Monday, September 08, 2014

The Book of Merlyn

The Book of Merlyn, by T. H. White 

publication year 1977

review



The Book of Merlyn is a sort of sequel to The Once and Future King, but really it’s more like a few more chapters of it that got sectioned off into a different book. The Once and Future King tells the story of King Arthur, Gwenevere, and Lancelot; and of the Round Table and its knights. But it also tells a story of Merlyn teaching young Wart to think, well and for himself; and how Merlyn shared his dream of Right over Might with Arthur and how Arthur took it and made it his own, as Merlyn had hoped - and known - that he would. The book ends with Arthur, an old man, sitting in his tent at night before the Battle of Camlann, waiting for the battle of tomorrow: war with his son Mordred.

It is exactly here that Book of Merlyn picks up; Merlyn comes to Arthur in his tent: the first time either has seen the other for a long time.  They travel together to the cave Merlyn has been living in for the past years where the assembly of animals has met and welcome him.

Written prior to and during WW2, The Book of Merlyn's main theme and topic is war. It tells in the end of the deaths of Lancelot, Gwenevere, and especially of Arthur; the whole of the book leads up to that end, not as a climax or new adventure, simply as what is about to occur. As he was in The Once and Future King, Arthur is again changed into  different forms to learn from the animals: he takes on the form of an ant, and then of a gander. He listens as Merlyn, Badger, and the assembled animals discuss and argue over communism, anarchy, capitalism, and government in general; as well as comparing the value of the individual and the state.


via
In the beginning of the book Arthur is an old, worn-out and broken man; in the end he is once again an oxen at the plow: fighting for Right over Might, his life and example and plea. My favorite scene of the story was when Arthur, sick of the talk of warfare and man’s evil sins, leaves the assembled committee to sit outside under the night’s large sky and be still. His only companion then is the hedgehog: his faithful admirer: a stout, good urchin who left the cave with a worn-out old man and returned with a king. Arthur had found Truth, and a deep well of hope and love, and he was ready to try again, though he knew he would give his life for the trying.

Summery of the end from wikipeadia
The last chapter of the book takes place only hours before the final battle between King Arthur and his son and nephew Mordred. Arthur does not want to fight after everything that he has learned from Merlyn. He makes a deal with Mordred to split England in half. Mordred accepts. During the making of this deal, a snake comes upon one of Mordred's soldiers. The soldier draws his sword. The opposing side, unaware of the snake, takes this as an act of betrayal. Arthur's troops attack Mordred's, and both Arthur and Mordred die in the battle that follows.

I loved that book. I honestly couldn’t rightly say why I love it and The Once and Future King the way I do, or what it is about them that I love. But I do. I wouldn’t recommend either lightly though, and there aren’t many I’d recommend it to.



6 comments:

  1. Intriguing. I may have to pick this up. This particular fable has always fascinated me.

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    1. I love Arthurian legend. :) The Once and Future King goes first of the two, Book of Merlyn wouldn't make much sense without it. But I think you'd enjoy them, or at least find 'em interesting - they're full of ideas.

      xx

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  2. Wow! What an awesome blog! You inspire me so much! My name is Sarah. I'm a writer/blogger/photographer. I'd be honored if you'd join my blog, imsarahgrace art, photography, and design (http://imsarahgrace.blogspot.com). This is where I muse about a wide range of topics: art, photography, design, lifestyle, food, travel, and more. I think you’ll enjoy it, and I hope to see your name around these parts! :)

    Sarah
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Sarah! Thanks so much. Your blog sounds neat, I'd love to check it out!

      xx

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  3. Very interesting review. I'd like to read this sometime!
    xo!

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    1. Thanks, Hannah. The book wasn't what I was expecting - it was almost all simply conversation/discussion between Arthur, Merlyn, and the animals - but I liked it and enjoyed it a lot.

      xx

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