The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

White, T.H. (2008, 1938). The Sword in the Stone. HarperCollins; London.

I initially read this book for an undergraduate class I took almost three years ago, but have kept it on the shelf for a variety of reasons. First, it’s a wonderfully playful and fun tale of the boyhood adventures of King Arthur, at a point in time where he has not yet become a competitor for the throne; these later elements of the plot line arise in the complete tale by T.H. White, The Once and Future King. Arthur is in this book referred to by the name ‘Wart’ because it rhymes with the shortened version of his name (‘Art’) and fits his minimal social status. Most of the tale describes his training with the legendary wizard Merlin in the ways of power and royal life (Wikipedia article). These training experiences are didactic in nature and instil a variety of positive virtues in the young prince (e.g. justice, mercy).

I also enjoyed this book for its detailed descriptions of hunting, falconry, and jousting (Wikipedia article). Many of these descriptions have to be taken with a grain of salt, as T.H. did not attempt historical accuracy with his writing (though his references to Arthurian legend do hold true) (Wikipedia article). Instead, it’s a fun reflection of Merry England and perhaps reflected the widespread desire of the time period to seek out pleasures and escape the dark echoes of the Second World War (Wikipedia article). Note that T.H. first published the novel in 1938 (Wikipedia article).

The final reason this book has remained on the shelf is my partner’s deep affection for the tale. I suppose that some part of him resonated with the character of Wart, and enjoyed the adventurous transfigurations of the young prince. I hope that you’ll be able to enjoy this novel even half as much!

Photo credit to HarperCollins, 2008.

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