Wednesday the 11th of December–Shelf Control time! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it–what its all about, what makes you want to read it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week my pick is a fantasy classic, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. First published in 1958, the book is a revised collected edition of four of his works written between 1938 and 1958, telling the legends of King Arthur.

The book comprises The Sword in the Stone, The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. They cover the youth and education of Arthur, his reign including his son Mordred’s revolt, and the romance between Guinevere and Lancelot. A fifth book, The Book of Merlyn, published much later in 1977, chronicles Arthur’s last night on earth, and addresses profound issues of war and peace. Combining humour and fantasy, White’s version of Arthur’s tale is loosely based on Le Mort d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. But the telling is essentially White’s own interpretation and includes aspects like Arthur’s youth, not covered in the work by Malory. The setting of the book in the 14th century is much later than the period when Arthur would actually have ruled.

Tapestry of King Arthur
circa 1385, via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Bombay in 1906, Terence Hanbury White graduated with a first class degree in English in 1928 from Queen’s College, Cambridge, where he also wrote a thesis on Le Mort d’Arthur. Besides the Arthur books for which White is best known, he wrote a memoir of a year spent in England, England Have my Bones (1936), some science fiction (Earth Stopped (1934) and Gone to Ground (1935)), the children’s fantasy book Mistress Masham’s Repose (1946), where a young girl discovers a group of Lilliputians living near her house, and various other works.

The Once and Future King is a book that I’ve heard a lot about, especially how it combines humour and fantasy, and yet one I haven’t gotten down to reading yet. I haven’t actually read much on King Arthur either except The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard Pyle, which was a young person’s or children’s version of the legends (covering pretty much all these parts, but also Merlin’s demise) and Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day which explored Mordred’s tale, and paints a different version of him (not an entirely dark character) than popular versions. So I am looking forward to picking this one up soon, and reading this classic of Arthur and his Knights.

Have you read this book? How did you like it? Any other Arthur tellings/retellings that you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

The info on the book is as always from wikipedia (here) and goodreads (here) and on White, from goodreads (here)

9 thoughts on “Shelf Control #68: The Once and Future King by T.H. White #TBR #Classics

  1. I read (mostly skimmed) The Sword in the Stone decades ago, and his posthumous The Book of Merlyn when in first came out, but in my historical and archaeological bones I baulked at White’s anachronistic treatment of the legend. I’m a wee bit more mature now, and would certainly view all the instalments a lot more sympathetically, and maybe with more appreciation! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear that. I have a mixed experience with fantasy–some I totally adore, others including I’m afraid the Lord of the Rings I find it difficult to get my head around (I really liked the Hobbit though).

      Like

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