The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The day for the ceremony draws near and Wart becomes sulky. Merlyn decides the best thing for Wart is to learn something and decides he should meet his friend badger. Merlyn also tells Wart that once Kay is knighted and Wart his squire, Merlyn will have to leave him.
Merlyn's announcement that he will be leaving Wart seems somewhat out of the blue; it also seems as if his education of Wart has been for nothing—if he will only go on to be a squire.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Wart finds himself at the entrance to an enormous molehill. Being obstinate, Wart decides to enjoy his last night of freedom and trundles away from the molehill. He soon comes across a frightened hedgehog. "Hedge-pig," Wart growls, "I am going to munch you up." The hedgehog pleads and begins to sing; he sings through the same three songs twice before Wart caves in and promises he will not eat him if only the hedgehog stops singing. Wart discovers the hedgehog is the very one Merlyn had had as a pet when it was younger; he promises not to hurt him. With this, the hedgehog goes back to sleep and Wart sets off to find the badger.
For the first time, Wart is the aggressor. He uses his power and Might over the hedgehog to frighten him. Wart learns what it feels like to be the one who can wield power and violence, but quickly gives it up.
Themes
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Wart finds Badger at the entrance to his den. The Badger explains he is writing a treatise on why Man became master of the animals. Badger begins to read from his manuscript. He describes the moment of the earth's conception when all animals were made—each embryo was allowed to choose a specific attribute from God. The last embryo—Man—asked simply to stay the same and, because of this, God enslaved all the other animals to man's dominion.
Badger's treatise is an adaption of the Genesis story. But his treatise also speaks to man's tyrannous rule over other species. Man uses his Might to rule other animals, just as he uses it to rule his own kind.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Badger and Wart discuss Man's rule, or tyranny, over the other animals. Badger states that man is the only animal to wage war on its own kind—apart from a few exceptions. Wart says he would very much like to go to war; Badger does not respond, but simply asks "Which did you like best, the ants or the wild geese?"
Once more, as with the geese, Wart learns that mankind is unnatural to kill its own. Yet still Wart does not understand how violent warfare is—he still idealizes and romanticizes the chivalric nature of warfare.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
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