The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is nearing Autumn and Wart is lying in the shade with Merlyn while Kay has his tilting (jousting) lesson. Wart, sighing, thinks how nice it would be to be a knight like Kay. Wart describes how, if he were a knight, he would wear a large suit of black armor and ride a black horse, and how feared he would be by the other knights because of his jousting skill. Merlyn, unimpressed, suggests that they see some real knights errant—for the sake of Wart's education of course.
Wart is still very much under the illusion of the knightly ideal, although it is clear Merlyn is not—every time Wart mentions knighthood, Merlyn remains silent and suggests a lesson of some sort. Merlyn teaches Wart by showing, not by telling him what to think. In this manner, Merlyn guides Wart, but Arthur is ultimately responsible for his own moral code.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Wart finds himself deep in the Forest Sauvage with Merlyn at his side. King Pellinore emerges out of the gloom, shortly followed by Sir Grummore Grummerson wearing proper tilting garb and singing an old school song. The two share good-natured small talk before colloquially suggesting that they better joust. They decide they will joust for "the usual thing."
King Pellinore and Sir Grummore joust because of some scripted argument. Knighthood and its practices appear stagnant; they are upheld simply for the sake of tradition and are not adapting to new ideas/conventions. In a way, Arthur's rule will come to act as a metaphorical quest to end this stagnation, which is also a form of moral stagnation.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
When they are fully armored, the two knights station themselves at opposite ends of the clearing. They proceed through a scripted, verbal altercation that culminates in them challenging the other to joust. The knights in full armor are enormously heavy and have to be carried by enormous horses; as a result, the speed at which they approach each other is cumbersome and slow. The ponderous horses walk towards one another and each knight holds out his lance; as they come together, both miss each other and Sir Grummore drives his spear straight into a tree.
The two knights here are simply farcical—the entire scene is satirical. White dismantles romanticized ideals of jousting—there is no speed, nor valiance. Instead the pair are simply bumbling idiots engaging in violence for no real reason. This scene depicts the ridiculous and light-hearted side of the moral stagnation of the mechanized ritual, the as the novel progresses the portrait of this stagnation will become darker and darker.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
This blundering jousting continues until both are dismounted from their horses, at which point they proceed to fight with swords. However, because their armor is so heavy, the fight takes place as if in slow motion and eventually the pair throw away their swords and simply hurl their bodies at one another. After much name-calling and verbal altercations, they summon energy for one final encounter but only succeed in ramming into trees. With the knights lying stunned and motionless on the ground, Merlyn and Wart return to the Castle Sauvage.
During this very farcical scene, Wart remains entirely enthralled by the joust—he does not see the satire or farce of knighthood yet. Over time, Arthur will come to recognize this farce but he only learns to recognize it through Merlyn's lessons.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
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