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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 8

Summary and Notes

The scene changes again to the battle at Bedegraine; the field is filled with all sorts of banners and medieval heraldry. The mood is more festive than the modern reader imagines the day of a huge battle might be.

Arthur spends his time in his tent conferencing with Kay, Ector, and Merlyn. The men are ironing out the details of this new order of chivalry. They decide that the table at which the knights sit will be round to prevent competition, and that the order will be called the Knights of the Round Table.

Merlyn mentions that he could get the table as a wedding present from King Leodegrance, whose daughter, Guenevere, Arthur is going to marry soon. This is the first time that Arthur, and the reader, have heard of Guenevere. Merlyn adds that at some point he has to warn Arthur of Guenevere (because he knows the future), but now is not the time because they are discussing the battle.

The men also decided that once a year, at Pentecost Feast, the knights would return and tell their stories of what they have accomplished.

Arthur suddenly tells Merlyn that he has discovered a good reason for war and it is this: to make humans accept a new way of living, similar to the campaign that he is currently engaged in.

This infuriates Merlyn, and he uses Hitler as his example for why this way of thinking is erroneous. It is important to recognize the difference between making a new way of thinking available to the common people and not force it on them as Hitler did.

Chapter 9

Summary and Notes

Pellinore is increasingly lovelorn and melancholy, and Palomides and Grummore want to help. They believe that by dressing up as the Questing Beast, they can distract him from his melancholy and give him reason to live. They do know, of course, of the real reason for his pining, which is for Piggy, the Queen of Flanders’ daughter.

What follows is a long slapstick scene of Grummore and Palomides first designing and then sewing and then learning to walk in the Questing Beast costume. The general incompetence of the two knights is comical.

Morgause, meanwhile, has recognized the futility of seducing the knights. She decides instead to focus on being a loving mother, and is proud of herself as she watches herself in the mirror hugging her son Gareth.

Gareth runs joyfully to look for his brothers to tell them of their mother’s change of mood. He looks in an old fortress, and here the author gives historical background on the conflict between the Old Ones and the Saxons and Normans. He finds his brothers in the storeroom where they are having an argument.

Gawaine and Agravaine are brawling over something to do with their mother and the knights-it is not clear what and they come to blows. The brothers have to pull Gawaine off of Agravaine before he strangles him, and Gawaine’s temper is both emphasized and foreshadows problems later in the novel. His “sees red,” whereas Agravaine is a bully and whiny; this will be important for understanding their future actions.

Once the knights are done with the fake Questing Beast, they set off to find their friend. They find him pining in his bedroom, and they tell him that they have spotted the Questing Beast on the cliffs. He cannot be distracted from his sorrow, and continues to talk about Piggy and how perfect they were for each other. After some conversation, Pellinore reluctantly agrees to go in search of the Questing Beast.

That night, Palomides and Grummore dress up in the Questing Beast outfit to go surprise and enliven Pellinore. There is further argument between the two knights about how to prance in the costume. They also work on braying convincingly.

Pellinore waits on the cliff with his hunting dog, and he reflects on Piggy. He thinks about how well she understood him, and he thinks about how he has written a letter to her every day, and she has yet to respond. As the two costumed knights make their way to where Pellinore awaits, they are suddenly attacked by a series of bumps and pushes. It is the real Questing Beast, who has fallen in love with the fake beast and is trying to mate with it.

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