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This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that "will turn my completed epic into a This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that "will turn my completed epic into a perfect fruit, 'rounded off and bright and done.'"


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This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that "will turn my completed epic into a This magical account of King Arthur's last night on earth spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list following its publication in 1977. Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn retains the life and sparkle for which White is known. The tale brings Arthur full circle, an ending, White wrote, that "will turn my completed epic into a perfect fruit, 'rounded off and bright and done.'"

30 review for The Book of Merlyn

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eveningstar2

    What's the point? The Book of Merlyn, published posthumously, was T.H White's "True" ending to the otherwise beautiful Once and Future King. Having finished Once and Future King just a few days earlier, I was touched by the elegaic, bittersweet note upon which it ended. Once and Future King may be the finest fantasy novel ever written, and its final page is consequently one of the loveliest parting sentiments given to its eponymous hero. The Book of Merlyn takes place during the night prior to Art What's the point? The Book of Merlyn, published posthumously, was T.H White's "True" ending to the otherwise beautiful Once and Future King. Having finished Once and Future King just a few days earlier, I was touched by the elegaic, bittersweet note upon which it ended. Once and Future King may be the finest fantasy novel ever written, and its final page is consequently one of the loveliest parting sentiments given to its eponymous hero. The Book of Merlyn takes place during the night prior to Arthur's final confrontation with Mordred. Merlyn shows up, something like forty years too late, with his whole menagerie of animal-philosophers in order to drag the King through one last sermon on the nature of man, the inherent wickedness in the heart of man, the inevitability of war and the necessity of failure. And Merlyn is a massive misanthrope. He comes off like Jean Paul Sartre and Nietzsche rolled into one cantankerous, bearded prat. He is professorial and crotchety, long-winded and without compassion. He isn't the Merlyn I remember, or the Merlyn Arthur remembers, that clumsy old man given to abstract idealism and pontification, the wise old mentor who hated violence and urged Arthur to follow his heart. And this is what troubles me the most about The Book of Merlyn. That night belonged to Arthur. So little of Arthur's life belonged to him. As a child, he was dragged along the currents of his fate by Merlyn and Sir Ector and Morgause. As a King, he was devoted to his Table, to the ideals of Right over Might, to the virtue of Justice. He was a good friend to Lancelot, and a loving husband, and a forgiving king. And he was never given a moment's peace. That night was to be his own. He'd done plenty of his own ruminations. Once and Future King describes Arthur in his silence, going over the familiar circles of his thoughts, contemplating war, and life, and love and misery and duty, and all these things that had been taught to him, these concepts with which he had grappled and struggled. Merlyn had always taught Arthur to think for himself--so what business now does Merlyn have, returning at the dusk of Arthur's life to give him some nihilist lecture on original sin and the futility of human effort? Arthur deserved better. And the readers deserve better. I don't know what T.H White was thinking with this unfinished manuscript, but The Book of Merlyn is a wholly inappropriate ending to the Once and Future King. The Once and Future King belongs to Arthur, and to Lancelot, and Guinevere and Mordred and the rest of the table. It is a story of humans doing their very best, and sometimes failing, and sometimes not, but trying nonetheless to be good and decent people. Arthur's lessons are his own. Life, experience and his own ambitions taught him more about humanity than Merlyn ever could. The Once and Future King was a tragedy; The Book of Merlyn, a travesty. Skip it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    "One more try," [Merlyn] asked. "We are not quite done." "What is the use of trying?" "It is a thing which people do." "People are dupes, then." The old fellow replied frankly: "People are dupes, and wicked too. That is what makes it interesting to get them better." A lovely conclusion to the circle of Arthur's life, and a worthy coda to The Once and Future King. The introduction from the publisher explaining the history of its publication is interesting as well, but the real value of course comes fr "One more try," [Merlyn] asked. "We are not quite done." "What is the use of trying?" "It is a thing which people do." "People are dupes, then." The old fellow replied frankly: "People are dupes, and wicked too. That is what makes it interesting to get them better." A lovely conclusion to the circle of Arthur's life, and a worthy coda to The Once and Future King. The introduction from the publisher explaining the history of its publication is interesting as well, but the real value of course comes from White's gorgeous prose and tender sentimentality. He turns a critical eye to the end of Arthur's life, while the king wonders whether all he did was worth a damn. It was, White reassures him (and us). It certainly was. Because man is ever a noble animal, with vast stores of potential. 4.5 stars out of 5. An enchanting reminder to channel our work in service of the good in life, warts and all. Again, some beautiful and often breathtaking writing from White which makes even the passages that seem outdated or overtly political still treasured reading. The only fault I can find in this book is due to the publication challenges which prompted White to take two passages from here and present them in The Once and Future King instead, which makes it a bit odd to find yourself re-reading the Ants and the Geese passages again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bastard Travel

    Merlyn's back, so everything's zany again, and we're talking to the representatives of the animal kingdom that in their turn represent various systems of belief and politic. He starts changing Arthur into various animals as an allegory for systems of government, all of which is an elaborate lead-in to Merlyn's final discourse at the end of the book, a long-winded wizardsplanation of how Hobbes was right, public property and an innate human desire for adrenaline are the cause of war, nationalism Merlyn's back, so everything's zany again, and we're talking to the representatives of the animal kingdom that in their turn represent various systems of belief and politic. He starts changing Arthur into various animals as an allegory for systems of government, all of which is an elaborate lead-in to Merlyn's final discourse at the end of the book, a long-winded wizardsplanation of how Hobbes was right, public property and an innate human desire for adrenaline are the cause of war, nationalism is the devil, fascism and socialism are indistinguishable in a closed system, and the only means of governance a thinking man can champion is anarchism since the state ruins everything. Now, what's most unfortunate is I read this book for the first time in 4th grade, and these are my exact beliefs now, give or take all the optimistic idealism. Do you know how frustrating that is? To learn not only the exact origin of all the political views you thought you developed on your own, and to have it turn out they all came from a senile wizard who talks to badgers?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    This is a longer version of the last book in the collected The Once and Future King and also includes some material (the ant and goose segments) that was incorporated into The Sword in the Stone before this was published. If you've read both of those already what this adds is mostly, erm, depression. Sorry, Wart. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and all that. This is a longer version of the last book in the collected The Once and Future King and also includes some material (the ant and goose segments) that was incorporated into The Sword in the Stone before this was published. If you've read both of those already what this adds is mostly, erm, depression. Sorry, Wart. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and all that.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    This is more a wandering philosophical addendum than a book. It is White adding an exclamation point and a flourish to his work, making clear just how much of a mess he thinks modern man at mid-20th century has made of the world. I don't blame him for his outlook at that juncture, but his way of communicating it is not compelling. There is very little action that makes the reader want to join the narrator on these little asides. SECOND READING: To my more critical self, as quoted above, the other This is more a wandering philosophical addendum than a book. It is White adding an exclamation point and a flourish to his work, making clear just how much of a mess he thinks modern man at mid-20th century has made of the world. I don't blame him for his outlook at that juncture, but his way of communicating it is not compelling. There is very little action that makes the reader want to join the narrator on these little asides. SECOND READING: To my more critical self, as quoted above, the other four volumes are so good that the author has earned the right to have the reader join him on these little asides.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Gardner

    The Book of Merlyn uses two of my least favourite structural elements in fiction. First, it’s a story about a meeting. Second, it’s a dramatised essay about the human nature, might and war. However, it also contains some of T.H. White’s most delicious prose and is inescapably good reading. I feel it is also the necessary end to The Once and Future King, wrapping up all the loose threads and bringing all the themes to a rounded conclusion. Even though the book lacks the dramatic tension of the pre The Book of Merlyn uses two of my least favourite structural elements in fiction. First, it’s a story about a meeting. Second, it’s a dramatised essay about the human nature, might and war. However, it also contains some of T.H. White’s most delicious prose and is inescapably good reading. I feel it is also the necessary end to The Once and Future King, wrapping up all the loose threads and bringing all the themes to a rounded conclusion. Even though the book lacks the dramatic tension of the previous four books (which White builds so well throughout), to omit The Book of Merlyn from the epic would be like omitting The Grey Havens from The Lord of the Rings. Like that final chapter to Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Book of Merlyn is the essential catharsis to Arthur’s doom (tragedy). I think the book also shows us what a masterful writer White is too. Although it feels odd to reread the ‘Arthur transformed into various animals to gain wisdom from nature’ episodes (which were rewritten into The Sword in the Stone), they have a mature feel here. The episode with the ants feels darkly Orwellian here. The episode with the geese reads like a bittersweet love story. Overall, I think it’s an imperfect book. White might agree as it was unpublished at the time of his death. He may have had further plans for it. We’ll never know. But what book is perfect? In measuring everything up, the quality of the writing wins out for this reader.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I must admit some bias associated with this unfortunately short novel. Although it is a little weak when trying to read it independently of The Once & Future King, when you read it immediately after that greater work it is pure brilliance. White's narrative tone draws you into a deceptive bedtime story world that swiftly moves with old/young Arthur through more metamorphic juxtapositions than a week's worth of "Wild Kingdom," as the fabled sorcerer returns on the night before Arthur's fateful con I must admit some bias associated with this unfortunately short novel. Although it is a little weak when trying to read it independently of The Once & Future King, when you read it immediately after that greater work it is pure brilliance. White's narrative tone draws you into a deceptive bedtime story world that swiftly moves with old/young Arthur through more metamorphic juxtapositions than a week's worth of "Wild Kingdom," as the fabled sorcerer returns on the night before Arthur's fateful confrontation with his bastard son with a singular goal in mind: to return the Wart to the various cultures of the animals to understand the final truth about man's distinction and a little bit more about right and wrong. The adventure is extremely bittersweet, however, as Arthur learns of the mighty and the militant within the worlds of ants and geese, and unlike the earlier adventures of Arthur's youth under Merlin's tutelage, these world's are now cold and frightening in their comparison to man's distorted attempts to control everything for personal gain. As the conclusion of a complex and timeless saga, it's not as endearing or breathtaking as one might expect, but neither is it anticlimactic. It is, instead, a return visit by a wise old uncle you have not seen since you were 12, and now, 15 years later, you are ready for him to speak to you as one adult to another about the big, ugly realities of the world. A bedtime story it begins, but in the end is a much deeper and moving engagement.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lylah

    It's a shame that White never got the chance to edit this one, because it would have been just perfect. A lot of this book is dialogue; a political and philosophical diatribe about how mankind should live. In a lot of ways it goes on too long and is rough around the edges, but I'm glad I read it. It's full of White's charm (with some fun fourth-wall breaks!) and it was lovely to see the story come full-circle back to the good times of Wart's adventures in The Sword in the Stone, though tinged wit It's a shame that White never got the chance to edit this one, because it would have been just perfect. A lot of this book is dialogue; a political and philosophical diatribe about how mankind should live. In a lot of ways it goes on too long and is rough around the edges, but I'm glad I read it. It's full of White's charm (with some fun fourth-wall breaks!) and it was lovely to see the story come full-circle back to the good times of Wart's adventures in The Sword in the Stone, though tinged with the inevitable coming of Arthur's death. The ant scene was something out of Kafka and the geese scene was written so beautifully that it felt like i was there. It really feels over now which makes me quite sad. The ending was well-written too and supplied answers to what happens to our beloved heroes whose journeys we followed all this way. If only White's publisher had given him a chance to round it off before he died, this would've been the perfect ending to the series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    The Book of Merlyn is a bit odd to read, particularly in the omnibus edition, because T.H. White cannibalised it for the version of the novels which were published together -- if I'm remembering the publishing history right, anyway. It's also not really much of a story: just an old Arthur reunited with Merlyn and the animals of his education, trying to puzzle out where things went wrong. It's all very political, with references to socialism, communism, capitalism, Karl Marx, anarchism, etc, and The Book of Merlyn is a bit odd to read, particularly in the omnibus edition, because T.H. White cannibalised it for the version of the novels which were published together -- if I'm remembering the publishing history right, anyway. It's also not really much of a story: just an old Arthur reunited with Merlyn and the animals of his education, trying to puzzle out where things went wrong. It's all very political, with references to socialism, communism, capitalism, Karl Marx, anarchism, etc, and trying to relate them to the natural world. There are still some beautiful parts, like the extended part where Arthur flies with the geese, so it is worth reading. (But not for a dissertation on Sir Kay, who is not so much as mentioned. Still, I had to make sure.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katie (awonderfulbook)

    This last part of the quintet goes back somewhat to the style of the first book. We have Merlyn teaming up with his animal friends to help the now elderly King Arthur figure out what the point of it all was. It's not as good as the previous two books in the saga, but it gets three stars because of its focus on humanity and morality. White is very interested in the role of humanity. What are we good for? Is there any point to us at all? Why do we think we're better than other animals? Are we, in f This last part of the quintet goes back somewhat to the style of the first book. We have Merlyn teaming up with his animal friends to help the now elderly King Arthur figure out what the point of it all was. It's not as good as the previous two books in the saga, but it gets three stars because of its focus on humanity and morality. White is very interested in the role of humanity. What are we good for? Is there any point to us at all? Why do we think we're better than other animals? Are we, in fact better, or are animals far superior to us? Those are the kinds of questions he addresses, and that's what interested me most about the book. It's a little whimsical, like the first book, but there's a lot of pathos. White, you sense, is desperate to answer these questions, to help humanity find its way, almost. It's too late for Arthur: the sins of his forebears have come home to roost, but you do get a sense that there might be hope for the future. There's a sense of hopelessness for now, and even inevitability that Merlyn is doomed to fail in his efforts to steer humanity's course through Arthur, but there's a sense that there is hope for the future, that we can learn from our mistakes and get it right next time, that there will be another Arthur in the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Swenson

    I am deep in love with The Sword in the Stone, the classic in which T.H. White imagines how Merlyn and the animals educated the young Wart. In The Book of Merlyn, Merlyn returns to an old and despairing King Arthur, his armies massed against Mordred. With the help of the beloved Committee -- Archimedes the owl, Cafall the greyhound, Balin the hawk, T. natrix the snake, Goat, Badger, and the hedgepig -- the King faces the temptation and hopelessness of the end of his reign. Writing in 1940, White I am deep in love with The Sword in the Stone, the classic in which T.H. White imagines how Merlyn and the animals educated the young Wart. In The Book of Merlyn, Merlyn returns to an old and despairing King Arthur, his armies massed against Mordred. With the help of the beloved Committee -- Archimedes the owl, Cafall the greyhound, Balin the hawk, T. natrix the snake, Goat, Badger, and the hedgepig -- the King faces the temptation and hopelessness of the end of his reign. Writing in 1940, White is concerned with the morality of war and the moral nature of humanity. Regrettably, ruminations on these questions take over long passages of the book. In England in the middle of World War II, this preoccupation was surely unavoidable, but in our current age of endless war, it seems awkward or naive. Still, I found many moments of great beauty here, including a climax so boldly sentimental as to risk childishness, as Arthur learns how to bear his duty to his kingdom and to those he loves.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fiver

    Too easily overlooked and very underrated, T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn is the keystone and fitting conclusion to the Once and Future King collection. Published posthumously, The Book of Merlyn serves as the resounding epilogue to first four books: the Round Table is no more, the kingdom is well-nigh collapsed, and the once innocent and naive young Wart is now an aged, broken, decrepid King Arthur, waiting alone in his tent, fully expecting to die in the next morning's battle. To this defeate Too easily overlooked and very underrated, T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn is the keystone and fitting conclusion to the Once and Future King collection. Published posthumously, The Book of Merlyn serves as the resounding epilogue to first four books: the Round Table is no more, the kingdom is well-nigh collapsed, and the once innocent and naive young Wart is now an aged, broken, decrepid King Arthur, waiting alone in his tent, fully expecting to die in the next morning's battle. To this defeated figure appears the wizard Merlyn, with the news that there are still one or two points in the education of the king that need to be reviewed. As is suitable for an epilogue, the Book of Merlyn changes tone considerably from the rest of the series. Most of the book is spent in philosophical ramblings, with Merlyn and his troupe of intellectual animal friends (yes, you read that right) discussing the human condition, the merits of mankind, and the relationship between Might and Right (which has been the guiding theme of the series). Those readers who find themselves bored by all this chatter completely miss the point of the book: now that the epic story of Arthur is nearly finished, it is time to review and reconsider the epic struggle to which he (and all of humankind) has devoted his life. The Book of Merlyn sums up the grand lessons of the series. Arthur, feeling utterly defeated in his quest to bring peace to humanity, is brought face to face with the best and worst within human capabilities. He must bring himself to find some form of meaning to his life, and readers who have read the first four books of the series cannot help but do the same. This book is about us: humans. Are we wicked things? Are we no better than the animals? Are we worse? If even the best among us can make horrifying mistakes, should anyone try to do good at all? All of these questions are addressed in this simple, fictional setting dreamed up by T.H. White, and mystically hidden within what seems like a fictional situation: Has all of Arthur's grand history been a waste? If Arthur can find an answer to his question, then we can find an answer to ours. In this book, he succeeds... and so do we.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    I was eager to read this book after I’d finished The Once and Future King, because in my ignorance I thought it might offer some more background on Merlyn’s life and origins. One of the things intriguing me in The Once and Future King was White’s description of Merlyn as living backwards in time, implying that Merlyn had his origin in the 20th or a later century. Merlyn’s knowledge of 20th-century history (adverted to in the majority of Merlyn’s anachronistic allusions/similes in The Once and Fu I was eager to read this book after I’d finished The Once and Future King, because in my ignorance I thought it might offer some more background on Merlyn’s life and origins. One of the things intriguing me in The Once and Future King was White’s description of Merlyn as living backwards in time, implying that Merlyn had his origin in the 20th or a later century. Merlyn’s knowledge of 20th-century history (adverted to in the majority of Merlyn’s anachronistic allusions/similes in The Once and Future King) indicates his presence in that century, maybe even that he was born in that century. Twentieth-century history was significant to Merlyn, likely because it was the background of his formative development, just as we most strongly/vividly recall events from our first two decades. Sadly, my curiosity about Merlyn’s origins—how he could live as if each century was a decade—got no happiness from The Book of Merlyn, nor was there any further discussion of what it meant to live each new day with companions (eg, Arthur) unaware of the previous day’s events (which for them are still to come). Instead, The Book of Merlyn is an interlude, almost a dream (which alternative Arthur grasps at, but Merlyn denies)—the lacuna in the dark hours just before a final battle with Mordred. Pace Merlyn, what supports events in The Book of Merlyn as being a dream are the fantastical aspects of communing in a vast burrow with a variety of animals and the fact that Arthur’s transformations into an ant and a goose are the very same he’d experienced in The Sword and Stone, the first part of The Once and Future King. [In reality, of course, this repetition of events in the first and last books of Arthur’s life was White re-working his five novels into a single volume of four novel-length parts, abandoning The Book of Merlyn’s pre-battle interlude and the cranky and didactic fulmination on the singularity of humankind as a warring creature.] Merlyn whisks Arthur to a confab with the animals in order to relieve Arthur of pre-battle anxieties, to give him some perspective on what seems a horrible, botched outcome to his life’s goals. Instead of consolation, Merlyn largely impresses on Arthur the folly of trying to remedy humankind’s instinct to war. Merlyn lectures on humanity’s inability to live instinctually, how human intelligence actually thwarts instinctive social harmony. Merlyn forces Arthur to (re)live the experience of ants and geese to observe how different styles of social cohesion/governance best suit humankind. Merlyn lectures that anarchy best suits humanity, as it is founded on the individual. (In contemporary terms, “anarchy” is invoked to suggest chaos and disorder, and to remedy this negative prejudice we now speak of “libertarianism”.) There are some good dramatic moments in The Book of Merlyn, ones which jibe with the spirit and content of The Once and Future King (especially in the final pages, when the battle on the Salisbury plain is recounted and the fates of Lancelot and Gwenever are summarized), but the general thrust of the book is a queer, cranky sermon. Sylvia Townsend Warner’s amiably readable introduction to White’s final installment on King Arthur and Merlyn communicates the book’s genesis and its final exclusion from the larger corpus. While Warner appears to regret The Book of Merlyn’s exclusion, my view is that it is largely redundant (episodes are repeated), superfluous (too explicit interpretation given to events), and anti-climactic (signals a conclusion to the anxious darkness of Arthur’s pre-battle anxieties and regrets).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    "Even the Greek definition anthropos, He Who Looks Up, is inaccurate. Man seldom looks up above his own height after adolescence." Page 53 "He knew suddenly that nobody, living upon the remotest, most barren crag in the ocean, could complain of a dull landscape so long as he would lift his eyes. In the sky there was a new landscape every minute, in every pool of the sea rocks, a new world. He wanted time off, to live." Page 99 "There is nothing so wonderful as to be out on a spring night in the coun "Even the Greek definition anthropos, He Who Looks Up, is inaccurate. Man seldom looks up above his own height after adolescence." Page 53 "He knew suddenly that nobody, living upon the remotest, most barren crag in the ocean, could complain of a dull landscape so long as he would lift his eyes. In the sky there was a new landscape every minute, in every pool of the sea rocks, a new world. He wanted time off, to live." Page 99 "There is nothing so wonderful as to be out on a spring night in the country; but really in the latest part of night, and, best of all, if you can be alone. Then, when you can hear the wild world scamper, and the cows chewing just before you tumble over them, and the leaves living secretly, and the nibblings and grass pluckings and the blood's tide in your own veins; when you can see the loom of the trees and hills in deeper darkness and the stars twirling in their oiled grooves for yourself; when there is one light in one cottage far away, marking a sickness or an early riser upon a mysterious errand; when the horse hoofs with squeaking cart behind plod to an unknown market, dragging their bundled man, in sacks, asleep; when the dogs' chains rattle at the farms, and the vixen yelps once, and the owls have fallen silent: then is a grand time to be alive and vastly conscious, when all else human is unconscious, homebound, bed-sprawled, at the mercy of the midnight mind. The wind had dropped to rest. The powdery stars expanded and contracted in the serene, making a sight which would have jingled, if it had been a sound. The great tor which they were climbing rose against the sky, a mire of majesty, like a horizon which aspired." Page 149 "That was it, to mean well! He caught a glimpse of that extraordinary faculty in man, that strange, altruistic, rare and obstinate decency which will make writers or scientists maintain their truths at the risk of death. Eppur si muove, Galileo was to say; it moves all the same. They were to be in a position to burn him if he would go on with it, with his preposterous nonsense about the earth moving round the sun, but he was to continue with the sublime assertion because there was something which he valued more than himself. The Truth. To recognise and to acknowledge What Is." Page 154 I got T.H. White's The Book of Merlyn in my Christmas box, along with Sophie's World and six present-books. It was White's intended ending for the Once and Future King series, and his intent should not be ignored in this case. The book includes many aspects that were later edited back into the first four books to soften its absence, but it is important to read in its own right despite this. White does most everything he did in the first four books, but better: more beautifully, with a deeper sense of melancholy and resignation, a more thorough look at his problem in general (war and the future of man), and a more centered and charming portrait of the various animal characters (The Committee).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    The titular end of 'The Once and Future King'. This book was refused publication originally. Paper rationing during WWII and the anti-war tone were probably equally responsible for its refusal. It sat, unmolested in T.H. White's papers at UT - Austin. Why Texas ended up getting T.H. White's papers is a mystery to me. Anyway, it was discovered in the late 70s and published excitedly by University of Texas Press. While I loved The Once and Future King, and rather enjoyed The Book of Merlyn, the bo The titular end of 'The Once and Future King'. This book was refused publication originally. Paper rationing during WWII and the anti-war tone were probably equally responsible for its refusal. It sat, unmolested in T.H. White's papers at UT - Austin. Why Texas ended up getting T.H. White's papers is a mystery to me. Anyway, it was discovered in the late 70s and published excitedly by University of Texas Press. While I loved The Once and Future King, and rather enjoyed The Book of Merlyn, the book is more of an expositiion on war and human nature, mixed with a bunch of geese and ants. OK, so that is too cheeky, but still, it wasn't as good as the first four books, and ended up probably being an unnecessary capstone on an almost perfect series, IMHO. But, anyway, it was still enjoyable. ________________ - Robert Farwell / Edward Jones library / Mesa, AZ 2014

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Dehoff

    Intended as the final part of The Once and Future King, this tale of King Arthur and his wizardly tutor wasn't published until 1977, after White's death. Arthur, now old and faced with Mordred's rebellion, is taken by Merlyn to pay a visit to a council of animals. These include Archimedes the owl and the philosophical badger who played a role in Arthur's education. I've always liked White's version of Merlyn, a brilliant old man who is somewhat absent-minded due to his living backwards in time. Intended as the final part of The Once and Future King, this tale of King Arthur and his wizardly tutor wasn't published until 1977, after White's death. Arthur, now old and faced with Mordred's rebellion, is taken by Merlyn to pay a visit to a council of animals. These include Archimedes the owl and the philosophical badger who played a role in Arthur's education. I've always liked White's version of Merlyn, a brilliant old man who is somewhat absent-minded due to his living backwards in time. On the other hand, his ability to remember the future allows him to converse on topics that had not yet occurred in Arthur's time. He's also used for meta-humor, pointing out the flaws in some takes on the Arthurian legend and even making fun of White's own anachronistic take on the story. The king, the wizard, and the committee of animals converse on politics, economics, war, and the nature of humankind. Most of their ideas are rather misanthropic, but Arthur eventually realizes that his love for England makes it necessary for him to confront Mordred. Two episodes from this book, in which Arthur is turned into an ant and a goose, were eventually edited in the first part of Once and Future King, replacing such incidents as the duel with Madame Mim and the encounter with the giant Galapas. While the ant part works fine in both places, the flight with the geese is better suited for the end of Arthur's life. While a goose, he learns of a society without nations and where mating is for life, in sharp contrast to his war-torn England and wife having a long-standing affair with his best friend. As a review blurb on the back of the copy I read points out, it brings White's story of Arthur "full circle, 'rounded and bright and done."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Garret Macko

    The final installment in The Once and Future King is a delightful journey through the mind of T.H. White. The book consists mostly of dialogue on human nature (In a seemingly Socratic manner). It is a thought-provoking and beautiful ending to White's rendition of the Arthurian legend. I initially read the first four books in the series in rapid succession, so upon finishing The Candle in the Wind I decided to take a break from the series and return to The Book of Merlyn at a later time. Having fi The final installment in The Once and Future King is a delightful journey through the mind of T.H. White. The book consists mostly of dialogue on human nature (In a seemingly Socratic manner). It is a thought-provoking and beautiful ending to White's rendition of the Arthurian legend. I initially read the first four books in the series in rapid succession, so upon finishing The Candle in the Wind I decided to take a break from the series and return to The Book of Merlyn at a later time. Having finished this rather short novel I now regret this decision..... but not really because it gives me an excellent excuse to reread the series in its entirety back to back very soon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tiara

    I’m not going to say a lot about this book because this book was somewhat unnecessary, in my opinion. The 4th book was the perfect ending. This book seems to rehash many things from the earlier books as well as mentioning how Guinevere went on to live and die in a covent. Lancelot lived as a hermit. His last miracle to the world releasing a scent of Heaven upon his death. Mostly, though this book seemed to be a philosophical look at the recurring theme that might isn’t always right as once belie I’m not going to say a lot about this book because this book was somewhat unnecessary, in my opinion. The 4th book was the perfect ending. This book seems to rehash many things from the earlier books as well as mentioning how Guinevere went on to live and die in a covent. Lancelot lived as a hermit. His last miracle to the world releasing a scent of Heaven upon his death. Mostly, though this book seemed to be a philosophical look at the recurring theme that might isn’t always right as once believed by the kings and lords. If there’s anything that I can praise this book for is that it does take a more philosophical look at war and Arthur’s moral standings.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    The best word for this really is 'superfluous'. TOAFK ended perfectly, and there was no need for anything to be tacked on. It isn't ruinous to TOAFK, but it is wholly unnecessary. This is really a three star read; but I am a weak bitch and gave it four because there's the beautiful writing to be expected from White, plus some meditations on War and the human beast that made me feel something in the cold black space where my heart is supposed to be. Honestly, read it only if you're a die-hard fan The best word for this really is 'superfluous'. TOAFK ended perfectly, and there was no need for anything to be tacked on. It isn't ruinous to TOAFK, but it is wholly unnecessary. This is really a three star read; but I am a weak bitch and gave it four because there's the beautiful writing to be expected from White, plus some meditations on War and the human beast that made me feel something in the cold black space where my heart is supposed to be. Honestly, read it only if you're a die-hard fan of T.H. White. Let TOAFK stand alone, on that aching final line.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    TH White has put together one of the most accessible discourses on sociopolitical philosophy ever written. It's extremely interesting and informative, with a coherent plot, to boot! TH White has put together one of the most accessible discourses on sociopolitical philosophy ever written. It's extremely interesting and informative, with a coherent plot, to boot!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    This is a more satisfying conclusion to The Once and Future King which, for reasons I am a bit foggy on, was not included until a decade after White's death. Philosophy, social studies, nature, violence...each takes it's turn beneath the microscope. Kindness and humanity are extolled. Nationalism is exposed for the evil it is. I can't say I could follow every train of thought, but that's probably a good thing as I have lots to look forward to in the many re-readings of this that I hope to have be This is a more satisfying conclusion to The Once and Future King which, for reasons I am a bit foggy on, was not included until a decade after White's death. Philosophy, social studies, nature, violence...each takes it's turn beneath the microscope. Kindness and humanity are extolled. Nationalism is exposed for the evil it is. I can't say I could follow every train of thought, but that's probably a good thing as I have lots to look forward to in the many re-readings of this that I hope to have before I croak.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Overton

    Sylvia Townsend Warner, in her preface "The Story of the Book," does an excellent job of putting into context both this final volume of THE ONCE & FUTURE KING and the entire Arthur legend, as interpreted by T.H. White. She quotes extensively from his notes and his letters. In December of 1940, as WWII rages, White writes to his former Cambridge tutor: "...I am going to add a new 5th volume, in which Arthur rejoins Merlyn underground (it turns out to be the badger's sett of Vol. I) and the animals Sylvia Townsend Warner, in her preface "The Story of the Book," does an excellent job of putting into context both this final volume of THE ONCE & FUTURE KING and the entire Arthur legend, as interpreted by T.H. White. She quotes extensively from his notes and his letters. In December of 1940, as WWII rages, White writes to his former Cambridge tutor: "...I am going to add a new 5th volume, in which Arthur rejoins Merlyn underground (it turns out to be the badger's sett of Vol. I) and the animals come back again, mainly ants and wild geese. Don't squirm. The inspiration is godsent. You see, I have suddenly discovered that (1) the central theme of Morte d'Arthur is to find an antidote to war, (2) that the best way to examine the politics of man it to observe him, with Aristotle, as a political animal. I don't want to go into all this now, it will spoil the freshness of the future book..." (pg. xvi) How White goes "into all this," is to have Merlyn and the animals classify humanity as merely one of "'two hundred and fifty thousand separate species of animal in this world...and of these no less than two thousand eight hundred and fifty are mammals like man.... [M:]an is a parvenu among the rest, nearly all of which had already solved his problems in one way or another, many thousand years before he was created.'" The main problem is "'the control of Might.'" How not to war upon his own kind. (pg. 25) The solution is for humanity to evolve in a way that enhances "the speciality of man," that part of the brain dedicated to "memory, deduction and the forms of thought which result in recognition by the individual of his personality. Man's top-knot makes him conscious of himself as a separate being, which does not often happen in animals ..., so that any form of pronounced collectivism in politics is contrary to the specialisation of man.'" (pg 116) White abhors all the "-isms" - communism, fascism, totalitarianism, capitalism. "'[T:]he Individual is more important than the State. He is so much more important that he should abolish it....[M:]ight was never right... the state never excelled the individual... the future lies with the personal soul.'" (pg. 117) Merlyn proclaims, "'I am an anarchist, like any other sensible person.... The destiny of man is an individualistic destiny ...'" (pg.124) Also in Warner's preface is White's analysis of Arthur's tragedy: "The whole Arthurian story is a regular greek doom, comparable to that of Orestes. "Uther [Arthur's father:] started the wrong-doing upon the family of the duke of Cornwall, and it was the descendant of that family who finally revenged the wrong upon Arthur.... Arthur had to pay for his father's initial transgression, but, to make it fairer, the fates ordained that he himself should also make a transgression (against the Cornwalls) in order to bind him more closely in identification with the doom..... "....Mordred [Arthur's son:] was thus the fruit of incest (his father was his mother's half brother), and it was he who finally brought the doom on Arthur's head. The sin was incest, the punishment Guinever, and the instrument of punishment Mordred, the fruit of the sin. It was Mordred who insisted on blowing the gaff on Launcelot and Guinever's affair, which Arthur was content to overlook..." (pg. xi)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Edward C.

    The Book of Merlyn is White's initially unpublished conclusion to his masterpiece The Once and Future King. In this book, Merlyn takes the aged King, on the eve of his battle with Mordred, to the Badger's cave, where Nimuë left the negromancer. The animals, with Merlyn as their spokesman, present to the King an argument proposing that Homo sapiens be renamed Homo ferox. It is, no doubt, White's obvious venting of spleen against violence that kept this book from initial publication and continues The Book of Merlyn is White's initially unpublished conclusion to his masterpiece The Once and Future King. In this book, Merlyn takes the aged King, on the eve of his battle with Mordred, to the Badger's cave, where Nimuë left the negromancer. The animals, with Merlyn as their spokesman, present to the King an argument proposing that Homo sapiens be renamed Homo ferox. It is, no doubt, White's obvious venting of spleen against violence that kept this book from initial publication and continues to exempt it from publications of TOAFK, and truth be told, I have myself declared it lacking in the magic of the previous four. However, my reading of the book in early 2013 has changed that opinion. Arthur, with whom we fell in love in The Sword in the Stone, is herein finally returned to his rightful place as the hero of the story, and I found myself drowning in pathos for the defeated King and my heart swelling with joy when he held his head high. Ultimately, The Once and Future King is a novel of hope, of beauty, and of love. True, it is also a novel of bitterness and jealousy and human fallacy, and perhaps The Book of Merlyn is oft ignored because it explores these deeper, sadder truths of humankind. We would prefer to see only the best of ourselves rather than examine the warts too closely. But if we neglect to acknowledge what is truly pitiful about us, I fear we will fail to see--or desire to attain--the heights we can reach. Although Arthur's story ends here, his hopes do not. He ends the novel with the triumph of the human heart's believing in goodness and beauty and love. The author, too, it seems, was touched by what he found in Arthur, for despite his fears of Homo ferox, he too found that some things are worth fighting for.

  24. 4 out of 5

    MB (What she read)

    After The Sword in the Stone, this is my favorite in the Once and Future King series. (The impending tragedy of Arthur, Mordred, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin, etc. just takes too much of a toll on me after this point. The other books are an amazing piece of art, and beautiful--but they are tragic. I feel the same way in preferring The Hobbit to the 3 books in The Lord of the Rings.) Be sure and read Mary's review which references Sylvia Townsend Warners' review. (I think that if the reader und After The Sword in the Stone, this is my favorite in the Once and Future King series. (The impending tragedy of Arthur, Mordred, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin, etc. just takes too much of a toll on me after this point. The other books are an amazing piece of art, and beautiful--but they are tragic. I feel the same way in preferring The Hobbit to the 3 books in The Lord of the Rings.) Be sure and read Mary's review which references Sylvia Townsend Warners' review. (I think that if the reader understands WHERE T.H. White was coming from, and what his state of mind was, and his life experience was that led to this book, it will add a lot of richness and depth to the reading experience.) From what little I know, his was a very interesting, complicated, and a not particularly happy life. (I read a bio a long time ago, so have no facts to reference.) You can always check Wikipedia if you're interested in more info. But what I want to say, digressions aside, is that this book is fascinating to me for the Nature side. Merlyn turns Mort (Arthur) into a variety of creatures in order to teach him, as he did as a child. But too late for Arthur to do much to stave off his doom. The experiences are all fascinating, and some are truly scary. I find that they stick with me and I always flash back to this book and SITS when I think of ants, bees, falcons, dormice and pike among other creatures. It's a little dry reading, but it is worth it. I read it after I finished the others so it was bittersweet--sad in a good way.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I originally picked up a paperback edition of this addition to T.H. White's The Once and Future King while in Oslo, Norway during the summer after seminary graduation. I read it, leaving the copy behind for Mother, then found a used hardcover edition when back in Chicago and read it for a second time. The text of The Book of Merlyn, while set at the occasion of Arthur's dying, is substantially an expansion of the training he previously received from the sorcerer in the art of kingship. Indeed, Me I originally picked up a paperback edition of this addition to T.H. White's The Once and Future King while in Oslo, Norway during the summer after seminary graduation. I read it, leaving the copy behind for Mother, then found a used hardcover edition when back in Chicago and read it for a second time. The text of The Book of Merlyn, while set at the occasion of Arthur's dying, is substantially an expansion of the training he previously received from the sorcerer in the art of kingship. Indeed, Merlyn's "return" to Arthur's deathbed may be understood as imagined. In any case, the training is done in terms of animals. Arthur is transformed into a series of different species in order to understand the various forms of social organization specific to each and potentially analogous to human forms of social organization. Being a lover of animals, having had similar--and powerful--fantasies myself, this book and the corresponding section of The Once and Future King held a great attraction for me. Thus, the, for me, very unusual twice-over. I'd strongly recommend this book for children. It would be best if read aloud and, if the kid is interested enough to comment on it, discussed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joell

    Every five years or so, I find a book I think is so important, I buy a second copy. One to mark up or to loan or both and one just for the joy of owning. Yes, I said it, some books are here just for the joy of owning them, of having them around - and this is one of those books. When I do find these important books that I need two copies of, they are not often fiction. I love this one not for the style of writing - which is often rough and some passages are taken verbatim from The Once and Future Every five years or so, I find a book I think is so important, I buy a second copy. One to mark up or to loan or both and one just for the joy of owning. Yes, I said it, some books are here just for the joy of owning them, of having them around - and this is one of those books. When I do find these important books that I need two copies of, they are not often fiction. I love this one not for the style of writing - which is often rough and some passages are taken verbatim from The Once and Future King - I love it for it's humanity - for how it speaks to my heart. We find our hero Arthur - not the young healthy and hearty Arthur we know - but old and tired and abandoned. He's reunited with his mentor Merlyn who is not wise and sage - he's batty and befuddled and even preachy. Somehow they mine the depths of what it means to be a hero - what it means to be tired and why man is compelled to War. In that darkness, White brings out the most intangible piece of being human - humanity and hope and the noble search for Truth. I am in awe.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    The Book of Merlyn is a bit of a disappointment in some ways. Parts of it, for a start, were cannibalised for The Sword in the Stone, in the collected edition, and so they've lost their freshness and originality when read again here. For another thing, the whole book is basically a philosophical treatise on the possibilities of the prevention of war. It goes on and on in a rather didactic fashion, and one could skip whole chunks of Merlyn's dialogue in particular without losing out on story. Stil The Book of Merlyn is a bit of a disappointment in some ways. Parts of it, for a start, were cannibalised for The Sword in the Stone, in the collected edition, and so they've lost their freshness and originality when read again here. For another thing, the whole book is basically a philosophical treatise on the possibilities of the prevention of war. It goes on and on in a rather didactic fashion, and one could skip whole chunks of Merlyn's dialogue in particular without losing out on story. Still, there are some beautiful moments of pathos, particularly for the aged Arthur, and Merlyn is at several points his good old amusing self. So it's still fun to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Baker

    I have four chapters left of this book and it is terrible. I don't understand a darn thing about it! No plot at all, Arthur is a communist ant and then a peaceful goose! I'm only a kid though and havent read once and future king. Thats why its so confusing probably. Advice to British Literature students dont choose this book for a project, BIG mistake!Finished It and it was terrible just like I found out four chapters before the end!~ I have four chapters left of this book and it is terrible. I don't understand a darn thing about it! No plot at all, Arthur is a communist ant and then a peaceful goose! I'm only a kid though and havent read once and future king. Thats why its so confusing probably. Advice to British Literature students dont choose this book for a project, BIG mistake!Finished It and it was terrible just like I found out four chapters before the end!~

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Simple but beautiful book. I came to this after reading Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, which takes up Merlyn's question, How do you end war? Ishiguro made me want to go back to the source (one of them, anyway). White offers no answers, but who does? Simple but beautiful book. I came to this after reading Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, which takes up Merlyn's question, How do you end war? Ishiguro made me want to go back to the source (one of them, anyway). White offers no answers, but who does?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    "The cheek of the human race," [Merlyn] exclaimed, "is something to knock you footless. Begin with the unthinkable universe; narrow down to the minute sun inside it; pass to the satellite of the sun which we are pleased to call the Earth; glance at the myriad algae, or whatever the things are called, of the sea, and at the uncountable microbes, going backwards to a minus infinity, which populate ourselves. Drop an eye on those quarter million other species I have mentioned, and upon the unmentio "The cheek of the human race," [Merlyn] exclaimed, "is something to knock you footless. Begin with the unthinkable universe; narrow down to the minute sun inside it; pass to the satellite of the sun which we are pleased to call the Earth; glance at the myriad algae, or whatever the things are called, of the sea, and at the uncountable microbes, going backwards to a minus infinity, which populate ourselves. Drop an eye on those quarter million other species I have mentioned, and upon the unmentionable expanses of time through which they have lived. Then look at man, an upstart whose eyes, speaking from the point of view of nature, are scarcely open further than a puppy's There he is, the—the gollywog."

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