The Once and Future King

By T. H. White,

Book cover of The Once and Future King

Book description

Voyager Classics - timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.

A beautiful clothbound edition of The Once and Future King, White's masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend.

T.H. White's masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend is an abiding classic. Here all five volumes that make up the story are published…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked The Once and Future King as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Maybe this is cheating, but it’s still a book set during a war, albeit a fantastical one.

But come on: Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Nimue, Pellinore, Gawain, Mordred, the Round Table–I may never have read a more powerful scene (or seen such, in the play) as when Arthur cheers for Lancelot to ride and save Guinevere from a fire which Arthur himself set!

Moving, with great, classic prose typical of the time and White’s contemporaries C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. 

I’ve been reading dozens and dozens of children’s books this year in preparation for writing my forthcoming history of children’s literature, The Haunted Wood.

I first read T H White’s masterpiece as a child, and returning to it I was blown away once again by its strangeness and its brilliance – and I found more in it than the child me could possibly have noticed.

A retelling of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur – telling how King Arthur got the Round Table and then lost it  it swerves between wild slapstick and deep poignancy, between jokes on the level of…

While Arthur might have been a real 5th-century king, as far as I’m concerned, he and his queen, and his friends and enemies live and breathe in this gorgeous book.

I read it every few years to set down the modern world and slip back into a simpler—if often cruel and brutal—time. Everything I know about falconry, about the lives of geese and ants, about what humans are capable of, all of it came from this wonder of a book.

The funny thing (to me) is that the first, best known book (The Sword in the Stone) is…

Also a twist on a classic tale, The Once and Future King delves into Arthurian legends and forms the basis of many more recent interpretations in film and television.

Often speaking affectionately to the reader, White decidedly takes the role of a wizened elder recounting important stories of ages gone by to the younger generation.

The best-known legendary character in Britain is, of course, Arthur. I have read dozens of versions of the Arthur story, starting with Thomas Mallory’s Death of Arthur, and when all is said and done, the very best still has to be The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Here are the characters we know from the Disney film The Sword in the Stone and the musical Camelot: Wart, Merlyn, Sir Ector and Sir Kay. Replete with 14th-century knights and jousts, magic and mirth, this saga covers Arthur’s life from boyhood to kingship to betrayal and demise.…

This is a book that conjures up wonderful memories. T.H. White (not to be confused with E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web) was a gifted British Arthurian scholar. My father read a tattered copy to me as a young boy before going to sleep. Dad was a judge and could alter his voice and affect with the characters. He became Merlyn, the wizard and tutor, the young boy Wart, and the other characters in the tale. I was transformed with Wart in the hawks’ mews, became a perch and swam frantically to escape the hungry pike, became a wise…

Who wouldn't want a serious dark age romance to open in horror, and then slip into the Disney landscape of the sword in the stone, before delivering a legendary and literary masterpiece? Make no mistake, this is a serious book from start to finish, capturing the full magical significance of the Arthurian legend, in a spellbinding story of incest, intrigue, plot, and counterplot, set against a heart-rending love triangle, and delivering a coup de grace ending, that is full of both despair and hope, for the future of England and humankind.

I’ve been a sucker for Arthurian legends since I saw the movie The Sword in the Stone (loosely based on the first few chapters of this book) when I was 5. OK - so now you know what age I am! I’m convinced there must be a kernel of truth at the heart of all the legends and I’ve read a lot of Arthurian fiction. This is the best – at least to my mind. It’s thrilling, funny, clever, and heartbreaking. (I still can’t read the last chapter without snivelling.) Maybe this is how it really was.... 

Don’t be dissuaded by the fact this awesome and thoroughly delightful novel is a distilled, updated, and generally card-sharp-reshuffled version of Sir Thomas Malory’s story Le Morte d’Arthur written in 1485. Basically, it’s a deftly imagined re-telling of the tale of the humble kid who would grow up to become King Arthur – yes, the stable boy who pulled the sword from the stone and went on kingly glory. Why notable for world building? Because: boy-educated-by-wizardly-morphing-into-all-sorts-of-animals. When Wart (the young Arthur) is bodily transformed into a fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger, he gains first-person insight into how humans are…

If you’ve only seen the Disney movie, The Sword in the Stone (the first part of this book) then you will be wonderfully surprised when you read this book. It may appear from the title to be just another version of King Arthur and his round table of Knights battling dragons and green knights, but it is so much more than that. It is at times hilarious, magical, heartbreaking, tragic—and yet, at its center, it is a profound political allegory about government, political leadership, and the horrors of war. 

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