The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Wart, Merlyn, Archimedes and Cully return to the Castle Sauvage. Hob, the caretaker of the hawks, takes Cully after looking proudly at Wart. Wart explains how Merlyn had sent Archimedes to find Cully and then lured him back with a dead pigeon. Sir Ector comes bustling from the castle, reprimanding Wart but secretly proud of him for persevering and finding the hawk.
Wart gains approval from all the adults because of his commitment to finding Cully. This is the first time Wart's moral superiority to Kay is recognized by others and alludes to the hierarchical and superficial parameters of knighthood (which is determined simply by birth). The idea of chivalry is intrinsically linked to knighthood suggesting knights have an inherent morality; this conception is overturned here as we see knighthood is simply determined by hierarchy.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Wart declares that he has been successful on the quest for a tutor—he has found Merlyn, the great magician. Merlyn shows Sir Ector his references (including a tablet signed by Aristotle and a parchment signed by Hecate) before making the copper sky turn cold and produce inches of snow (Merlyn protects himself from the elements with an umbrella). Sir Ector, convinced of Merlyn's skills, agrees that he can be the boys' new tutor.
Merlyn shows off his magical skills and hints at what is to come (the 'lessons' Merlyn will give Wart). In this scene, Sir Ector is again the bumbling idiot: he has seemingly no clue of the requirements a tutor must fulfill and is easily convinced.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Sir Ector declares how amazing it was for Wart to accomplish a quest all on his own. Kay, fired by jealousy, dismisses the quest. To which Merlyn responds suddenly and rudely: "Kay, thou was ever a proud and ill-tongued speaker, and a misfortunate one. Thy sorrow will come from thine own mouth." Kay hangs his head; he is not really a bad person, but simply ambitious and passionate.
Kay's ego is angered by the attention being paid to Wart. Merlyn, up until now very calm, becomes enraged and foreshadows Kay's downfall. However, White (who is an active narrator throughout—commenting and making judgments) informs us that Kay is simply young and misguided.
Themes
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon