Wart (rhymes with Art, short for Arthur) is a young page boy living and working for Sir Ector in medieval England. During an errand, Wart meets the wizard Merlyn, who agrees to tutor both Wart and his foster brother Kay. With the humorous commentary of owl familiar Archimedes, Merlyn turns both boys into several different animals as a means of illustrating his lessons.
My favorite parts of this book were the lessons Wart learns from his animal transfigurations, because they are humorous and imaginative, but each seem to impart a commentary of T. H. White’s views on different societal structures. Compared to the Disney movie, I am not sure I liked Wart as much as a character, because he is dim-witted and whiny. Merlyn himself is more interesting, esoteric, and clever than the Disney movie, which left out one of the most important ideas, that Merlyn lives backwards in time. I was very surprised to find out that Arthur was actually the son the King Pendragon, and that Merlyn delivered Arthur to Sir Ector’s castle as an infant.
I had always wrongly believed that Arthur was able to pull the sword from the stone because he deserved it, because he was of noble heart but not necessarily of noble blood. The former may have given hope to all of us poor plebeians that if we are honorable, we too may be worthy.
Recommended for fans of historical fantasy, specifically Arthurian legend of course!
“The best thing for being sad … is to learn something.”