Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on T. H. White's The Once and Future King. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Once and Future King: Introduction
The Once and Future King: Plot Summary
The Once and Future King: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Once and Future King: Themes
The Once and Future King: Quotes
The Once and Future King: Characters
The Once and Future King: Symbols
The Once and Future King: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of T. H. White
Historical Context of The Once and Future King
Other Books Related to The Once and Future King
- Full Title: The Once and Future King
- When Written: 1938-1941
- Where Written: The Sword in the Stone was written in England; the other three books were written in Doolistown, Ireland.
- When Published: The Sword in the Stone was published in 1938; The Queen of Air and Darkness was published in 1939; The Ill-Made Knight was published in 1940; The Candle in the Wind was first published as part of the whole text in 1958.
- Literary Period: The Once and Future King comes from no specific literary period, but has associations with multiple movements. Around the same period White wrote this novel, Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings—another epic, fantasy novel. The early/mid twentieth century also saw the beginnings of magical realism—a movement in which magical elements are part of an otherwise realistic environment. However, the movement was not solidified until 1955 (after White had already written the novel) and White's magical events originate from a world not wholly mundane and realistic.
- Genre: An Arthurian fantasy novel, although the novel combines a variety of different genres: fantasy, satire, myth and even possibly bildungsroman as it charts Arthur's journey from Wart to King Arthur.
- Setting: The semi-fictional world of the Isle of Gramarye. Gramarye is White's name for Great Britain during the early Norman period. However, White's Great Britain is filled with fantasy creatures and happenings.
- Climax: Because this novel is made up of four individual books, there are multiple climaxes: when Wart pulls the sword from the stone in the churchyard and is crowned king; when Lancelot and Guenever are first unfaithful to Arthur; when the Holy Grail is found and Lancelot returns to Camelot converted; and when Mordred commits treason and crowns himself King while Arthur is in France.
- Point of View: The novel is narrated in the omniscient third person, although this narrative voice consciously narrates from a contemporary era.
Extra Credit for The Once and Future King
Title. The book's title comes from the inscription that, according to Malory, was written on Arthur's tombstone: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus. Meaning "Her lies Arthur, king once, and king to be."
Film. Walt Disney purchased the rights to The Ill-Made Knight in 1944, but eventually made an adaption of The Sword in the Stone in 1963.