Are we at Kay’s knighting yet? Nope. Something else happens, in the great fantasy narrative device tradition of not getting on with the fucking plot. (Don’t worry, though, it is actually part of the plot disguised as nonsense.)
“’He’s dead,’ cried Sir Pellinore tragically. ‘He’s dead, poor fellah, and can’t hunt anymore’” (195).
Turns out that our beloved monarch Uther Pendragon has died. Too bad we can’t feel anything for him since we never actually saw him do, like, anything.
“’it is solemn, isn’t it?’ said King Pellinore. ‘What? Uther the Conqueror, 1066 to 1216.’”
I did the math here and this birthdate—which I am aware does not match up with the historical Uther since he would have lived a century or so earlier—would make Uther one-hundred fifty years old (!). God, this is an odd alternate imagining of the Arthurian legend.
Don’t worry, though, it gets even odder.
So the whole castle gets into its mourning phase and everyone is wondering what will know happen since Uther left no heir or next of kin or appointed a successor. I guess he was able to live longer than Dumbledore but not understand the minutia of running a kingdom. At any rate…
“’I think it’s a scandal,’ replied Sir Grummore. ‘God knows what the dear old country is coming to. Due to these lollards and communists, no doubt’” (196).
So, is this one of those alternate histories where political tendencies which had not yet the material conditions for their emergence live alongside those which were historical appropriate… or is this an instance of their existing something called ‘communists’ which means something wholly different in their understanding than it does in our own understanding? Because otherwise, I am sure White’s on drugs (or was an eccentric kind of reactionary).
“’But you can’t tell nowadays, what with all these Saxon agitators’ [said Sir Grummore]” (197).
So are the defeated Anglo-Saxon outlaws, as we saw in the forest much earlier in the book, the communist agitators? What would make, what in our own reality is the English, commie agitators?
So then the group finds out that in order to designate a successor, there is this anvil on a stone which has a sword stuck through it, and this seems all too fantastical for Sir Grummore (sir Grumpy).
“’Some red propaganda, no doubt’”
Careful with all that negativity, Sir Grumpy, it might just come back and bite ya in the arse.
Soon after the antics of a disbelieving royalty, Kay implores Sir Ector to travel to London to witness the tournament of sword pulling; he argues that it falls on the appropriate time of his knighting and would be a great chance to network with people. But Kay plays a little dirty in trying to force Ector’s hand by remarking that if they do not go, then all of the other royal houses will think them vulgar. So though Sir Ector has never been to London, a faraway city, he reluctantly agrees to Kay’s desire.
“At this moment the Wart came in with Merlyn, and everybody was too excited to notice that, if he had not been grown up now, he would have been on the verge of tears” (199).
Poor kid. Losing Merlyn, his best friend, and no one even bothers to notice him when he enters with a flamboyant wizard (a wizard which Dumbledore is clearly based off of).
So it is the moment where Merlyn says he must leave. Of course, Sir Ector begs him to stay and teach whoever is left in the castle, now that his two pupils—Kay and Wart—have embarked upon their journey. But Merlyn is insistent that he must take a leave and attend to matters in other parts of the country. So he does a bit of magic and is off.
“’Good-bye, Wart,’ cried two faint voices outside the solar window.
‘Good-bye,’ said the Wart for the last time—and the poor fellow went quickly out of the room” (200).
I wonder when Merlyn will next show up in the story. Will he be as whimsical? Questions!