Monday, March 6, 2017
Let's Read: The Once and Future King (Ch.23)
So the people are setting out for London but Kay’s “sumptuous bath had to be set up in the box-room, between two towel-horses and a worn out straw dart-board” (200). Doesn’t seem like the kind of grand reception one would receive as a knight, but hey, when you gotta get a going, it makes sense. But they get to London and Kay is getting quite pale thinking about jousting in such a grand tournament. When they arrive at the field, however, Kay realizes he has forgotten his sword and orders Wart to fetch it for him, for one shilling.
Damn, what an ass, right? Well Wart rationalizes it as him being nervous and scared and whatnot.
So Wart rushes back to their inn in town, but he is unable to get inside since, you know, it is locked. He starts to think of a million different ways he could get a sword—from stealing one to begging for one—before he happens upon a certain sword in a certain stone (beneath a certain anvil).
“In the middle of the square, there was a heavy stone with an anvil on it, and a fine new sword was struck through the anvil” (203).
Yup! It is going to be one of those kind of stories, where the young lad doesn’t even know the severity of what he is doing before he attempts to pull the sword from the stone. I wonder if everyone else who was in this vein simply copied White.
But Wart grabs hold of the sword.
“’This is extraordinary,’ said the Wart. ‘I feel strange when I have hold of the word, and I notice everything more clearly. Look at the beautiful gargoyles of the church, and the monastery which it belongs to. See how splendidly the famous banners in the isle are waving. How nobly that yew holds up the red flakes of its timber to worship God. How clean the snow is.”
This is pretty cool.
If White is adhering to legend, then this isn’t Excalibur, since, if I remember correctly, that word was given to King Arthur by the Lady in the Lake. But what I find neat is that the sword here has supernatural elements; the bearer views the world more acutely and with a better understanding of everything around him. It reminds me of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones (I wonder if Martin ripped White in this regard). Sort of gives Wart a kind of super-power.
“There was a kind of rushing noise, and a long chord played along with it. All around the courtyard there was hundreds of old friends” (204).
So this is the epic finale: as Wart is trying to free the sword from the stone, all of his various hundreds of animal contacts from his education under Merlyn come rushing to help him out; they encourage him, give him advice and inspiration and so fill out the square, urging him on by reminding Wart of his accomplishment as an animal and how he should go about in dislodging the sword. I won’t lie—this is a pretty epic moment and gave me some goosebumps.
Wart takes their advice.
“The Wart walked up to the great sword for the third time. He put out his right hand softly and drew it out as gently as from a scabbard” (205).
Then the scene ends and the finale bit of the chapter concerns Wart giving the sword to Kay and Kay trying to take advantage of the sword-pulling to become king. When his father, Sir Ector, questions him, however, he admits that it was Wart who pulled the sword from the stone. After, Sir Ector and Kay fall to their knees and proclaim loyalty to Wart as Wart tears up and wants things to go back to the way that they were, since, you know, he is so pure and whatnot.
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