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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 1

Summary and Notes

The setting changes radically: the castle Benwick in France. The reader is introduced to a new character: a French boy who is looking at his face in the side of a kettle. He is described as a private and confused young man; there is something that sets him apart from the others.

The boy is fifteen, and it gradually becomes clear that the boy is Lancelot, who won many of the games at Pellinore’s wedding feast.

Lancelot is “in love” with Arthur; that is, he admires him greatly, and desires nothing more than to be part of his Round Table.

At the wedding feast, King Arthur had apparently extended an invitation to Lancelot to become part of his order of chivalry once the boy grew up. Lancelot was suitably overwhelmed by the proposal, but did not want to show too much emotion, and neither accepted nor declined Arthur’s invitation. But, when he returned to France he began a tedious, rigorous and all-encompassing training regimen so that he would be the best knight for Arthur.

He would call himself the Chevalier Mal Fet (the Ill-Made Knight), as his defining characteristic beyond his athletic prowess is that he is extremely ugly.

In this chapter the reader is already intrigued and a bit alarmed by the ferocity of Lancelot’s devotion and zeal. He is a strange boy, and his ugliness, Frenchness, and unsociability make him even more foreign.

Chapter 2

Summary and Notes

The author tells us that although Lancelot became the best knight there ever was, first he had to undergo training. The author has extended descriptions here to cricket and cricketing heroes, which mean nothing to the modern reader.

Lancelot sequesters himself for three years in one room, the Armoury, where he teaches himself to fight, along with the keeper of the Armory, Uncle Dap.

An extended description is given first of the contents of the Armory, and then of Lancelot training regimen. It is important to notes the wide variety of weapons and the scrupulousness with which the people took care of them in the Middle Ages; the author is trying to make the point that this was serious stuff.

Lancelot’s schedule is worth noting for two reasons: first, that it had the effect of replacing is childhood and making him into a humorless and obsessive young man, and second, that medieval training is not anywhere near as romantic as we picture it. The armor, for instance, is incredibly heavy, so that the average medieval knight was weighed down to the point of near immobility. Lancelot has to learn how to fight, how to be graceful in the cumbersome gear, and this in itself will take three years.

At the end of the chapter, the author describes Lancelot as not only excessively serious, but that he wanted “through his purity and excellence, to be able to perform some ordinary miracle...” this is relevant to later chapters in Book Three.

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