Monday, November 25, 2013

T. H. White Book Discussion

The library will host a discussion of The Once and Future King by T. H. White on Monday, December 9 at 7:00 PM. The program will be free and open to the public. This will be the third in the library’s fall series on British fantasy novels.

Published in 1958, The Once and Future King is White’s contemporary reinterpretation of the legends of King Arthur. This volume collected White’s three earlier Arthurian fantasies and added the concluding tale, so that the four sections of the book are: “The Sword in the Stone”; “The Queen of Air and Darkness”; “The Ill-Made Knight”; and “The Candle in the Wind.”

The Sword in the Stone, first published in 1938 and widely familiar as the source for the 1963 Disney movie, is a whimsical fantasy of the youth and education of King Arthur. White significantly revised this section for publication in The Once and Future King, dropping some episodes and adding others, in order to make it more consistent with the themes subsequently developed in the rest of the book.

The remaining sections are darker in tone and faithful to the central stories of Arthurian legend, especially as interpreted by Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur. They tell the stories of Arthur’s rule as king and his establishment of the Round Table, of the affair between Sir Lancelot and Queen Guenever, and of Arthur’s struggle with his illegitimate son, Mordred. While White drew on these traditional stories, however, he often reinterprets the characters in contemporary psychological terms.

In The Once and Future King, T. H. White “took hold of the ultimate English epic,” says critic and novelist Lev Grossman, “and recast it in modern literary language, sacrificing none of its grandeur or strangeness.” White, says Grossman, should be “considered one of the founding fathers of modern fantasy, the way Tolkien and C. S. Lewis are.”

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