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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter One

Summary and Notes

The chapter opens by introducing the protagonist of the novel, Wart. His full name is Arthur, and he is the twelve-year-old adopted brother of Kay, who is the son of Sir Ector, a feudal lesser lord sometime in the Middle Ages. Wart and Kay’s governess has just had a nervous breakdown, and Ector is searching for a new tutor. In the first few paragraphs of this chapter, the reader is introduced to the somewhat esoteric education the average medieval boy might have.

Sir Ector bemoans his struggles to find a suitable tutor to his best friend, Sir Grummore Grummursum, and they decide to start a “quest” for an instructor for the boys.

For the majority of the rest of the chapter, the reader is treated to descriptions of rural medieval life: the boys go haymaking; the parameters of Ector’s estate are described, and the boys take Cully, the prize falcon of the kennel, to hunt rabbits. Wart has reservations about flying Cully because the falcon-trainer, Hob, is still training the bird. Kay overrules Wart’s qualms, and this exchange demonstrates Wart’s feelings of inferiority because he is not Ector’s “proper son.”

At the end of the chapter, Cully does not want to return to the boys from a high tree branch, and Wart and Kay are at a loss as to what to do.

This chapter is important for establishing many of the major characters of Book One and the setting. The chapter is replete with pastoral imagery and historical detail, and paints what is a fairly accurate picture of rural life in the Middle Ages.

Furthermore, in this chapter the reader can also see the tension between Wart and Kay, the ineptitude of Sir Ector, and the beginnings of many of the conflicts that will come into play in this first part of the novel.

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