Sparknotes the once and future king book 1
SparkNotes: The Once and Future King: Book I: “The Sword in the Stone,” Chapters 5–9, page 2The birds all place a high premium on the importance of lineage and ancestry, and they refer to each other with military titles. Cully, who has been driven to the point of psychotic behavior, is referred to as Colonel, but even his military discipline cannot prevent him from acting on his murderous tendencies. White renders the battle between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore Grummursum ridiculous, using it to poke fun at traditional notions of knighthood. The fight is relatively pointless, since the knights turn a cordial conversation into a joust simply to satisfy the requirements of their social station. There is also humor in the way the fight unfolds, since each man is so heavily padded that he is barely able to hurt the other or even see well enough to avoid running into a tree. The fact that both Pellinore and Sir Grummore address each other in the most formal medieval English is also humorous and allows White to mock the formal address that is traditionally found in Arthurian tales. Knighthood and battling play an important part in The Once and Future King , both for the good and the bad, but in this first chapter they are cast as little more than good-natured buffoonery.
In medieval England, Sir Ector raises two young boys—his son, Kay, and an adopted orphan named Art, who has come to be known as the Wart. Drinking port one day, Sir Ector and his friend Sir Grummore Grummursum decide that they should go on a quest to find a new tutor for the boys, since their previous tutor has gone insane. One day after working in the fields, Kay and the Wart go hawking. They take the hawk Cully from the Mews—the room where the hawks are kept—and head into the fields. Even though the Wart is better at handling Cully, Kay insists on carrying the hawk, and he releases him prematurely in the hopes that the hawk will catch a nearby rabbit.
Six years pass. Kay becomes more temperamental, insisting on using weapons he cannot handle and challenging everybody to fights in which he is invariably defeated. Merlyn tells the sulking Wart that the best thing for sadness is to learn something new. Merlyn tells the Wart that this is the last time he will be able to turn him into an animal, since they will soon part ways. Merlyn then turns the Wart into a badger and sends him to visit a wise badger. In the beginning, all animals looked like shapeless embryos.
Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right. See Important Quotations Explained. On a hot summer day in August, the Wart meets his new tutor, Merlyn, for his first lesson. Merlyn transforms the Wart into a fish and accompanies him in the moat in the form of a large, wise-looking tench. At the behest of a roach—another, weaker kind of fish—they visit a family of fish whose matriarch is ill, and although Merlyn thinks she is making up her illness, he cures her all the same. Merlyn, who wants the Wart to learn about the dangers of absolute monarchy, brings him to visit the king of the moat, an enormous pike. The pike then tries to eat the Wart, but the Wart swims away in the nick of time and is promptly changed back into a boy by Merlyn.
SparkNotes users wanted!
Arthur once explained to the young Lancelot his attempt to end the principle of might makes right and asked Lancelot if he wanted to help Arthur do so when he was older. Lancelot said he would indeed like to join Arthur. Fiercely dedicated to Arthur, Lancelot committed himself to a life of training. Uncle Dap, an expert on all things related to knighthood, trains Lancelot. For three years Lancelot does nothing but learn about knighthood and practice sword fighting and jousting. Lancelot practices by finding the weak points on armor, lifting weights, and sparring against his brother and cousins in mock swordfights with strict rules.
Eventually, they encounter a seven-foot-tall giant named Little John. Little John leads them to the camp of a man he calls Robin Wood, known to the villagers as Robin Hood. At the camp they meet Robin and his love, Maid Marian. Robin tells them that one of his men, Friar Tuck, has been kidnapped by Morgan le Fay, a woman of uncertain origin who is believed to be the queen of fairies. The Wart and Kay agree to help rescue the three men. Robin gives the boys a small knife, which he explains will protect them because fairies are afraid of iron.
The early interactions between Kay and the Wart set the stage for our understanding of the boys as they grow, and White makes sure we can empathize with them. The first few chapters are peppered with incidents that help us get an understanding of these two complicated characters. Kay, after losing Cully, angrily states that Hob is only a servant whose feelings are irrelevant, and then he storms off. The Wart seems very much like the good-natured, marginalized stepchild so common in English literature, always decent and eager to please. It is interesting that the Wart is not particularly courageous or full of bravado; rather, he simply does what needs to be done to set things right no matter how frightened he is. Kay, on the other hand, is less pleasant. His actions reveal that he is a spoiled and angry child, so used to having his own superiority asserted for him that he cannot stand to have it challenged.