‘The Once and Future King’ by T. H. White

Quite good and interesting. Longish also, but not demanding for people who have read the Song of Ice and Fire books. I had expected something along the lines of The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser — what one expects from a fantasy classic, merely involving the Arthurian legend: heroism, evil, danger, magic, adventure, love … I guess The Once and Future King has most of that, but it isn’t as naive and serious about it as I expected. For example, the way in which the knights here hunt dragons or joust with each other may well have been an inspiration for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (So, this book is funny very often — but also serious.) Furthermore, while there is magic in the book, the narrator doesn’t hide that he lives in the 20th century and knows 20th-century science, e.g., evolution. Beyond telling another version of the legend of King Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, the book seems to be about the problems of a leader, about how to civilize people who aren’t quite ready and willing to be civilized.

The parts about Arthur’s youth reminded me of the Simplicissimus, a German novel taking place during the 30 Years’ War and written in 1668, which is in spite of its considerable age quite entertaining.

Another book by T. H. White I have read is Mistress Masham’s Repose, a book for young readers: nice.


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