THE BOOK OF MERLYN

By T. H. White


The Book of Merlyn was finished in 1941, and is the fifth and final book of The Once and Future King. White failed to convince his publisher to include The Book of Merlyn into The Once and Future King, and so the tetralogy was published in 1958 without this last part. The Book of Merlyn, UT edition, contains an insightful introduction to the book by White's biographer, Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Although finished in 1941 to become the fifth and last book of the series for the collection The Once and Future King, The Book of Merlyn was not included by the publisher's request. It is what T.H. White had intended as the finishing chapter or "touch" to the collection. It relates the events of the battle at which The Candle in the Wind ended. However, it is very philosophical in nature and describes how Merlyn does come back to aid Arthur by reminding him of the lessons he learned when he had been transformed into an ant and into a goose. He sees how the ants were very territorial and war-like, while the geese were peace loving and set no boundaries. Arthur has his innocence renewed and leaves Merlyn to go to ask for a truce, but Mordred's army react to a snake and attack believing it to be an attack against them.

In this book one can see that T.H. White was attempting to portray man's folly to wage war; however, he failed to send his message at that crucial time because of this book's exclusion.

Even though the book was intended to be part of the whole body of The Once and Future King, it is complete unto itself and incorporates many of the characteristics of The Sword in the Stone.
Brett J. Millán M., 1997 (phoenix9@hiline.net)


The Book of Merlyn rounds off White's The Once and Future King, but is complete unto itself.

It tells how Arthur, Guenever, and Lancelot come to their ends. It is the eve of Arthur's last battle. The wizard Merlyn appears to give Arthur one last life-lesson. War is an abomination, Merlyn believes, and he sets out to prove it to Arthur by first transforming him into an ant. Arthur finds the totalitarian war-mongering ants unbearable. After Merlyn transforms him into a goose, Arthur learns the true meaning of peace and freedom. He returns to the battle lines to seek a truce, but fate wins out when Mordred's men mistake the movement of a snake for an attack.

Even in addressing the profound issues of war and peace, The Book of Merlyn moves with all the poetry, farce, and invention that mark The Once and Future King.

copied from the book jacket of Shaftesbury Publishing Company edition


This book was published posthumously in 1977 by the University of Texas at Austin. The university has the largest holding of White's original manuscripts in the world.


England Have My Bones: For the Reader of the Works of T. H. White
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Revised Saturday, 28-Sep-2002 22:12:00 CDT.