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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 12

Summary and Notes

Back at Bedegraine, the battle has begun, and it is a decisive victory for the British, because it is the beginning of Total War.

Arthur has devised a new way of fighting: the knights fight the knight, the serfs the serfs, and he breaks the rules of war by committing ďatrocities.Ē For example, he attacks at night, which had never been done; he fights unarmed men (a necessity if youíre attacking at night!); he concentrates more on the fighting between the knights and less on the kerns. This last atrocity is key because it catches the confederationís knights by surprise. They are not used to actual fighting, after all; it is usually the common man who dies for sport and not the nobility.

In short, he goes for the total kill and demoralization and breaks the code of formal, polite fighting. LotĎs army, by the second day, offers surrender.

Chapter 13

Summary and Notes

Pellinore and Piggy sit on a cliff gazing out to sea and dreaming of their children. The Questing Beast is still laying siege to the castle, mourning for her lost love.

Merlyn arrives one afternoon to help with the Beast situation. Merlyn tries to explain to the Beast that the knights were only dressing up, but she does not understand the magician. He distractedly tells the knights to psychoanalyze her and to give his regards to Morgause.

Inside the castle, Lot is asleep. He and Morgause have been fighting because she has decided to go to Pellinoreís wedding, and he does not want her to go.

She leaves him in the chamber sleeping and unfolds a strip of tape called a Spancel. A Spancel is a tape of human skin from the perimeter of a dead manís body. If you tie a Spancel around a sleeping manís head without waking him, when he awakes he will fall in love with the first woman he sees. If he awakes while you are tying the Spancel, he will die. It is clear from Morgauseís actions that she is planning on using the Spancel soon.

Chapter 14

Summary and Notes

Pellinore resigns from his job as questing the Questing the Beast in order to marry Piggy, and Palomides is his replacement. The wedding party leaves to travel to Carlion Castle, where the wedding will take place, and the Old Ones send them off festively.

King Arthur is delighted to see his friends again once they reach Carlion and he designs a wedding to beat all weddings for his old friend Pellinore and Piggy. Merlyn send the newlyweds a telegram from the future. During the wedding party, a youth tournament is set up, and young boy excels above all the other lads: Lancelot.

Meanwhile, in a far away land, Merlyn remembers the thing that he had been wanting to tell Arthur all during Book Two and could not remember: it is Arthurís motherís name. Arthurís mother was Igraine, the same Igraine who is Morgauseís mother and who was kidnapped and raped by Uther Pendragon. Merlyn is about to tell Arthur, but he is too tired and decides he will save it for another day.

At the same time, Arthur suddenly awakes to see Morgause standing above him, folding the Spancel up in her hands. She has just successfully used the Spancel, and the reader can infer that Arthur is now in love (or lust) with Morgause.

This is the turning point of the novel, and this action determines the rest of the events of the plot. Arthur and Morgause make love, and the result is that Morgause gives birth nine moths later to a baby boy named Mordred, who will be the Kingís undoing.

It is important to understand the family structure: Arthur and Morgause are half bother and sister, with the same mother: Igraine. Furthermore, Mordred is the half brother of the Morgauseís four sons.

The author makes the point that this is why this novel is a tragedy: Arthur was innocent of what he was doing, but in this case, innocence is not enough to prevent tragedy. This action also reiterates the theme of unchangeable fate: despite Merlynís best intentions to circumvent fate, and Arthurís innocence, the inevitable still occurred.

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