The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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The Questing Beast and Quests Symbol Analysis

The Questing Beast and Quests Symbol Icon
The Questing Beast and the Quest are two very different sides to the same idea. The Questing Beast is a physical representation of the Quest, but illustrates the absurdity of knightly questing where King Pellinore's search for the Questing Beast is simply a game that has no ultimate goal to it. The Quest—the journey the Knights undergo to find the Holy Grail—is instead a series of tests where the ultimate goal is not to find the Holy Grail (as it seems to entail) but to endure spiritual tests and perfect the soul. The Quest requires a degree of discipline that many of the knights are unable to exercise. Ultimately, however, the Quest symbolizes a process—just as the Questing Beast was a type of process for King Pellinore that culminates in him falling in love with the Queen of Flanders' daughter—to enlighten the self and ultimately reform the realm itself.

The Questing Beast and Quests Quotes in The Once and Future King

The The Once and Future King quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Questing Beast and Quests. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ace Books edition of The Once and Future King published in 1987.
Book 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

Although nine tenths of the story seems to be about knights jousting and quests for the holy grail and things of that sort, the narrative is a whole, and it deals with the reasons why the young man came to grief at the end. It is the tragedy, the Aristotelian and comprehensive tragedy, of sin coming home to roost.

Related Symbols: The Questing Beast and Quests, The Holy Grail
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

After the narrator informs the reader that Morgause will give birth to Mordred, a boy who is conceived from a brother and sister having sexual intercourse, he shows the flawed pedigree which reveals King Arthur's relations with Morgause. Only after providing this illustration does the narrator directly state that his story stems from Malory's famous "The Death of Arthur"; both of these narratives center around this inappropriate sexual encounter. (Although it's worth noting that White seems to conflate Malory's characters of Morgan le Fay and Queen Margawse into one wholly evil character, Morgause.) The stories may seem to be diversified by other, chivalric elements -- "knights jousting and quests for the holy grail and things of that sort" -- they are most completely about sin, the force which will destroy these social conventions that make up the framework for King Arthur's court.This story is more than its particular historical setting; it is a fundamental, human tragedy, a literary form with strong roots back to Ancient Greek drama.

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Book 3, Chapter 36 Quotes

Half the knights had been killed—the best half. What Arthur had feared from the start of the Grail Quest had come to pass. If you achieve perfection, you die. There had been nothing left for Galahad to ask of God, except death. The best knights had gone to perfection, leaving the worst to hold their sieges.

Related Characters: King Arthur or Wart, Sir Galahad
Related Symbols: The Questing Beast and Quests, The Holy Grail
Page Number: 477
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator categorizes different parts of Arthur's reign into four main feelings, or "tones": the "companionship of youth," when knights and the Round Table were young, the "chivalric rivalry," which blossomed after the threats to the kingdom had been eradicated, the "enthusiasm of the Grail," and now the bleakest yet -- the "knowledge of the world" phase, one of intrigue and gossip and "the fruits of achievement." With the context of this timeline established, the narrator suggests that the current moment is a critical time, in which half of the "best knights" have been killed. Again, the narrator associates destiny with death; once you live out your destined perfection, "you die," according to the narrator's blunt appraisal, which seems to stem from Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur" itself.

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The Questing Beast and Quests Symbol Timeline in The Once and Future King

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Questing Beast and Quests appears in The Once and Future King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...Knight—the two men decide that the boys need a tutor and agree that they must quest for a new one. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...is lost. He says that his name is King Pellinore and he's been chasing the Questing Beast for seventeen years. (full context)
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
The Questing Beast, according to King Pellinore, has the head of a serpent, the body of a... (full context)
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
Suddenly, they hear a loud noise. Sure it's the Questing Beast, Pellinore grabs his lance and gallops after it. He quickly gets tangled in a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...is going to be Wart's tutor. "My," Wart exclaims, "I must have been on a quest!" (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) 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... (full context)
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right 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... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...off after him and comes across King Pellinore crying and clutching the head of the questing beast in his lap. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...across the counterfeit beast arguing with its stomach. At the base of the cliff, the Questing Beast herself waits in the moonlight. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
...be the Queen of Flander's daughter who had found them with the help of the Questing Beast. The castle lowers the drawbridge for Pellinore who tries to hold the Questing Beast... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 32
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
He had started his Quest by travelling to King Peles' castle, but was waylaid on the journey when he was... (full context)