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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
BOOK ONE: THE SWORD IN THE STONE
Summary and Notes
That night, Wart waits Merlyn and Archimedes, for his next lesson. Archimedes arrives and feeds Wart a Dead mouse; its pleasant taste makes Wart realize he has already become a bird. Archimedes teaches him how to fly, which echoes Merlyn teaching Wart how to swim in an earlier chapter.
The owl and the boy perch on a tree and Archimedes “spies” for his dinner. As Archimedes eats a dead sparrow, he tells Wart that he will now have him join the Wild Geese.
Wart suddenly finds himself in a flat, windy nocturnal place. He feels himself “uncreated” and in “chaos;” as daylight comes, other creatures like himself surround him: the geese. These creatures are flying about randomly and joyfully in small groups. When the goose next to him begins to fly, Wart joins in, and finds the power and mystery of the disciplined flight into dawn. As the geese fly in formation into the sun and over the earth, he is filled with incredible joy. The geese begin to sing in unison.
The flock stops to graze. Wart misunderstands what the geese are doing and believes them to be on guard against an enemy. A kind female goose laughs at him, and he confesses that he is really a human in disguise. She is not surprised, and asks him details about his earlier error. Wart asks if the geese are at war; the goose doesn’t understand what he means, and he explains himself.
As he defines war for the goose, a look of growing horror and disgust crosses her face. She demands that he stop talking about such things, and asks how he could come up with such a horrible concept. Wart explains that human and ants fight each other, and the goose, still horrified, tries to relent. She introduces herself as Lyo-lyok.
Wart then tells Lyo-lyok that he likes to fight because it is “knightly,” and she responds, sadly that that is because he is young.
Summary and Notes
Wart spends many nights and days with the geese, and grows very fond of Lyo-lyok. He admires her courage and intelligence. The goose government is a basic anarchy; there are no national boundaries or laws except when they “come about spontaneously.” Lyo-lyok explains the system of migration to Wart, which is a peaceful way of settling leaders by convenience.
A growing feeling of restlessness and excitement in Wart signals the beginning of the migratory season. One morning the geese depart in song and joy, and Wart sees that the world below them has no boundaries; they are nationless as they cross the North Sea.
As Wart lands, he finds himself back in bed, and Kay tells him he has been snoring like a goose in his sleep.
Chapters 18 and 19 are moving in the author’s depiction of utopia, especially when juxtaposed to Wart’s experiences in the ant farm. Not only can the geese not conceive of war, but also they practice what they preach: their government or lack thereof, is free, communal, and peaceful. Wart discovers a joy and release in the natural turn of seasons and urge to migrate that echoes some of his responses to the turning of seasons at the Forest Sauvage. In fact, the geese’s very connection and response to nature seems to determine their peace and happiness; it is no accident, then, that the ants are contained, in a glass box, far away from the natural world.
This chapter is just as crucial as the ant chapter in developing Wart as a king. Although the lessons of the violence of war have not truly sunk in yet (note his exchange with Lyo-lyok); Wart is still a boy, and these experiences, have instilled in him a great respect for the idea of peace, however subconsciously.