Literapedia Book Notes for


The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Sword and the Stone (Part 1)


Characters

  • The Wart (ch 1)—The young ward of Sir Ector.
  • Kay (ch 1)—The son of Sir Ector.
  • Sir Ector (ch 1)—A landed knight.
  • Sir Grummore Grummursum (ch 1)—A friend of Sir Ector.
  • King Pellinore (ch 2)—A knight who quests after the Beast Glatisant.
  • Merlyn (ch 3)—A magician and the Wart’s tutor.
  • Archimedes (ch 3)—Merlyn’s owl.
  • Hob (ch 4)—The servant of Sir Ector who is in charge of the mews.
  • The Dog Boy (ch 5)—A boy with no nose who is in charge of the kennels.
  • Little John (ch 10)—One of Robin Wood’s band.
  • Robin Wood (ch 10)—The leader of an outlaw band.
  • Maid Marian (ch 10)—Robin Wood’s girlfriend.
  • Morgan the Fay (ch 11)—An enchantress and queen of the Oldest People of All.
  • Wat (ch 12)—A village lunatic with no nose.
  • William Twyti (ch 15)—The king’s huntsman.

Chapter Summaries

  1. Sir Ector decides to hire a tutor. After mowing hay, Kay takes out the goshawk Cully and loses him.
  2. Kay goes home, and the Wart becomes lost in the forest. After being shot at with arrows, the Wart meets King Pellinore.
  3. The Wart meets Merlyn, who decides to be his tutor.
  4. The Wart brings Merlyn to the castle, and Merlyn is hired as a tutor.
  5. The castle is described. Merlyn give the Wart his first lesson by turning him into a fish. The Wart learns of power.
  6. The Wart and Kay practice archery, and an arrow is taken by a crow.
  7. After watching Kay take a jousting lesson, Merlyn takes the Wart to see King Pellinore and Sir Grummore fight.
  8. The Wart is turned into a merlin, learns about knights, and passes an ordeal.
  9. Kay and the Wart get into a fight, and afterwards the Wart asks Merlyn to transform Kay along with him.
  10. Kay and the Wart meet Robin Wood, Little John, and Marian, and they learn of Morgan the Fay’s imprisonment of Friar Tuck, Wat, and the Dog Boy.
  11. Kay and the Wart enter the Castle Chariot, confront Morgan the Fay, and free the prisoners.
  12. Kay kills a griffin, and he and the Wart return home triumphant.
  13. While convalescing, the Wart is turned into an ant and learns about war.
  14. Sir Ector receives word that the king’s huntsman, William Twyti, is coming.
  15. Christmas is celebrated at the castle.
  16. On Boxing Day a boar is hunted and killed, and King Pellinore finds Glatisant.
  17. Merlyn, the Wart. And Archimedes discuss birds.
  18. The Wart becomes an owl and is shown how to fly by Archimedes. The Wart then becomes a wild goose and discusses fighting with a girl goose named Lyo-lyok.
  19. The Wart migrates with the Wild Geese and learns of their ways.
  20. Six years pass. Kay gets ready to become a knight, and the Wart becomes Kay’s squire.
  21. The Wart becomes a badger and meets a hedgehog. The Wart then meets the old badger and learns the parable of the embryos.
  22. News arrives of the king’s death, and the household makes plans to leave for London. Merlyn resigns as tutor and says goodbye.
  23. In London, the Wart pulls the sword from the stone and is recognized by his family as king.
  24. The Wart is crowned King Arthur and learns from Merlyn the secret of his parentage.

The Queen of Air and Darkness (Part 2)


Characters

  • Gawaine (ch 1)—Eldest son of Morgause.
  • Agravaine (ch 1)—A bully and the second son of Morgause.
  • Gaheris (ch 1)—Third son of Morgause.
  • Gareth (ch 1)—Youngest son of Morgause.
  • Morgause (ch 1)—A witch and the queen of Lothian and Orkney; daughter of Igraine and sister to Elaine and Morgan.
  • St. Toirdealbhach (ch 5)—A minister who lives with Mother Morlan.
  • Sir Palomides (ch 5)—A Saracen knight.
  • Piggy (ch 11)—The Queen of Flanders’ daughter and the lover of Pellinore.

Chapter Summaries

  1. In Dunlothian in the North, Queen Morgause boils a cat while her children tell stories upstairs.
  2. In Carlion Arthur and Merlyn discuss the recent battle and whether might makes right.
  3. Merlyn lectures Arthur and Kay on the political and historical situation in Britain.
  4. Merlyn lectures Arthur and Kay about war and its justification.
  5. Gawaine and his brothers ask St. Toirdealbhach for a story. King Pellinore, Sir Palomides, and Sir Grummore arrive in the north.
  6. Arthur plans the battle with Lot and devises a new order of chivalry.
  7. Gawaine and his brothers hunt a unicorn and bring its head home to their mother.
  8. Arthur devises the plan for the Round Table.
  9. Gawaine and Agravaine fight. Palomides and Grummore devise a beast costume and attract Glatisant.
  10. The night before the battle, Merlyn tells Arthur more about the future.
  11. Glatisant chases Palomides and Grummore into the castle, and Pellinore is reunited with Piggy.
  12. The battle of Bedegraine is fought, and Arthur defeats the Eleven Kings with the help of the French kings Bors and Ban.
  13. Several weeks later Merlyn embarks on his northern walking tour. Morgause prepares a Spancel.
  14. Glatisant transfers her affections to Palomides. Pellinore and Piggy are married at Carilon. Morgause seduces Arthur, and Mordred is conceived.

The Ill-Made Knight (Part 3)


Characters

  • Lancelot (ch 1)—The very ugly son of the French King Ban, he becomes the greatest knight of King Arthur.
  • Gwenbors “Uncle Dap” (ch 3)—Lancelot’s uncle, teacher, and squire.
  • Guenever “Jenny” (ch 4)—Arthur’s queen and the love of Lancelot.
  • Elaine (ch 11)—The daughter of King Pelles, she has Lancelot’s son Galahad.
  • King Pelles (ch 11)—The King of Castle Corbin.
  • Sir Ector Demaris (ch 23)—Lancelot’s brother.
  • Mordred (ch 26)—Arthur’s unrecognized son by Morgause, his half-sister.
  • Sir Galahad (ch 28)—The son of Lancelot and the best knight, he achieves the Holy Grail.
  • Sir Bors (ch 29)—He achieves the Holy Grail and returns to Camelot.
  • Sir Percivale (ch 30)—He achieves the Holy Grail and disappears with Galahad.

Chapter Summaries

  1. The young Lancelot remembers speaking with King Arthur for the first time. He also remembers an unsettling dream.
  2. Lancelot’s three years of training is described.
  3. Merlyn summons Lancelot to England.
  4. Lancelot jousts with Arthur and is knighted. When hawking, Lancelot begins to fall in love with Guenever.
  5. Arthur takes Lancelot with him to the Roman war.
  6. Lancelot returns from the Roman war and immediately asks to go on an adventure.
  7. On his first quest Lancelot defeats Carados and Turquine, saves Gawaine and two other Orkneys, and spurns Morgan le Fay.
  8. Lancelot has more adventures. The knights he defeats he sends to Camelot to surrender to Guenever.
  9. Lancelot returns and discusses sportsmanship with Arthur.
  10. Lancelot and Uncle Dap discuss Guenever.
  11. Lancelot embarks on his second quest and rescues Elaine from boiling water.
  12. Lancelot becomes drunk and spends the night with Elaine.
  13. Lancelot and Guenever commit adultery for the first time.
  14. Arthur goes to fight in France and leaves Lancelot with Guenever for a year in Camelot.
  15. Word comes to Camelot of Lancelot’s son, and Guenever confronts her lover.
  16. Elaine decides to bring her son to Camelot. Lancelot talks with Arthur and then Guenever about the situation.
  17. Lancelot sees his son Galahad for the first time.
  18. Lancelot unwittingly sleeps with Elaine again. Guenever confronts Lancelot and Elaine, and Lancelot goes mad.
  19. Two years later King Pelles and Sir Bliant trade stories about the mad Lancelot, whom they now assume to be dead.
  20. The mad Lancelot arrives at King Pelles’ Castle Corbin but is not recognized.
  21. Elaine recognized Lancelot, and he comes to his senses.
  22. Lancelot decides to live with Elaine and Galahad at Bliant Castle. He changes his name to the Chevalier Mal Fet, the Ill-Starred Knight.
  23. Sir Degalis and Sir Ector Demaris come to Bliant Castle and recognize Lancelot.
  24. Lancelot leaves Elaine, Galahad, and Bliant Castle for Camelot.
  25. Fifteen years later, England has become much more civilized. Gareth and Mordred come to Camelot.
  26. Arthur and Lancelot learn that Agravaine, killed his own mother, Morgause. His brothers Mordred and Gawaine helped to kill her lover, Lamorak.
  27. Arthur pardons Gawaine and Mordred and then plans the quest for the Holy Grail.
  28. A year and a half after the beginning of the Grail Quest, Gawaine returns and brings to Arthur news, especially of Galahad.
  29. One of Lancelot’s cousins, Sir Lionel, returns and brings news of the trials of his brother, Sir Bors.
  30. Sir Aglovale, the son of the slain King Pellinore, returns and brings news of Galahad, Bors, and his brother, Sir Percivale. Arthur convinces Aglovale to forgive Gawaine and his brothers for killing his father and brother, Lamorak.
  31. Lancelot finally returns and with news that the Grail had been found.
  32. Lancelot begins telling his adventures to Arthur and Guenever. He recounts doing penance for the sins of lust and pride.
  33. Lancelot describes finally seeing the Holy Grail.
  34. Guenever takes a bath and reflects upon Lancelot’s return and refusal to resume their affair.
  35. After a year Guenever becomes frustrated and asks Lancelot to leave Camelot for a while.
  36. While Lancelot is gone, the Queen is unjustly accused by Sir Mador of trying to poison Gawaine. Bors agrees to be her champion.
  37. Lancelot arrives at the last minute and wins the challenge, absolving Guenever.
  38. Arthur holds a tournament near Corbin, and Lancelot visits Elaine.
  39. Lancelot is wounded in the tournament, and Elaine nurses him back to health.
  40. Spurned, Elaine commits suicide.
  41. Lancelot further alienates the Orkneys by defeating them in a tournament. Guenever is kidnapped by Sir Meliagrance, who is in love with her.
  42. Lancelot saves Guenever, who spares her captor.
  43. Lancelot and Guenever sleep together again, and Meliagrance accuses Guenever of adultery. Lancelot is captured surreptitiously by Meliagrance.
  44. Lancelot again arrives at the trial by combat at the last minute. He defeats Meliagrance with one hand tied behind his back.
  45. Lancelot succeeds in his second miracle, the healing of Sir Urre.

The Candle in the Wind (Part 4)


Chapter Summaries

  1. Mordred and Agravaine plot to divide Arthur and Lancelot.
  2. Mordred and Agravaine tell their plot to Gawaine, Gaheris, and Gareth.
  3. Arthur’s England is described.
  4. Arthur tells Guenever and Lancelot the story of Mordred’s birth and Arthur’s attempt to kill him as a baby. Arthur warns them that he must always seek justice.
  5. Mordred and Agravaine accuse Lancelot and Guenever of adultery and propose that they prove it by catching them in the act. Arthur agrees not to warn his friend and his wife.
  6. Gareth warns Lancelot of the impending trap but is not heeded.
  7. Lancelot is caught in Guenever’s room, and he kills Agravaine.
  8. Arthur and Gawaine watch Lancelot’s rescue of Guenever. Mordred brings news of the deaths of Gareth and Gaheris.
  9. Six months later Lancelot and Guenever are besieged in Joyous Gard by Arthur. They decide to apply to the Pope for terms of peace.
  10. In the Justice Room Guenever is allowed to return to Camelot, but Lancelot is banished to France.
  11. In Carlisle Castle Guenever receives word that the war in France between Arthur and Lancelot continues. Mordred, the Lord Protector in Arthur’s absence, tells Guenever of his plans to marry her and assume the throne.
  12. Word comes to Arthur and Gawaine in France that Mordred has declared himself king and that Guenever is besieged in the Tower of London.
  13. Lancelot gets word of the trouble in England and the death of Gawaine.
  14. On the eve of the final battle, Arthur reflects on his kingship.

Book Note Creator


Hal Waller, instructor