The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Knighting takes place and very soon they are setting off for London. On the first day of the tournament, Kay is jittery. He is pale and unable to eat. When they arrive at the huge arena the boys are shocked—it is as big as a football pitch. Kay gasps suddenly—he has left his sword at the inn! Kay demands that "his squire" fetch his sword; Wart looks as if he is going to strike Kay but instead humbly agrees.
Kay is as belligerent towards Wart as was expected. He treats the boy that was his play mate as his inferior simply because of a ceremony—and more so, the ceremony has given him the right to treat Wart as such.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
When Wart arrives at the inn, it is closed—everyone had gone to watch the tournament. Wart does not know what to do, where can he possibly find a sword? He canters along the street and comes upon a churchyard. In the middle of the square is a sword stuck into a stone.
What is key is that when Pellinore was explaining the sword in the stone, Wart was not in the room and so has no knowledge of what this sword means.
Themes
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Wart strides over to the sword and grasps it. He feels extraordinary—as though he can see everything clearly for the first time. He pulls hard and suddenly all his friends (badger, hawk, pike) are reminding him how to use his body. Wart walks up to the great sword, places his right hand on it and pulls it out easily.
All of Merlyn's teaching, it seems, culminates in this very moment—a moment Merlyn has already foreseen. It is as though Wart channels all of the animals he has befriended to use and inhuman force and pull the sword from the stone.
Themes
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Might vs. Right Theme Icon
Wart arrives back to the tournament and gives Kay the sword. Kay exclaims that this is not his sword. Wart says he has taken it from a stone in a churchyard. Kay is amazed and beckons Sir Ector over. He tells his father that he is holding the sword from the stone. Sir Ector takes Kay and Wart back to the churchyard; he then asks Kay if he had taken it from the stone. Kay pauses, looks at Wart and then says, "I am a liar. Wart pulled it out." Sir Ector kneels before Wart and Kay kneels too. Wart begins to cry.
Kay has a choice—he encounters a mini-quest of his own. He must decide whether he will lie and be crowned King (Wart adores him so much, he would not dispute this) or tell the truth. He ultimately passes the test and is truthful.
Themes
Fate (Time) Theme Icon
Quest and The Holy Grail Theme Icon
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