The Once and Future King
T.H. White
1958

The legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table is traced far back in our history, and each telling is distinct in significant ways. T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, then, is by no means a definitive version of the story; it is, though, a comprehensive imagining of the legend, and one that not only articulated the basic contours for a modern audience, but some of White’s own additions have been adopted by other latter-day versions, and the novel profoundly influenced the development of fantasy as a literary genre.

The boy Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, the magician and mentor that is Merlin, the love affair between Lancelot and Guenevere, Sir Galahad, the round table, and the myth of Arthur’s reign as an imagining of the ideal society – it’s all here.

Written in four parts over twenty years between 1938 an 1958, The Once and Future King continues to exert a profound influence on writers from Neil Gaiman to J.K. Rowling. Reading the Arthur story in centuries-old verse is alot of fun, and well-worth the effort; but if you want a damn good story about it, something that comes alive and puts some human flesh on the characters, you can’t beat this.

Advertisements