The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pleased with their success, the outlaws are less careful on their march home. Suddenly, Robin blows his horn and the archers swing around to see the griffin charging. The air is awash with arrows. For Wart, everything happens in slow motion and he struggles to fit an arrow to his bow. He sees the huge griffin's body come towards him and feels a claw in his chest.
In his first experience of war, Wart is unable to cope. He is overwhelmed and freezes. However, this does not happen for Kay and it is he who acts naturally and instinctively under fire.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
The band pulls Wart out from under the dead griffin—Kay had killed it with an arrow. Robin sets Wart's broken shoulder bone, after which it is too late to return to Sir Ector's Castle. The next morning, after a sleepless night for Wart, the boys prepare to leave the band. Kay asks if he might keep the head of the griffin as a reward; Wart asks if he might take Wat home—the witless man who had also been held hostage—so that Merlyn can give him his wits back.
Perhaps the discrepancy between how Wart and Kay act in battle is due to Wart's younger age. However, it could also reflect how Wart is not naturally a violent person—his resentment of violence and warfare will continue throughout Arthur's rule where he increasingly seeks ways to solve feuds without Might.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
When the small procession arrives back at the Castle Sauvage, the entire household is there to greet them. Sir Ector claims he will mount the griffin's head upon the wall and Wart is rushed off to bed by the nurse. When he wakes later that day, he rushes off to Merlyn and asks him what he had done with Wat. Merlyn responds that he has "pscyho-analysed him" and then sent him to live in the kennels with Dog Boy—the two of whom had quickly become firm friends.
Kay's first instinct upon returning home is to show off his prize (the griffin head), while Wart only wants to ensure Wat is cared for. Again, Wart's concern with Wat over chivalric prizes reflects his fundamental value of humanity above personal, chivalric achievements.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon