The Sword in the Stone

T. H. White
The Sword in the Stone Cover

The Sword in the Stone - TH White


This is one of the more famous Arthur stories, and I am fairly sure I saw the Disney film decades ago. It did not make a large impression on me. Certain aspects of the book are very good, and others are far less so.

Young "Wart" is not descended from nobility like his companion Kay, and the two of them grow up in and around castle life. Only towards the end of the novel is there any potential friction, as Kay starts through his knighthood ceremony, leaving Wart as the squire. The finale of the novel moves far too fast, reducing Wart's moping to a few pages and skipping over Sir Kay's actions completely.

Well done was the anachronistic Merlyn. The comedy in his comments feels timeless, even though the novel was written several decades ago. He also introduces Wart to experiences that will make him the well-rounded King Arthur of legend. These experiences culminate in the strength to pull the Sword from the Stone.

The novel has several passages of characters delivering long diatribes about various topics, some religious and some otherwise. These detract from the main narrative and increase the difficulty of reading. I can’t say whether this is the style of T.H. White or the mode of the time, but I didn’t enjoy it.

I went into this novel thinking of it as a young adult novel, or perhaps even a children's book, ala Disney's interpretation. What I found would be difficult for most kids to understand or even for many adults to explain. While I enjoyed the very good bits, this novel (and probably the series) are not especially recommended.