Monday, February 13, 2017

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T.H. White  814 pp.

I read most of this classic book of the life of King Arthur many years ago but for some reason never finished it. This time I listened to the audiobook version which included "The Book of Merlyn", the fifth book that wasn't included in the original publication. The five parts of the book vary in ratio of humor to seriousness with "The Sword in the Stone" being laugh-out-loud funny. The later sections get progressively darker as the King Arthur story progresses but there is still some satirical humor throughout the story. I was struck by how many times this story of the Middle Ages paralleled politics of the present day. "The Book of Merlyn" is all political commentary in the form of discussions between Merlyn, Arthur, Archimedes the owl, and other animals. The aging Arthur once again experience life in the form of different animals as he did when a child under Merlyn's tutelage but his focus is on the animals' societies.  Film and stage depictions of Lancelot always portray him as handsome but this version of the story has an ugly, but charismatic Lancelot that wins the heart of Guinevere. The book makes the movie portrayals seem very shallow. The audiobook is perfectly read by Neville Jason who perfectly embodies the characters with different voices. The smarmy voice he used for the evil Mordred is perfect.

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