The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

The Once and Future King Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Once and Future King Include:

The Once and Future King Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | "The Sword in the Stone" Summary

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Students can create a storyboard that captures the concept of the narrative arc in a story by creating a six-cell storyboard which contains the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell have students create a scene that follows the story in a sequence using; Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Plot Diagram Example - “The Sword in the Stone”


Arthur (The Wart) is a young boy who has been taken in and raised by Ector. Kay is Ector’s proper son. Arthur finds a tutor, Merlyn, who begins to teach him the importance of education and being a good leader by turning him into various animals and sending him on quests.


Arthur’s naivete leads him to believe that becoming a knight is a wonderful and honorable thing, but because he is not Ector’s proper son, he is destined to be Kay’s squire. Merlyn tries to break him of his traditional ideas about the positives of knighthood and war.

Rising Action

Arthur is placed into the bodies of different animals, including a perch, a merlin, an ant, an owl, a goose, and a badger. As a badger, he has to make a decision whether to eat a hedgehog out of anger; he decides to leave him. He follows Kay as his squire, to a tournament in London where Kay will debut as a knight. Meanwhile, King Uther Pendragon has died without an heir.


Kay gets to the tournament, but realizes he’s forgotten his sword. The Wart, anxious to please Kay, goes back to their inn to retrieve the sword, but it’s closed. He wanders over to a nearby churchyard and sees a sword stuck upright in a large stone. His animal friends swarm his consciousness, reminding him of all of the lessons he’s learned. He pulls the sword from the stone with ease and brings it to Kay.

Falling Action

It turns out that whoever could solve the challenge of pulling the sword from the stone would be the next King of England. At first, Kay tries to take credit for removing the sword when Ector asks him, but then gives in and admits Arthur did it.


Ector and Kay kneel before Arthur. Arthur is crowned as King of England, and the people are happy because they are tired of the unrest and violence they’ve endured under Uther Pendragon. Merlyn agrees to stay with Arthur, as his advisor for the foreseeable future.

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of one of the books from The Once and Future King.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

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Literary Conflict in "Candle in the Wind"

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Literary conflicts are often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

Examples of Conflict in "Candle in the Wind"


Mordred hates Arthur because he thinks he tried to have him killed as an infant. He swears to get revenge by tearing down Arthur’s closest circle and exposing Lancelot and Guenever’s affair publicly. Under Arthur’s civil code of laws, their activities constitute treason, and he will have to execute them both.


As Arthur sits in his tent in the last few chapters, his wife a prisoner, his best friend in exile, his son trying to kill him, and his Round Table dispersed, he realizes that he has been unable to stop these misfortunes. He feels his new system has failed and wonders if war will always be inevitable. He makes sure to pass on his ideas to Thomas Malory in the hopes that his mantra of “Might only for Right” will be passed on to future generations.


While Arthur realizes what Guenever and Lancelot have done to him is treason, he loves them both and does not want to carry out a punishment; however, as King, he is bound by the rules he’s created for his own society to do so. Guenever is sentenced to be burned at the stake, and Arthur secretly hopes Lancelot will ride in to save her at the last moment.

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in one of the books from Once and Future King.

  1. Identify conflicts in your selected book.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

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The Once and Future King Character Map Graphic Organizer

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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information and details about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, it’s easy for students to follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enriching.

There are over 50 characters that play humorous, pivotal, or antagonistic roles throughout the novel. Here are 10 of our favorites. Consider having students split up the characters in groups for each book!

Key Characters in "The Once and Future King"

Arthur/ The WartStrong; fair hair; an open face with kind eyes; dressed in a King’s robe of velvet; has a son with his half-sister, Morgause, who is named Mordred.Fair and just; a little naive and lacks the backbone to confront his wife and Lancelot about their affair; develops a new code of chivalry based around might only for right, and tries to wipe out “Force Majeur”, from all kinds of warfare in England“'My idea is that if we can win this battle in front of us, and get a firm hold of the country, then I will institute a sort of order of chivalry… And I shall make the oath of the order that Might is only to be used for Right.'”
MerlynOlder; long white beard and moustache; glasses; pointed hat with a spider hanging from it; flowing robe covered in signs of the zodiac and other cabalistic signs; has talking owl, Archimedes, perched on his shoulder most of the timeLives backwards in time, moving from the future to the past; becomes Arthur’s tutor’ a magician who can work all sorts of wonders; eventually falls in love with Nimue who traps him in a cave; tries to get Arthur to think for himself.“'...I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind. Some people call it having second sight.'”
KayEctor’s proper son; two years older than ArthurTenacious; spoiled; more concerned with glory than with honor; ends up becoming humble by the end of Book I; becomes a knight at the Round Table.“‘That would do,’ said Kay, ‘if somebody would not mind cutting it off. It was my griffin.’”
King PellinoreRides a white horse and wears silver armor; has glassesA bit clumsy, and not a very good knight; hunts the Questing Beast as the Pellinore family has been destined to do for generations; realizes that when he stops hunting her, she will die, so he begins his quest for the beast again.“‘There, there,’ the King was saying. ‘I did not mean to leave you altogether. It was only because I wanted to sleep in a feather bed, just for a bit. I was coming back, honestly I was. Oh, please don’t die, Beast, and leave me without any fewmets!’”
MorgauseBlack hair and blue eyes; graceful; a witch; wife of King Lot; mother of the Orkney brothers; shows little to no love for her sonsCarries a grudge against Arthur and his father because Uther raped her mother and killed her father; seduces Arthur in order to bear his child, Mordred; after the death of her husband, King Lot, she tries to seduce the knights of the Round Table.“She was not a serious witch like her sister Morgan le Fay—for her head was too empty to take any great art seriously, even if it were the black one. She was doing it because the little magics ran in her blood - as they did with all the women of her race.”
LancelotUgly, with a twisted face; superhuman strengthSo skilled he becomes known as The Best Knight in the World; worships Arthur; in love with Guenever; feels like there is something missing and wrong inside of him; is able to perform miracles.“All through his life—even when he was a great man with the world at his feet - he was to feel this gap: something at the bottom of his heart of which he was aware, and ashamed, but which he did not understand.”
GueneverBlack hair; fearless, blue eyesLoves Arthur but is in love with Lancelot; kind; often becomes jealous; unable to have children“'How dare you call me Jenny? You are reeking of her still. I am the Queen, the Queen of England! I am not your trull!'”
ElaineEighteen, beautiful, with violet eyesTrapped in a boiling vat of water; in love with Lancelot and tricks him twice into sleeping with her; knows he will never love her like he loves Guenever; bears Lancelot’s son and names him Galahad“In the castle of Corbin, the child Elaine was making ready for her journey. She was coming to capture Lancelot from Guenever, an expedition of which everybody except herself could feel the pathos.”
MordredA cold wisp of a man; crooked shoulder; looks like something out of Edgar Allan Poe’s works; well-dressed; smooth-talkerNever shown love by his mother, Morgause; hates Arthur and secretly plans to overthrow his reign“Mordred, the cold wisp of a man, did not seem to have any age. His years, like the depths of his blue eyes and the inflections of his musical voice, were non-committal.”
AgravaineLooks very old for his age; seldom sober; bully of the family; shifty; fair-haired; son of MorgauseHates Lancelot; partners with Mordred to expose Lancelot and Guenever’s affair “He was shifty, inclined to cry, and frightened of pain. It was because he had a good imagination and used his head more than the others.”

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Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in The Once and Future King and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Traits, Character Traits, and Quote.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

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Themes, Motifts, and Symbols in "The Queen of Air and Darkness"

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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look For and Discuss

The Sins of the Father Affect the Sons (or The Past Affects the Future)

Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, raped Igraine, Countess of Cornwall and killed her husband. Morgause, Igraine’s daughter, vows revenge for her family and magically seduces Arthur. She bears him a son, Mordred, who becomes Arthur’s undoing in Book IV. This relationship is an allegory for World Wars I and II, where the sins of the fathers (the Treaty of Versailles reparations and punishments on Germany) are visited on the sons (the generations of men who were killed in World War II by Nazi Germany). This also relates to the tragedy of Oedipus Rex, who slept with his mother and killed his father. As a lesson enhancement, give students a summary of Oedipus Rex and have them look at the similarities between Arthur’s predicament and Oedipus’. “It is the tragedy, the Aristotelian and comprehensive tragedy, of sin coming home to roost. That is why we have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred, and to remember, when the times comes, that the king had slept with his own sister. He did not know he was doing so, and perhaps it may have been due to her, but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence is not enough.”


Merlyn is a pacifist, and he is constantly trying to get Arthur to think for himself and to approach warfare in a different way. He says that the destiny of man is to unite, not divide. Arthur loves the glory of knighthood, but the wars fought by the upperclass through thousands of knights’ lives lost is an atrocity. Merlyn likens it to a Victorian foxhunt, where the nobles enjoy the fun, but the foxes are terrified and meet violent ends. This is much like war, Merlyn notes, where the commanders (the nobles) send the kerns (footmen, or foxes) to die needlessly. This eventually leads Arthur to realize his new code of chivalry: Might only for Right.

Force Majeur

Before Arthur’s reign, disputes are settled only by violence, under a system of Force Majeur:, with “might making right”. Through Merlyn’s staunch pacifism, and his experience with the perch, Arthur sees his battle with the Gaels in a new light. He begins to imagine a world in which Might is only used for Right, instead of using might to enforce beliefs and victory on others. When Kay brings up the idea that a good reason to start a war is simply to have a good reason, like imposing a new belief or idea on a people, Merlyn angrily responds that there was once an Austrian who thought the same thing (an allusion to Hitler). He juxtaposes this example with Jesus, who made ideas available for people to decide for themselves. Out of all of Merlyn’s tutelage and Arthur’s experiences, he decides not only to use Might only for Right, but he creates a Round Table so that all knights are equal.

The Round Table

The Round Table represents the equality of civil law that Arthur is trying to establish in his kingdom. The Round Table eliminates the power struggle between knights and puts them all on equal footing. This Round Table allows Arthur to establish an effective system of defense against Force Majeur.

The Victorian Foxhunt

The Victorian foxhunt is something that Merlyn uses to show Arthur the frivolity of war, especially when it is fought for no actual good reason. He says that in these cases, it is the common soldier who gets hurt while the nobles fight their wars for fun without any sense of the true consequences. He warns Arthur, “Unless you can make the world wag better than it does at present, King, your reign will be an endless series of petty battles, in which the aggressions will either be from spiteful reasons or from sporting ones, and in which the poor man will be the only one who dies.”

Battle of Bedegraine

The Battle of Bedegraine marks the turning point for Arthur in how he approaches warfare. It was here that Arthur decides that no ransoms were to be taken, and that his knights were to fight directly against the Gaelic knights, not the gallowglasses, or foot soldiers. He had his men attack in the middle of the knight, throwing out the rules of battle, in order to defeat the Eleven Kings swiftly. This defeat allows Arthur total control over England in order to enact his new Civil Law.

Queen Morgause

Morgause represents the sins of the father visited upon the sons, or the tragedy that Arthur is about to experience because of his father’s actions against the Countess of Cornwall Igraine. Her seduction of Arthur sets up his downfall with the birth of Mordred, who coupled with a lack of upbringing with love and attention from his mother and the knowledge that his father tried to have him killed as an infant, creates a man bent on revenge and destruction. He does eventually cause Arthur’s downfall, but not the elimination of his revolutionary ideas.

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in "The Queen of Air and Darkness". Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from "The Queen of Air and Darkness" you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

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Allegory in "The Sword and the Stone"

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Allegories rely on extensive symbolic meaning to convey their messages. For students to decipher and understand these extended metaphors, it is helpful to track parallels between the text and the larger issues it is representing.

In “The Sword and the Stone”, the lesson of the ants teaches Arthur the dangers of losing free thought and waging continual war. It is a direct commentary from author T.H. White on the political workings of fascist and communist societies, veiled behind the colony of ants who end up making Arthur miserable.

As a lesson, have your students create a storyboard that shows the parallels between the lesson of the ants and the fascist political system of the Nazis in the 1930s.

Lesson Enhancer: Have students examine the concept of “Newspeak” in George Orwell’s 1984 and compare it to the ants’ language.

Example of Allegory from "The Sword and the Stone"

Language For Arthur, the ants’ language is one of the most frustrating things he encounters. Their entire vocabulary is reduced to phrases such as “done” and “not done” which apply to all questions of value. There are no words for independent thought, or for emotions, such as “freedom”,“happiness”, or “liking”. If a word does not exist for something, then that something cannot be pondered. In a totalitarian state, free thought is repressed because duty outweighs free will. Just like Hitler demanded full obedience and the repression of differentiated ideas through book burnings and the Hitler youth, the ants demand uniformity, and individuality is not tolerated.
Numbers In Arthur’s experience, he becomes known as “number 42436/WD.” There are no names in the ant colony; every ant is assigned a number. During the time that this portion of the novel was being written, White was watching the basic civil rights of the Jews being stripped away. They were forced to register with the government and were stripped of their freedoms and individual rights. In Nazi Germany, they quickly became numbers, even before they were sent to the concentration camps.
The Leader “In the middle, the Leader sat complacently, laying eggs, attending to the broadcasts, issuing directions or commanding executions, surrounded by a sea of adulation.” This is a comparison to how Hitler was running the Nazi party. While men were being killed in war, Hitler was being exalted as the leader of the Third Reich. He was also in control of everything, much like the Leader of the ants.
Thisnest vs. Othernest Arthur is overwhelmed by the broadcasts about patriotism, war, and the economic situation. Ant the Father has ordained that Othernest ants will be the slaves of Thisnest ants. The Othernest ants are threatening the property, boundaries, and food supplies. “We are a mighty race and have a natural right to subjugate their puny one. They are a mighty race and are unnaturally trying to subjugate our inoffensive ones.” This broadcast highlights the reasoning behind the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews (“they are a threat”), and their justification for waging war and expanding territory in Europe (“we are a mighty race”).
The Religious Ceremony “After the second kind of address, the religious services began. These dated—the Wart discovered later—from a fabulous past so ancient that once could scarcely find a date for it—a past in which the emmets had not yet settled down to communism. They came from a time when ants were still like men, and very impressive some of the services were.” The psalms that the ants sing are filled with war imagery, and have obviously been perverted from their original religious form. Arthur sees that religion has been distorted to highlight warfare and war as something the “King of Glory” has ordained. The ants have turned religious sentiments into a weapon, just as Hitler capitalizes on the patriotic sensibilities of the German people by promising the restoration of glory to the Fatherland. This also relates to the Nazi propaganda machine.

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of allegory in "The Sword and the Stone".

  1. Identify instances of allegory in the text.
  2. Depict and describe the example of allegory from the text on the left side.
  3. Depict and describe the reference to the larger issue or event on the right side.

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The Epic Hero in "The Ill-Made Knight"

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Epic Heroes Defined

It was the Greeks who first defined the protagonist known as an epic hero. These heroes of a tragedy must evoke in the audience a sense of heroism through legendary, awe-inspiring lore. An epic hero must be a man whose fortune is brought about by his own admired characteristics. Many of the famous Greek Epics, such as The Odyssey and The Iliad contain these larger-than-life heroes and their deeds. In “The Ill-Made Knight”, Lancelot demonstrates these characteristics throughout his adventures and personal tests.

Lancelot as an Epic Hero

ATTRIBUTEDESCRIPTIONExample from The Once and Future King
Noble BirthUsually a King, Prince, Demi-God, or nobleman of some capacity. Lancelot is the son of French King Ban of Benwick, a friend and ally of King Arthur.
Superhuman CapabilitiesThe warrior has the potential for greatness based on their attributes. On the way to England to join Arthur’s Round Table, Lancelot is challenged by a knight dressed in black armor. He challenges young Lancelot to a tilting joust, which Lancelot easily wins. His strength and dexterity are unmatched to any other knight Arthur has seen.
Vast TravelerAn epic hero is known for making travels to exotic locations by choice or chance, usually to battle against evil. In order to get away from the temptation of Guenever, Lancelot agrees to go on many quests in which he encounters evil knights, a girl trapped in boiling water, and the Holy Grail.
Unmatched WarriorThis hero typically has a reputation for being a great warrior, even prior to the beginning of the story. Lancelot is so skilled in battle, that he is able to defeat men in armor with only a sword, and he manages to save Sir Bliant from attack by breaking free of his handcuffs from the cell where he was being kept.
Cultural Legend Before an Epic Hero can be universally known, he must first be a legend in his culture. Lancelot quickly becomes known as “The Best Knight in the World”, and it is this title that allows him to perform miracles.
HumilityThe hero performs great deeds for their own sake rather than glory. Lancelot is constantly at war with himself and believes that he is ill-made on the inside as well as on the outside, eventually going by the name, “Le Chevalier Mal Fet”, or “The Ill-Made Knight”. He never gloats, and feels constant guilt about his affair with Guenever behind Arthur’s back.
Battles Supernatural FoesThe opponents and obstacles the hero faces are usually supernatural beings.Lancelot defeats and thwarts many foes, many of whom have superhuman strength, but he also manages to thwart and escape from the fairie sorceress, Morgan le Fay, who tries to trap him and make him her lover.

Lesson Enhancement: Have students make a storyboard for each animal Arthur is turned into in “The Sword and the Stone”, and track the important characteristics of a good leader, and the importance of the lesson to his education!

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Lancelot can be considered an epic hero.

  1. Identify events of the story or characteristics of Lancelot that fit into attributes of an epic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Noble Birth, Superhuman Capabilities, Vast Traveler, Unmatched Warrior, Cultural Legend, Humility, and Battles Supernatural Foes.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Lancelot as an epic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.

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Written in an era where bad leadership had brought the world to the brink of destruction, T.H. White did what many others before him did: he took a very famous legend and crafted it to fit the concerns of the 20th century. The Once and Future King is divided into four books. Each book deals with a distinctive period of King Arthur’s life and important lessons for readers: the characteristics of a good leader and the importance of education; what happens when the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons; the importance of imperfection and finding redemption in God; and finally, the hope that eventually good will overcome evil in the world as long as the flame of goodness is passed down to future generations.

“Education is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance.”

Merlyn The Once and Future King

Books I and II are allegorical in nature, pointing to elements of rising fascism in Germany. Book II deals with the effect of World War I leading to World War II, and has many similarities to the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. Book III concerns Lancelot coming to terms with his imperfections and realizing that God has not abandoned him, even when he has sinned. Book IV deals with Mordred’s destruction of Arthur’s reign, but not before Arthur makes sure his ideas of civil law and justice are passed on to future generations.

A Quick Synopsis of The Once and Future King

Book I: The Sword in the Stone

Young “Wart” lives with Ector and his son Kay in Ector’s manor. The Wart (Arthur) is not Ector’s proper son, so Kay is favored with most things by his father and is a bit spoiled. Their tutor has left the manor after losing her mind, and Ector is fretting over whom to hire as a new tutor for the boys. Meanwhile, Kay and Wart go out with Cully the hawk, and Kay loses him. The Wart follows Cully into the woods and he happens upon some interesting characters: King Pellinore, on a never-ending hunt for the Questing Beast, and a man in a strange hat, with a long beard and a talking owl. This man’s name is Merlyn, and he is going to be Wart’s tutor.

Throughout Wart’s education with Merlyn, he is changed into a series of animals, including a perch, a merlin, a goose, an ant, and a badger. Each of these animals comes with their own unique experiences, and they teach Arthur something about education and being a good leader. The geese, for instance, have no boundaries, so they don’t understand war; Wart finds them to be the most humane creatures.

Throughout his tutelage, Merlyn also tries to break Arthur of his desire to be a knight. Since he is not Ector’s proper son, he is destined to be a squire to Kay instead. When Kay enters a jousting tournament in London, he forgets his sword. Arthur goes to get a sword for him and comes across a mysterious sword in a stone in a churchyard. He has a moment where all of his animal friends swarm around him in his mind, reminding him of their important lessons. He pulls the sword from the stone with ease, and come to find out this has marked him as the next King of England!

Book II: The Queen of Air and Darkness

Book II details the early years of Arthur’s reign, when Merlyn is still his advisor, before he becomes a captive of Nimue. Arthur is caught up in a rebellion of the Gaels and is still struggling with the idea of exercising his absolute power in warfare versus using his power only for just causes.

Merlyn is constantly trying to get Arthur to think for himself, and after a particularly bloody battle in which 700 foot soldiers are killed, Arthur realizes it was not so much fun as he had thought it would be. This and other lessons from Merlyn help Arthur see that Might should only be used for Right, and he develops his plan for the Round Table.

Meanwhile, Queen Morgause, Arthur’s half-sister, designs a spancel, a magic piece of skin, which hides her true being from Arthur and she is able to seduce him. The result of this one-night stand is Mordred, who eventually brings about Arthur’s downfall.

Book III: The Ill-Made Knight

Book III focuses on Lancelot, Arthur’s best knight, who falls in love with Guenever, Arthur’s wife. Lancelot is convinced that he is lacking spiritually, because of his ugly exterior, and he believes that his abilities and strengths lie in his chastity, which Elaine, a young woman he rescued, tricks him into losing. He has a child with Elaine named Galahad, which angers Guenever.

The majority of Book III sees Lancelot running from Guenever, fighting the temptation of an affair with her by going on quests. He is ultimately unsuccessful. Mordred gains power in Camelot at the end of the book, and first sets his sights on bringing down Guenever. Guenever attempts to win some favor back in court by throwing a party, but in a botched attempt on Gawaine’s life by a rival with poisoned apples, another knight is poisoned and dies. Guenever is accused of murder, and Lancelot fights for her honor in disguise. Guenever is later kidnapped and Lancelot saves her again.

Finally, a man named Sir Urre comes to Camelot in search of help for wounds that will not heal. Lancelot touches him and heals him, proving to Lancelot that he did not lose God’s favor after all. In spite of all of the sins that haunt Lancelot, he realizes that there is something God grants called redemption.

Book IV: Candle in the Wind

Mordred and Agravaine team up in order to bring down Arthur’s reign. Mordred hates Arthur and he resents that Arthur tried to have him killed as an infant; Agravaine hates Lancelot, Arthur’s right-hand man. They plot to expose Lancelot and Guenever’s affair, which is treasonous, and will force Arthur to punish them. This plan sets Mordred and Agravaine against their brothers, who disagree with their plans. They set a trap for Lancelot and Guenever, which they fall into. While Lancelot is in Guenever’s chambers, Mordred, Agravaine, and other soldiers wait outside to ambush, them. Lancelot kills all of the men waiting outside except Mordred, who runs away. Lancelot flees Camelot, and Arthur has no choice but to burn Guenever at the stake for treason. However, he secretly hopes that Lancelot will save her at the last moment, which he does. In the melee of the rescue, Gaheris and Gareth are killed, which Mordred blames on Lancelot.

The Pope intervenes and brokers a peace that allows Guenever to return to Arthur unharmed. Gawaine, incensed by the deaths of his brothers, follows Lancelot back to his castle in France. Arthur reluctantly sides with Gawaine.

While they are away, Mordred begins to enact his plan to declare Arthur dead, take the throne, and to take Guenever as his wife. Guenever sends Arthur a letter with the details of the plot, and Arthur and Lancelot make plans to return to England to fight Mordred. As Arthur sits in his tent on the battlefield, presumably the night before his final battle, he muses over whether war will always be inevitable. He makes sure to tell a page, young Tom Malory, to remember what he tried to do for the world with his new system of Civil Law. While he may be a “candle in the wind” of this moment in time, his ideas will be sparked again one day when good must overcome evil. Therefore, he is both the “once” and “future” king.

Essential Questions for The Once and Future King by T.H. White

  1. What are the characteristics of a good leader?
  2. How does this book serve as a literary criticism of communism, Nazism, and other political powers in the 1930s-1960s?
  3. What important lessons in the book can be applied to today’s society and political systems?
  4. What can we learn from the virtues of an epic hero, both in Arthur and in Lancelot?

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•   (English) The Once and Future King   •   (Español) El Rey Una y Futura   •   (Français) Le Roi Unique et Futur   •   (Deutsch) Der Einstige und Zukünftige König   •   (Italiana) Re in Eterno   •   (Nederlands) De Eens en Toekomstige Koning   •   (Português) O Rei Uma Vez e o Futuro   •   (עברית) פעם אחת ועתיד המלך   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الملك مرة واحدة والمستقبل   •   (हिन्दी) एक बार और भविष्य के राजा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Король Былого и Грядущего   •   (Dansk) Den Gang og Fremtidige Konge   •   (Svenska) En Gång och Framtida Kung   •   (Suomi) Kerran ja Tuleva Kuningas   •   (Norsk) The Once and Future Kong   •   (Türkçe) Bir Zamanlar ve Gelecek Kralı   •   (Polski) Król Dawców i Przyszłości   •   (Româna) Once și Viitorul Rege   •   (Ceština) Jakmile a Budoucí Král   •   (Slovenský) Jeden a Budúci Kráľ   •   (Magyar) A Once and Future Király   •   (Hrvatski) Jednog i Budućeg Kralja   •   (български) Кралят на Веднъж и Бъдещето   •   (Lietuvos) Kartą ir Ateitis Karalius   •   (Slovenščina) Enkrat in Prihodnost King   •   (Latvijas) Pagātnē un Nākotnē King   •   (eesti) Kunagine ja Tulevane Kuningas