ill-Made Knight

Sep 3
The Candle in the Wind

Sep 24
Discussion of book as a whole


message 3: by Carlo (new)

Carlo | 206 comments I’ve just finished the Sword in the Stone and it’s not what I expected at all. In fact the Arthurian legend only really kicks in during the last couple of chapters. Instead we have a time traveling Merlin who can turn people into animals. All a bit weird.

It’s set in Norman times too which makes it a bit anachronistic.


message 4: by Ian (last edited Jul 01, 2018 02:41PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Pink wrote: "If we split the four books over the next 13 weeks, that gives us the following schedule -"

Those who don't already have a copy of "The Once and Future King" (TOFK) may have noticed that the four titles of its sections are also offered as separate titles, and wondered about whether to get them, instead. And there are two other titles involved, as well.

The book is in fact an omnibus, but one extensively revised by the author, and the answer to that question is, by and large, no.

In fact, some of the offerings seem to be excerpts in violation of copyright (although some of the audio versions may be legitimate).

The exception, for the curious, may be the original version of "The Sword in the Stone." It IS still in print, and there are lots of used copies. That version is clearly a book aimed at children, and contains some episodes which were included in the Disney animated film, but later dropped, making the tone more serious. (There seem to be a lot of inexpensive paperbacks with the Disney tie-in cover.)

The revision of "Sword in the Stone" in TOFK also contains some material overlapping with the posthumously-published "Book of Merlyn," the full text of which was apparently rejected by the publisher for inclusion in the omnibus.

In either edition of "Sword," only the opening premise of Arthur's fostering, the events referenced in the title, and a few more characters are actually traditionally Arthurian: White had a lot of fun inventing Arthur's early life, making use of what has been called "controlled anachronism" for comic (and ironic) effect.

"The Queen of Air and Darkness," if offered under that title, is a (probably illicit) excerpt from TOFK. It was originally published, at about twice the length, as "The Witch in the Wood." Discussing the differences between the two would amount to a series of spoilers. I may mention more about it in the later discussion, if requested, but it has been many years since I read it in a library copy.

"The Ill-Made Night" was also published as a separate novel. It was revised in detail in TOFK, and the prose improved, and it was possibly shortened -- I've never had the chance to do a complete comparison. I may report on the matter during this reading, since I recently found an inexpensive used copy of a pre-TOFK reprinting. If this is what is being offered on Amazon, the price may be way too steep for casual interest.

"The Candle in the Wind" was never published separately -- until recent offerings. This would presumably be the TOFK text, as there is no other source.

As previously mentioned, "The Book of Merlyn" was not included in TOFK, and can safely be ignored for this discussion, unless we are considering White's intentions at various stages of his work. Its original edition, which I think had a very large Book Club printing, had attractive illustrations -- I don't know if they are included in the current reprints.

By the way, the the original versions of "Sword," "Witch in the Wood," and "The Ill-Made Knight" had "decorations" -- mainly chapter headings and endings -- by White himself.


message 5: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Thanks for that thorough summary Ian. I know we discussed briefly in nominations how this book differed to the individually published titles. It's good to know that the stories were repurposed specifically for this edition.

I haven't read any of these stories, but the kindle book is quite cheap, so I might be tempted to join in.

Good luck to everyone reading along.


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Carlo wrote: "I’ve just finished the Sword in the Stone and it’s not what I expected at all. In fact the Arthurian legend only really kicks in during the last couple of chapters...."

I'm sorry nobody warned you.

There is in fact no medieval tradition of Arthur's fostering, other than that it took place (illustrative quotations available on demand), and White felt free to invent a prelude to Malory. However, White has left many readers with the impression that an education by Merlin *is* part of the tradition.

Mary Stewart assumed this in her own version of Arthur's boyhood in her Merlin trilogy. I know that she was upset when it was pointed out that she had paralleled Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Sword at Sunset" in one particular, so I am confident that the problem that it was a recent invention just never occurred to her.

One of White's main conceits was that our legends of the Middle Ages are true history, and vice-versa. He maintains this, less obtrusively, throughout the completed collection. (He also mixes up the ethno-linguistic history of the British Isles, and I'm not sure how much of that was pure ignorance, and how much not caring about the facts. Again, I'll offer the details when-and-if appropriate.)

White was equally inventive in "The Witch in the Wood," although that was a very dark treatment of the boyhoods of some of the knights, also dragging in a few of Malory's other characters for various comical misadventures. Its much shorter revision in "The Once and Future King" as "The Queen of Air and Darkness" retains only part of that material; I think that the omissions are mostly improvements, for reasons I'll get into when appropriate.


message 7: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 4182 comments This is so interesting, Ian. I never knew this history, and appreciate you sharing. I have only read (and re-read) TOFK, always as a whole, first as a big blue library hardback when I was young, and now as my small Berkeley Book paperback, worn and ready to shed a few pages.

I cannot separate my childhood impressions from this book. It always feels like a children's book to me (though I've found much depth to it as an adult), and the first chapter brings back the sense of wonder I had with my very first read. This was my first Arthur story, and will always be the Arthur story in my mind. :-)


message 8: by Lia (new)

Lia Thanks Ian, the publishing history itself is so interesting. The revival of these mythical figures, the transformation of the book, the decisions about what is appropriate for children, what is preserved for adults decades later — seem to say something our culture as well (though what it says I can’t tell. I should probably finish reading the books first!)

So glad to have you with us, encyclopedic Ian!


message 9: by Lia (new)

Lia Ian wrote: "There is in fact no medieval tradition of Arthur's fostering, other than that it took place (illustrative quotations available on demand), and White felt free to invent a prelude to Malory..."

I DEMAND! (Sorry)

It would also be really really cool if Mary Stewart’s reaction to her critics is still available. I’d LOVE to read that.


message 10: by Lia (new)

Lia I’ve been reading some older Arthurian tales lately. I have to admit I’m surprised to see Kay putting people in their place and getting away with it. In all the other Arthurian tales I’ve read so far, Kay is the one who repeatedly gets put in his place.


message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Kathleen wrote: "This is so interesting, Ian. I never knew this history, and appreciate you sharing. I have only read (and re-read) TOFK, always as a whole, first as a big blue library hardback when I was young, and now as my small Berkeley Book paperback, worn and ready to shed a few pages..."

Thanks!

I see I omitted mention of the original publication dates:
"Sword in the Stone" 1938; "The Witch in the Wood" 1939; and "The Ill-Made Knight" 1940.

White's pacifist sentiments were not uniformly welcomed at the time, and "Candle in the Wind" had to wait until the omnibus in 1958. Some of the anti-war message from the "Book of Merlyn" (1977) did go into the revised "Sword in the Stone."

I used to own a Berkeley paperback (now gone with most of my library). I think I got it around the time the movie version of Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" was being made, although it was not a tie-in edition: I also picked up a paperback edition of the script of "Camelot" around that time ("soon to be a major motion picture"). So that makes it 1966-67.

Confusingly, the *movie* script was extensively re-written, albeit by Lerner himself, and then cut, and the general release version of the film was even shorter -- Wikipedia has some of the details. So the printed copy didn't jibe well with the film when I saw it in its original release.

By the way, the spectacular wedding dress worn by Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere has been criticized as completely out of period, but it is the sort of thing that appears in some of the romances, although hardly reality. But it was a lot of work, and money, for a very short on-screen time.

I think I had already read at least a good deal of Malory (Pollard's edition, in a big library copy of a Book Club edition, if memory serves), and I was a little surprised that Malory's version of the story is only directly relevant, beyond a few details, to "The Ill-Made Knight" and "Candle in the Wind."

Of the rest of White's fairly large output, I've only read:
Mistress Masham's Repose (1946)
The Age of Scandal (1950)
The Goshawk (1951)
The Book of Beasts (translator, 1954)

"The Goshawk," an account of White's own experience with keeping and training a raptor, is very helpful in understanding the falconry scenes in TOFK (although not necessary). As White pointed out himself, his experience with the practice was complicated by his use of an Elizabethan handbook, the only source he could find.

Ironically, although wartime rationing of meat made keeping a raptor very difficult for individuals, the RAF used trained hawks to frighten flocks of birds away from their airfields, and the vulnerable propellers and windshields of aircraft. (This became an even bigger problem when birds got sucked into jet engines....)

"The Book of Beasts" is his translation, with sometimes quirky notes, of a medieval bestiary, and I wish I still had my copy.

Bits of White's struggle with its medieval Latin pop up in "Mistress Masham's Repose," which is mainly about a colony of Lilliputians in England -- with interesting parallels to Mary Norton's "The Borrrowers" series. As you may have guessed, this is a juvenile.

"The Age of Scandal" is about eighteenth-century England, and is replete with period gossip, not a particularly reliable source.


message 12: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Lia wrote: "IIt would also be really really cool if Mary Stewart’s reaction to her critics is still available. I’d LOVE to read that..."

Unfortunately, the (very short) comment was made in a letter to a fanzine I edited while the books were appearing, and I no longer have a copy.

She felt that she was being accused of plagiarism, when the point was that her "historical" Arthur incorporated some of the modern speculations and fictions on the subject, which together form a new "tradition" of story-telling. In this case, both Sutcliffe and Stewart assigned another of the knights, one from the very early traditions, to Lancelot's role: that character may have been a French innovation, and is definitely not "early."

It could be said there were only a limited number of candidates, if one counts just the major companions, but the coincidence was very striking, given the long lists of Arthur's champions in the Mabinogion and in Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain," and Stewart was clearly familiar with at least the latter author.


message 13: by Lia (new)

Lia Ah, okay, that’s still pretty cool. I feel like I’m speaking to a historical figure :-) (Or a scribe who spoke to a historical creator anyway.)

If someone takes a screenshot of this conversation, make sure I’m in the picture!


message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Lia wrote: "Ian wrote: "There is in fact no medieval tradition of Arthur's fostering, other than that it took place (illustrative quotations available on demand), and White felt free to invent a prelude to Malory...
I DEMAND! (Sorry)..."


There is no account of the young Arthur in the oldest continuous ("historical") report, Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century "History of the Kings of Britain." He just succeeds Uther, with no controversies or magical proofs of his identity. This is followed in the vernacular adaptations of Geoffrey, so far as I have been able to check (variously in Old French, early and later Middle English, and medieval Welsh).

In the early thirteenth century, the short "Merlin" attributed to Robert de Boron introduced the idea that, as in Malory, he was fostered by Sir Ector (or Entor, or Antron, or Antor, in the French and some English versions), with Kay as his foster-brother. He then introduces the sword-in-the-stone story, including Kay's role (which I won't elaborate on, for the sake of those unfamiliar with the topic). Nigel Bryant has translated this material in Merlin and the Grail: The Trilogy of Arthurian Prose Romances. This template is followed pretty closely by later writers.

The prose redaction of de Boron's "Merlin" is followed, as far as it went, in an adaptation and vast expansion from later in the thirteenth century, now known as the "Prose Merlin." It was written to connect the origin of the Grail, and of Arthur, to the "Lancelot-Grail" cycle of prose romances, in which Arthur is already reigning. The only new detail we get is that Merlin, who gets his information through clairvoyance, assures the dying Uther that his son was "well nourished and well educated." The story is mostly filled with Arthur's wars to establish his rule, and the defeats of foreign adversaries.

There is a modern English translation, and a Middle English one, roughly contemporary with Malory, the latter of which is available in two editions. I'll add links if anyone is interested, but in any version it is very long, and often very tedious, unless one likes lots and lots of battles, and single combats between knights.)

Malory used the still later "Suite du Merlin," another expansion of de Boron's story, and apparently it is equally, if not more, laconic about Arthur's upbringing. This too has a modern translation, which I have consulted, but not read. (Again, I'll search out the link if someone wants it).

So there wasn't much to go one, and White took full advantage of the gap.


message 15: by Lia (new)

Lia That's an overwhelming amount of materials, I think I'd focus on White for now but I might poke you for reading materials later.

I just realized how hard it is to demonstrate certain part of the narrative did not exist until modern time. Thanks for putting in the efforts to explain the background and history.

Back to OFK -- I just noticed "Wart" talked himself into seeking help from the "knight" because:

“Eventually the boy made up his mind that even if it were a ghost, it would be the ghost of a knight, and knights were bound by their vows to help people in distress.”


I got this impression that knights used to be brutal rogues until Arthur formed his round table, and made all his knights vow to abide by a new code of conduct. (Or at least that's a core component of the fable of Arthur's round table. I'm not saying this historically happened.) Is my impression wrong? Or is White innovating here? (If this constitutes spoiler, I'd be happy to move to the spoiler thread to discuss this.)


message 16: by Ian (last edited Jul 02, 2018 12:37PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Lia wrote: "I got this impression that knights used to be brutal rogues until Arthur formed his round table, and made all his knights vow to abide by a new code of conduct. (Or at least that's a core component of the fable of Arthur's round table. I'm not saying this historically happened.) Is my impression wrong? Or is White innovating here? (If this constitutes spoiler, I'd be happy to move to the spoiler thread to discuss this.) ..."

The idea that knights ought to be good Christians, and behave accordingly, was current outside the Arthurian romances, for all the good that ever did anyone. Some knights frankly regarded themselves as "noble" *because* of their predatory nature, like that of the hawks they tried to reserve to their own use (with the exception of the servants who helped take care of them, of course).

The association of this idea of moral behavior with the Round Table in particular seems to be later than admonitions from the clergy to the mostly unheeding nobles -- I haven't traced it, and don't recall seeing more than occasional references to the topic, although I am sure it has been studied. Malory and Caxton seem to have fixed it in the English post-medieval mind.

There is an early "Life" of a Welsh saint (I forget which one) in which Arthur's knights do say they are supposed to rescue fair maidens, not attack them, but this is in response to such a proposition by Arthur. But then, Arthur gets a bad press in the "Lives," always being outdone or successfully opposed by the saint in question, in a standard formula of sacred being better than secular. The notion of a special Arthurian code for his knights *might,* have already entered storytelling at an early date, and been mocked by the hagiographer.

As for any connection of it with the Round Table, the object first shows up in Wace's Norman French retelling of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin "History," as the "Roman de Brut." There it has no connection to a code of conduct, but puts an end to disputes over precedence in seating. Wace tells us the idea came to him from Breton storytellers, and there is no reason to doubt him.

It was realized fairly early on that a table for such a role would be immense, given all the names associated with Arthur's court, and various designs may have been tried out by storytellers. Layamon's Early Middle English adaptation of Wace (also "The Brut") specifies that it was cleverly made by a Cornish carpenter to be portable, and still seat 1600 or more.

It has been suggested that there it was NOT a solid wooden disk, as usually portrayed, but a ring of smaller curved tables. It would still be incredibly difficult to transport, just given the number of pack animals used, and the people needed to care for them. Something nearly, or actually, magical could be involved in lost versions behind the written ones.

In Layamon, Arthur puts down the precedence dispute with incredible brutality, so Layamon doesn't seem to have thought it signified better behavior in general.

Robert de Boron (again), in his "Joseph of Arimathea" - "Merlin" - "Perceval" trilogy (or four stories, if one treats his "Death of Arthur" as a separate work), stepped in and had THE Round Table made as a successor for the table made by Joseph and his followers, who brought the Grail to Britain in the first place, and that was an imitation of the table of the Last Supper. The third table is made on the advice of Merlin, who knows all about it (and everything else).

So its seating is very limited, although different numbers are given in different parts of the prose redaction of de Boron's original verse romances -- assuming that de Boron actually completed his project, which is uncertain.

In some later versions, like at least one of the Continuations to Chretien's "Perceval," this smaller table serves specifically to distinguish the higher-ranking knights from the rest, reversing Wace's intent.

I won't go into details, but White does recognize the problems with a really large table, and even has a discussion of it.


message 17: by Lia (new)

Lia Thanks, I have read about the problem of an incredibly big table, especially for theatre trying to maneuver that on and off stage! (From the Helen Fulton book IIRC.)

So that left me wondering who gave "the Wart" this naive idea about saintly, benevolent knights.


message 18: by Michele (last edited Jul 01, 2018 11:10AM) (new)

Michele | 1012 comments Ian wrote: "Unfortunately, the (very short) comment was made in a letter to a fanzine I edited while the books were appearing, and I no longer have a copy."

A lot of fanzines have been cataloged and/or digitized in the past few years - might still be possible to find an issue. What was the name of it?


message 19: by Michele (last edited Jul 01, 2018 11:16AM) (new)

Michele | 1012 comments Ian wrote: "The association of this idea of moral behavior with the Round Table in particular seems to be later than admonitions from the clergy to the mostly unheeding nobles -- I haven't traced it, and don't recall seeing more than occasional references to the topic, although I am sure it has been studied. Malory and Caxton seem to have fixed it in the English post-medieval mind."

Doesn't it go back to the French ideal of courtly love, from the 12th and 13th centuries? I'm thinking for example of Chretien de Troyes Arthurian Romances, circa 1170-1190.


message 20: by Ian (last edited Jul 01, 2018 12:45PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Michele wrote: "Ian wrote: "Unfortunately, the (very short) comment was made in a letter to a fanzine I edited while the books were appearing, and I no longer have a copy."

A lot of fanzines have been cataloged a..."


The name was FANTASIAE (Latin plural of Fantasia). Individual copies show up for sale on-line from time to time. My personal set was offered for sale -- $500. A big chunk of my Social Security each month, so I had to pass on it.

It is mentioned on-line, on very rare occasions: one is at a blog on fantasy literature, mainly bibliography: http://tolkienandfantasy.blogspot.com...

As is pointed out there, the full title was "Fantasiae: The Monthly Newsletter of the Fantasy Association." The Association never got off the ground, except for publishing Fantasiae. A projected quarterly, for much longer articles, "The Eildon Tree," had only one issue. Printing and paper costs kept climbing, and postage, and the budget just wasn't there. Some of what might have been my articles for the quarterly were serialized in the newsletter, instead.


message 21: by Ian (last edited Jul 01, 2018 02:55PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Michele wrote: "Doesn't it go back to the French ideal of courtly love, from the 12th and 13th centuries? I'm thinking for example of Chretien de Troyes Arthurian Romances, circa 1170-1190...."

That's a very good point, which, frankly, I dodged -- the whole concept of "courtly love," except as a small-scale literary phenomenon, has been under attack for some decades now.

If it carried over into "real life" (now out of fashion with scholars), it would have improved only behavior toward ladies (upper-class women), not other men or any of the "lower classes."

Except where the "courtly" part was in question, that is. When lordly or royal rules of court behavior ("courtesy") put restrictions on them anyway, with punishments for violators, they did conform, at least outwardly, and when someone was watching.

In the early romance tradition, Gawain is the model of courtesy, taking court manners with him wherever he goes, but he has pretty flexible morals in many accounts (although his character had been deliberately degraded by the time Malory got a hold of him). And he, like the other knights, interacts mainly with other aristocrats, although townspeople and the like do show up to dress the stage and serve as "extras."

Many knights were just highly-trained fighting men, with few prospects of inheritance, being younger sons, and vaguely defined duties. They also had poor prospects for marriage, barring favors from some lord (or king) they served, who might match one of them with an heiress, with the assumption that he would protect the property he thereby acquired, and be loyal in case of war.

In English history, this was what happened to William Marshall, the son of a poor knight who ended up as Earl of Pembroke. Completing the cycle, his male heirs had no legitimate offspring, and his vast estates were divided among his five surviving daughters, to the benefit of their husbands.

These aspects show up in Arthurian romances with some frequency, with knights going off in search of status-building "adventures," and Arthur handing out the ladies and their lands like prizes to the winners, or even good losers.

One way of real knights advancing themselves in reputation and finances was to engage in tournaments, originally fairly impromptu affairs, where they could capture valuable horses and armor, and hold them for ransom by the owners, or sell them. The justification for this bloody "sport" was that it was good training for war.

These were frequent enough even pre-Chretien to have been considered a problem by the Norman kings (and presumably other rulers). They were concerned about conspiracies being hatched at unsupervised meetings, and about fights spilling over into general disorder, to the detriment of rents and taxes. Probably also the deaths and impoverishment of vassals they depended on in case of real wars.

The Church condemned the tournaments as gambling with one's life, and regarded the captures as outright theft. There is a possibly true story about a real knight, the previously mentioned William Marshall, being urged on his deathbed to confess such sins and make restitution -- in his family-sponsored biography, he is said to have protested he couldn't possibly remember *all* of them, let alone return the property.

It is notable that in Arthurian romances the tournaments are hosted by kings -- one way to control them, and sometimes used in reality. This was also sometimes practiced in later times, long after the fighting techniques had much practical function, with kings themselves jousting -- a practice which killed Henri II of France (1559), and nearly killed Henry VIII.

Getting back to the Middle Ages: given frustration and boredom, some knights very likely pummeled each other viciously in petty quarrels, and worse when they resorted to their weapons. The romance practice of knights challenging all comers to battle at a ford or such may be a reflection of this pugnacity. There are some very late reports of knights doing exactly that, and sending out messengers to announce it, although they were clearly living out the fantasies they found in already old romances.

(Sorry for the lecture. This reply went on much, much longer than I intended, as examples and aspects kept popping into my mind. There are still holes in the argument I'm not going to try to fill in.)


message 22: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Hi, Everybody! Ian, thanks for the heads-up on this thread. I am in the process of hunting up my old Folio Society edition of OAFK, which I am told is the 1958 original edition by T.H. White.

Go ahead and 'overexplain' . . . I suspect practically everyone here is familiar with the main points of the Arthurian legend, but I find White's take on it in this "prequel" especially amusing, and of course influential.


message 23: by Ian (last edited Jul 02, 2018 03:10PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments I've been debating with myself whether to post something about web resources on the "Idylls of the King" conversation now in progress, and suddenly realized that the information belonged here, not only as well, but especially.

For scholarly resources on the Arthurian literature, see The Camelot Project at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot-pr...

The whole site, with links to other sites, is worth exploring, but in the present context what is important is that it includes
"A Glossary of Names, Allusions, and Technical Terms in T. H. White's The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn"

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/te...

The"Glossary" is extremely useful in dealing with White's sometimes strange vocabulary (not all of it medieval) and allusions that don't make much sense to current readers (especially, I suspect, American readers).

This part of the site, at least, is still maintained -- I recently submitted a correction to one of the entries, and it was accepted, so real live people are still involved.


message 24: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 02, 2018 03:11PM) (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Well, if you're gonna do that, let me say that "Hoots Ancient and Modern" (what the owls chant at Vespers) is a parody name for the old Anglican hymn book, Hymns Ancient And Modern Revised (probably before it needed revision).

There! That's all I know! Except that the last two books of the cycle were the inspiration for the 1960 Lerner & Loewe B'way musical CAMELOT:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL52h...


message 25: by Lia (new)

Lia Thanks Ian, I'm glad to hear that they still have humans at the Camelot Project and that they have sorted it out.

Allen: My god, Folio Society edition, I'm jealous. Where did you get it? You might need a couple of knights to guard it!


message 26: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments It was a premium with my initial membership about 25 years ago. However, some of the pages were too faint (not illegible, just low quality). Not a good intro to the program. Not after they had praised the quality of their own books to the skies. But it WAS the 1958 text, and I cannot find it now.

I have the Barnes & Noble pbk. on order.


message 27: by Lia (new)

Lia That's shocking ALLEN. Now I really have to think twice before I sell a kidney to get their Finnegans Wake.

Have you read this (OFK) before, ALLEN?


message 28: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Lia wrote: "That's shocking ALLEN. Now I really have to think twice before I sell a kidney to get their Finnegans Wake.

Have you read this (OFK) before, ALLEN?"


Yes. But it was that long ago.


message 29: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 02, 2018 05:02PM) (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Someone in the UK is offering the Folio Society OFK used thru eBay for GBP50 (about USD$66).
Charming cover, eh wot?

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/Y1IAAO...


message 30: by Lia (new)

Lia <---- Jealous (even if it's hardly legible.)


message 31: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Lia wrote: "<---- Jealous (even if it's hardly legible.)"

I'm afraid the word has to be "envious," since I have no current relationship with the Folio version to be jealous of.

I think the FS still takes members -- not sure if they still have the old BOMC-style freebies with a membership, though. (For that matter, I don't think BOMC does, either, since it's being run by a whole 'nother bunch of people and styling itself BOTM.)


message 32: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Jul 02, 2018 09:18PM) (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9842 comments Mod
I've read Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy and Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles as my only Arthurian legends. Obviously I am a neophyte here. (I've also seen Disney's The Sword in the Stone)

My first time for this book -- and I can see how it was used as the basis for the Disney film.

Thanks for all the comment above from those who know.


message 33: by Ian (last edited Jul 04, 2018 01:45PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments ALLEN wrote: "Well, if you're gonna do that, let me say that "Hoots Ancient and Modern" (what the owls chant at Vespers) is a parody name for the old Anglican hymn book, [book:Hymns Ancient And Modern Revised|96..."

My first reply got garbled: this is a second version.

You might try submitting the information to them, preferably with links so that they can easily check the information (although I'm sure they'll do their own searching, too).

I just noticed that, although they translated it (correctly), they failed to notice that "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me" is the refrain from a work by the the Scots poet William Dunbar (died before 1530), "Lament for the Makaris" (i.e., "makers," poets: with various spellings), and itself was borrowed by Dunbar from the medieval Office for the Dead. This poem is the model for the song of the hawks, so they also miss that. I'm working up a note to them on the subject.

For a discussion, see, conveniently, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lament_...

For the full text, with notes, see http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text...

The latter is one of the sites to which the Camelot Project links, so I'm trying to work up a way of pointing out the omission as politely as possible....

I've seen (and heard) White's parody quoted as his original composition, which I would think would be a great annoyance to any patriotic Scot who was familiar with the original.

I probably would have missed the connection myself, until I stumbled on Dunbar in an anthology in a college English class, so I can't really complain about anyone missing that. But I saw it immediately, because the original poem is quoted at some length in one of my favorite fantasy novels, E.R. Eddison's "The Worm Ouroboros." Eddison carefully noted the sources of the poetry he uses, sometimes with notes on variant readings, but doesn't provide information on the many, many short bits of medieval, Elizabethan, and Jacobean prose he also incorporated. He may have taken some of them from citations in the "Oxford English Dictionary," since the sources, which have been identified by users of the Dictionary, are sometimes otherwise desperately obscure.


message 34: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 05, 2018 10:53AM) (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Thanks! But do let me wait until I have HC of the book back in my hands and can quote a proper bibliographic reference. - a.s.


message 35: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (new)

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3622 comments Mod
Hello. I love The Once and Future King as well as The Mary Stewart books. I wanted to mention two other readings in this vein. I love The Romance of Tristan and Iseult and also a scholarly book Finding Merlin: The Truth Behind the Legend. The only problem is I cannot finish Finding Merlin. Each time I start a chapter it sends me off on an hour or two quest for knowledge. I literally could not get past the chapters on the Scythians! Also, if Adams is correct, my geneology puts my ancient family in literally the same neighborhood as Merlin, so I keep getting distracted.


message 36: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (new)

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3622 comments Mod
Michele wrote: "Ian wrote: "The association of this idea of moral behavior with the Round Table in particular seems to be later than admonitions from the clergy to the mostly unheeding nobles -- I haven't traced i..."


Some scholars believe that the Arthurian romances were influenced by an even earlier tradition of Tristan and Iseult or sometimes spelled Tristan and Isolde.


message 37: by Katy, New School Classics (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9842 comments Mod
Helen wrote: "Hello. I love The Once and Future King as well as The Mary Stewart books. I wanted to mention two other readings in this vein. I love The Romance of Tristan and Iseult and also a scho..."

I love that you get side tracked!


message 38: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 03, 2018 11:58AM) (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments I've heard expressed the idea that the violence and impetuous behavior of knights and such folk in the Medieval era may have come from the fact that the knights and such were pretty young. Even the old idea of "Page at 7, Squire at 14 and Knight at 21" was often shaded down due to demographic necessity, meaning that some physically and politically powerful young men were often teenagers themselves. When modern social observers remark on the lack of restraint gang members and "invulnerable" young motorists often exhibit, I consider that they're the same age as "Wart's" betters in OFK.


message 39: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 4182 comments Hi Helen--thank you for the Finding Merlin recommendation. I think I would love that. I remember being mesmerized by a Joseph Campbell retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story. Will have to look into that one too!


message 40: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Helen wrote: "Some scholars believe that the Arthurian romances were influenced by an even earlier tradition of Tristan and Iseult or sometimes spelled Tristan and Isolde ..."

Right, although the relative ages of the stories is one of those debatable things because before they enter documented history as written romances they would have been in oral tradition, with possible overlap of plots and characters, depending on the storyteller. (Although Tristan was soon enough thoroughly Arthurianized, and even drawn into the Grail Quest from an early stage, his story apparently was originally quite separate, and unconnected to the "historical" Arthur of Geoffrey of Monmouth and his followers.)

The names do vary quite a bit, sometimes within a manuscript, giving headaches to modern editors. And not just for these two characters, although I'll restrict examples mostly to them. This is partly within languages (like French) in which the story was told and retold, and partly between languages, as it was pretty frequently translated, often with adaptations.

For "Tristan" (probably once the epigraphically-attested "Drustanus") one also finds, in French and English, and some other languages, Tristran, Tristram, and Tristrem. In medieval German tellings, it may be mostly given in modern editions as Tristan, via the Old French, but there are variants, such as Tristrant.

Isolde's name is also unstable: Iseult is attested with and without the L, and with an initial Y, depending on the language into which it was being borrowed, or just the whim, or lack attention, of a scribe. In Icelandic (which helps preserve the full plot of a major early French version which is otherwise fragmentary), she was variously naturalized as Isond, Isodd and Isol. A very late German spelling is Isalde. And so on.

To add just one other example -- Guinevere sometimes appears in Middle English as "Gaynor." And elsewhere as Guenievre, Gwenhwyfar (thus naturalized into Welsh), Guenhumare, and Ginevra -- to give the main heading from The Arthurian Encyclopedia, which I've been using to correct my somewhat dodgy memories of the Icelandic variants, and confirm Tristrant and Isalde.


message 41: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (catjackson) Thank you all for this wonderful information about the Arthurian tales! I studied a little of this in college, but that was a long time ago. I'm enjoying very much getting all this.


message 42: by ALLEN (last edited Jul 04, 2018 09:59AM) (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Frabjous day! I couldn't find my old Folio Society copy of OaFK, but B&N got me the paperback in record time.

I'm a little muddled: Is it okay to discuss all of the first book, The Sword in the Stone, here now? Or if not here, somewhere else?

See the source image


message 43: by Katy, New School Classics (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9842 comments Mod
ALLEN wrote: "...Is it okay to discuss all of the first book, The Sword in the Stone, here now?..."

Yes, you can discuss the first book now with spoilers in this thread and spoilers are allowed for the entire book in the spoiler thread here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 44: by ALLEN (new)

ALLEN | 623 comments Katy wrote: "ALLEN wrote: "...Is it okay to discuss all of the first book, The Sword in the Stone, here now?..."

Yes, you can discuss the first book now with spoilers in this thread and spoilers are allowed fo..."


Thanks for the info, Katy!


message 45: by Ian (last edited Jul 10, 2018 01:24PM) (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Back in Message #21, I discussed, at probably excessive length, the behavior and court manners of actual medieval knights.

This morning my feed from academia.edu turned up the following article, which professionally discusses some of the same issues, from literary evidence. I intend to make time to read it, and see if I want to retract or change anything.

"From Civilitas to Civility: Codes of Manners in Medieval and Early Modern England," by John Gillingham.
It originally appeared in "Transactions of the Royal Historical Society," Sixth Series 12 (2002) 267-289

It is available at https://www.academia.edu/36985633/Fro...

To read it, you will need to open (or already have) a free account with academia.edu, a (commercial) site for posting academic (what else) papers on just about any subject imaginable.

(They will try to sell you their premium services, such as tracing references to your own articles, which are probably well worth it if you are are a working scholar, scientist, etc., especially if trying to get tenure, and not all that interesting to the rest of us.)

Most articles can be read on-line, or downloaded in pdf (or other) format -- I find the latter is more convenient. A few don't have a "preview," and these have to be downloaded on faith that it will be of interest. Sometimes the papers are drafts posted in the hope of useful suggestions / trouble-spotting. This can be fun to follow if you know something about the subject, but you will have to ask in order to join in. (And there are also some that are simply announcements of books, papers, conferences, etc.)


message 46: by George P. (last edited Jul 23, 2018 09:36PM) (new)

George P. | 582 comments As the discussion is scheduled to begin on "The Queen of Air and Darkness" book, I would mention that I became curious about the original version,"The Witch in the Wood and so checked to see if it was available at a library here; it is not, not even the university library. Evidently it has not been reprinted. A used copy would set you back at least $75 US through Amazon, and that's for a worn ex-library copy. Interlibrary loan is a possibility.
As you may know White wrote a 5th book, The Book of Merlyn which was not included in the omnibus edition of TOFK. This wasn't published until 1977- it was on the NY Times bestseller list for a while then. In contrast to The Witch in the Wood, it is available in most public libraries and used copies of it are available online for a few dollars. I may get a copy to see what White decided to add to his magnum opus.


message 47: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 388 comments Sorry you weren't able to find "The Witch in the Wood" -- I did read it, years ago, in a university library copy. It is about twice as long as "The Queen of Air and Darkness," and was cut and revised for reasons I'll bring up when we are discussing it. Some of the passages lost were very funny, but I think the whole book is better without them.


message 48: by Ron (last edited Jul 23, 2018 06:33PM) (new)

Ron | 7 comments Nice, I read this a while ago in college! I thought that Arthur/Wart was thoughtfully characterized; in the legends he's a sentimental, good-natured king who realizes the ensuing tragedies (infidelity of Lancelot/Guinevere) but loves his people, friends and court more than himself, and is sad when others' use it as a political impetus and force him to confront it in Malory's Le Morte Darthur. Sword in the Stone -- abbreviated as SITS -- gives a beautifully intimate and personal depiction of that sensibility, and by the time he becomes king of England I felt that I had in some sense grown up with him and understood a new and more vulnerable side of one of the greatest heroes of English/Welsh folk lore. The focus on nature and experiencing life as various animals/insects/beings was fascinating to me (though I didn't get until the end how it gave him the immense sense of empathy he exercises as king; his arete if you will); it enhances the idea of the universal selfless Christian Love which Arthur is known for bringing to the earlier savage barbaric culture (whose prevailing ideology was Might is Right). I know now that chivalry is viewed somewhat pejoratively (urban dictionary: white knight), but 500(?) years ago chivalry and its emphasis (in SITS Arthur talks about his moral vision for the kingdom and the round table) on generosity, empathy, and fairness was an innovative, admirable ideology to implement, and earned him (probably a fictional 'him') a place in the stories and legends of his culture. Skimmed over some details, but that was the gist of what I liked about Arthur/Wart/SITS


message 49: by Newly (new)

Newly Wardell | 182 comments I know I'm super late but i really need to get this off my tbr.


message 50: by Newly (new)

Newly Wardell | 182 comments ok so aside from being the weirdest place I've ever seen the n word,I don't know how this book can get better. the parable the badger tells about being embryos. that and the relationship between wart and kay are my favorite things. the fact that wart gains soverienty with an attitude I just wasn't expecting that. But it was a crappy move on Kay's part and can you imagine insulting your king in such a manner?


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