The Once and Future King by T.H. White has long been on my list of books to read. My love of history and legends, especially that of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, led me to finally buckle down and devote necessary time to read this lengthy tale. It was gratifying imagining a distant time filled with wonder in an era of chivalrous passions.
The tale begins with young Arthur and his mentor Merlin the magician who sees the past and the future. After Arthur extricates the mighty, magical sword Excalibur, the story follows him through young adulthood. The final section is about Arthur’s later life.
What surprised me about the novel is the fact that it is not solely about the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot. It is about the way we live our lives based on the things we hold dear. It is also about honor and what being civilized means. King Arthur is an idealist with a good heart who truly wants the best for the people he governs. He is a man who abhors fighting and holds justice dear. Sir Lancelot is hideously ugly and a walking contradiction. Although he has an abiding faith in God, he breaks just about every commandment there is. Guinevere is in love with two men for different reasons and in different ways. I didn’t especially like her because she displayed narcissistic tendencies. There are many interesting characters in the novel most of whom play important roles in the lives of the three main characters.
I am so happy I finally took the time to read this wonderful book. I marked many passages which I found enlightening. One in particular has Merlin explaining the evolution of creatures on earth to young Arthur and it is moving.
All the time I was reading the tale of King Arthur I couldn’t help but think how history repeats itself. One can almost change the names, places, and people, put them in another time, and see similar outcomes. I wonder, will we ever find a way to live in peace and harmony? I think there are many people in the world who wish for happily ever after endings. Even though this novel does not have one, its message is worth reading.