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…

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

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

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. 

If you’re only going to read one book about King Arthur, make it this one. White’s five-volume epic on the rise and fall of Britain’s gentlest monarch is equal part whimsical, instructive, insightful, and devastating. Based heavily on Thomas Mallory’s version, Once and Future King breathes new life into the original characters by delving into their childhoods and showing us how they became the people Mallory says they are. White was writing this book before, during, and after World War II, and his thoughts on war and politics found their way into the story, making it a sneaky-good treatise on…

Want books like The Once and Future King?

Our community of 7,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like The Once and Future King.

Browse books like The Once and Future King

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in knights, King Arthur, and Celtic Britons?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about knights, King Arthur, and Celtic Britons.

Knights Explore 45 books about knights
King Arthur Explore 42 books about King Arthur
Celtic Britons Explore 11 books about Celtic Britons