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The Once and Future King | [T. H. White]

The Once and Future King

The complete "box set" of T. H. White's epic fantasy novel of the Arthurian legend. The novel is made up of five parts: "The Sword in the Stone", "The Witch in the Wood", "The Ill-Made Knight", "The Candle in the Wind", and "The Book of Merlyn".
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Publisher's Summary

The complete "box set" of T. H. White's epic fantasy novel of the Arthurian legend. The novel is made up of five parts: "The Sword in the Stone", "The Witch in the Wood", "The Ill-Made Knight", "The Candle in the Wind", and "The Book of Merlyn".

Merlyn instructs the Wart (Arthur) and his brother, Sir Kay, in the ways of the world. One of them will need it: the king has died, leaving no heir, and a rightful one must be found by pulling a sword from an anvil resting on a stone. In the second and third parts of the novel, Arthur has become king and the kingdom is threatened from the north. In the final two books, the ageing king faces his greatest challenge, when his own son threatens to overthrow him. In "The Book of Merlyn", Arthur's tutor Merlyn reappears and teaches him that, even in the face of apparent ruin, there is hope.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©1939, 1940, 1958 T. H. White (P)2008 Naxos Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

  • AudioFile Earphones Award, 2009

"For those who have never read these five books, prepare to be surprised by their adultness, their laugh-out-loud humor and tongue-in-cheek commentary on modern life; for those who know them well, prepare to be delighted with Neville Jason's transcendent reading. The lovely timbre of his narrative voice, his rhythmic, easy pacing and host of individual characterizations transport listeners into White's weird and wonderful otherworld as quickly as Alice slipped through the looking glass. This long production is so entrancing that one wishes it would never end." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1325 )
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4.1 (1106 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Mark Acker Ozark, MO, United States 05-02-12
    Mark Acker Ozark, MO, United States 05-02-12 Member Since 2011

    Husband, father, nurse, geek culture affianado, tech junkie, late-blooming history lover, armchair theologist, Lego enthusiast, and follower of Christ.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Buy it for the first book."

    The narration in this story is outstanding! I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and was pleased to learn how true to the story Disney's "The Sword in the Stone" movie acutally was. The rest of the story focuses the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere. The moments when Arthur comes into the story are touching and my favorite parts, but they are few and far between. There are also several great side stories along the way that make it worth reading.

    The final book, as others have said is completely different. It doesn’t really add anything to the story. It’s interesting, but only if you are really into sociopolitical theory, anthropology, and biology. That doesn’t make sense to you? Give it a try and see what I mean.

    14 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Amherst, MA, USA 07-13-12
    Jessica Amherst, MA, USA 07-13-12 Member Since 2001
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    "What Pleasure!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Once and Future King the most enjoyable?

    This is a book I read several times as a youngster, over 40 years ago. I so enjoyed listening to it because the recording brought back former associations. The narrator of this book, Neville Jason, is delightful to listen to--his characterizations are astute and his accents a joy.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    I haven't finished, but I already know what it is. It is sad.


    What does Neville Jason bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His pacing is outstanding. When reading, my eyes race along to the next word, but he, most appropriately, gives some characters very slow speech, bringing out new aspects of their personalities.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Films have been made of this book.


    Any additional comments?

    Audible needs to tell people what version of the text the author is reading. In the case of The Once and Future King, there are textual variations because each part--The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, the Ill-Made Knight, The Candle in the Wind, and the posthumous Book of Merlyn-- was published separately over time, then combined with the previous parts that were edited for the newest, longer edition of The Once and Future King. And by edited I mean that whole episodes were changed or deleted and new episodes included. So, it is important for listeners to know that the text they are hearing is not necessarily the same as the one they would get if they bought the book in a bookstore. Audible, please add publisher and publication date for the book texts--it's important!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael E Nash 04-17-12 Member Since 2011
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    "One of my All Time Favorites"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Once and Future King to be better than the print version?

    No. Reader is very good, but its probably a book better read than listened to.


    What did you like best about this story?

    White's writing is beautiful and evocative.


    What does Neville Jason bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A certain amount of Britishness?


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This is a beautiful novel about things lost. It was as good as I remembered it, and the end of the book of Merlyn is one of the most powerful passages that I have ever read.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JanBreesmom MIRA LOMA, CA, United States 03-11-12
    JanBreesmom MIRA LOMA, CA, United States 03-11-12 Member Since 2011

    Breesmom

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    "Part 1: The Sword and the Stone Without Disney"
    What made the experience of listening to The Once and Future King the most enjoyable?

    The narrator was cheery and had an interesting voice, this really made a difference in the telling of the story. The story was interesting, fun, and familiar. A treat.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Wart, of course! He was the underdog in this one...knowing what we know, his future radically changes by the end of this book and beyond. He was also a very likeable character.


    What does Neville Jason bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His narration is 'right on'...exactly what is needed for this book. His accent, his cadence, his cheery voice. He was a perfect choice as narrator.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes. It took two, though. I can hardly sit for hours on end!


    Any additional comments?

    No.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    colleen ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 05-26-12
    colleen ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 05-26-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Classic writing, great listen"

    Worth the time and credit. Beautifully written. A little longer than necessary but t'd recommend it to the whole family.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 05-07-13
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 05-07-13 Member Since 2010

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

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    "People Who Say They are No Good are Always the"

    Good Ones.
    Since you can get these five books for one credit, go ahead and get it, instead of one book at a time. Believe me if you buy the first book, you are going to want the second and if you buy the second, etc. Since this is five books I will go over each, in case you buy one at a time. I will try an be brief. I mean if if takes you as long to read the review as the book, why not just get the book.

    1, The Sword and The Stone (1938). This is the best of the five and is mostly a fantasy. Wart/Arthur is turned into several animals to learn about life. There is also an interesting part on boar hunting. Did you know on a boar spear there is a cross piece to keep the animal from running up the spear to get to you.

    2.The Witch In the Wood (1939) This is shorter, darker and not as funny, nor as good as the book before and after, but necessary as it explains the origin of the Round Table.

    3. The Ill-Made Knight (1940) This is all about Lancelot. You really get to know his character, matter of fact there is more character building in this book then the others. This is the longest of the books and actually goes on about three hours longer then it should have. Did you know that Lancelot was extremely ugly? This is one of the reasons he became such a great Knight. It is such a big part of his character I can't believe so many movies chose to make him some stupid Handsome Hunk. He is a lot more complicated as an Ugly Man. You are introduced to the tragic character Elaine, who starts out as a trickster, but who you end up feeling strongly sorry for. Guinvere turns out to be one horny queen.

    4. The Candle in The Wind (1958) Does Might Mean Right is the common theme in all these books. It is especially in this one and the book has several long speeches. I myself as a child never understood why John Wayne won ever fight he was in. Until True Grit, John Wayne strongly believed he should never be killed in a movie. Heroes don't die and never lose fights. King Arthur's mother dies at the age of 70, in bed with a young man she seduced. In the original "Once and Future King" this was the last book, as it should have stayed.

    5.The Book of Merlyn (1977) This was published after T.H. White's death. He wanted it in the original (Once and Future King), but the editor would not allow it. That was one smart editor. This book brought the whole series down from Five stars to Four. This book has no plot and is 97% anti-war speeches. There is a part where the King is turned into a ant and then into a goose. Those parts and the end which explains what finally happens to everybody are the only good parts to the book. This is mostly a debate where White argues both sides. I also am aniti-war, but no explanation is given about what to do about people like Hitler. White seems to say let him keep murdering Jews.

    All in all this is very well written, is very entertaining and if you are a fan of the Legend of Arthur, then it is a must read.

    The narrator is excellent.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy LARAMIE, WY, United States 07-17-12
    Wendy LARAMIE, WY, United States 07-17-12
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    "promising start, disappointing overall"
    What did you like best about The Once and Future King? What did you like least?

    2.5 stars out of 5. The beginning of this book is familiar to anybody who has seen the Disney movie "The Sword in the Stone." I loved the concept of Merlyn as a person moving backwards through time. His meeting with Arthur as a boy was poignant because of that -- To Merlyn, it was the last time they would meet, while to the Wort, it was only the first.

    The characters of Lancelot and Guenever were well done, as was that of Kay, Arthur's foster brother. Actually there were many characters I enjoyed in this book. The reason for my low score lies mainly in the ending, which involved a long-winded Animal Council about how people ought to manage themselves. I disagreed with some of the arguments and found them boring and heavy, something similar to the 50 page speech delivered by John Galt towards the end of 'Atlas Shrugged.' I'm not opposed to philosophical discussion, but there are better ways to handle it in a story, in my opinion.

    Oh, and I thought the witches -- Morgause et. al -- were weakly portrayed. The most you could say for them was they had some pretty weird house-building ideas and they seduced a lot of men. Even their witchcraft / connection to the faerie realms was poorly explored. For a MUCH more interesting story about them (and a great portrayal of all the female characters in the Camelot story) check out "The Mists of Avalon."


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Utah 07-21-14
    Amazon Customer Utah 07-21-14 Member Since 2009

    tired teacher

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    "Not quite as I had remembered it"

    I loved this book when I read it as a teenager and so when I saw it on Audible, I couldn't wait to get at it. I can't say I was disappointed, but it was a lot different than I had remembered it. It is a well written book about the Arthurian legend, and I did enjoy it, but not as much as that first time when I could not put it down. However, Neville Jason's performance was wonderful, and I totally enjoyed listening to him read it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

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    "What a Delight"
    What did you love best about The Once and Future King?

    Just because I didn't give this five stars doesn't mean it's not close to perfect. This is as close as it gets. A brilliant narrator makes this classic playful, funny, smart. This is an emotional and suspenseful romp through one of the most legendary times of history. When I read the book the first time, yea high to an ant, I loved it. The audiobook is icing on a pretty perfect cake. You'll rediscover whatever you loved in the book, if you've read it before. If you haven't read it? Be prepared for a delightful experience. It has extraordinary writing that can make you laugh, that can make your toes curl, that can make you shout out, "NO! Why, oh why are you choosing that?"
    In short, your engagement with the literature is all but complete immersion.
    I LOVE that in a book!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    All of the characters are so well-fleshed out, it's a matter of choosing for yourself. Of course, Wart is the favorite. But then there's Merlin. Then there's...! And so and so! And I can't forget...! All wonderfully drawn.


    What does Neville Jason bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'll be listening to more by Neville Jason. Magnificent voice styling. He brings a real joy and artistry to his characters, and he does well with pacing the story, with developing suspense. A narrator can make or break an audiobook. Mr. Jason definitely makes this one of my all time favorites.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Well, heavens. The title already says it all, doesn't it? Why change a good thing?


    Any additional comments?

    I usually listen to audiobooks, well, all the time. But sometimes I like to set them to fall asleep to. No matter what the book is, even the sublime and passionate "Endurance," however, I wind up falling asleep. Which I love to do. With "The Once and Future King," though, I found myself wide-eyed, desperate to hear just a little bit more, and a little bit more. This was a pleasure of a book!
    If you love audiobooks, treat yourself to this set.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Citymouse Chicago, IL United States 05-17-13
    Citymouse Chicago, IL United States 05-17-13

    Citymouse

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    "Long, boring and tedious"
    What disappointed you about The Once and Future King?

    I had high expectations for this, having always been fascinated by the Arthurian legend and being a huge fan of Lord of the Rings.

    There were parts of it that were as solid as expected, but they're sandwiched in between some of the most boring passages I've ever read.

    Imagine watching the pre-game warmup to the superbowl, where the commentators discuss all aspects of the game down to an insane level of microscopic detail and then instead of showing you the game itself they just skip over it and tell you the score at the end.

    Imagine listening to people drone on for pages and pages discussing their favorite kind of bird and why.

    Most of the attempts at humor were best suited for a 5-year-old. It just fell flat.

    Overall about two-thirds of it were a waste of time and the remaining third should've been expanded. Only my own curiosity and the strength of the guy reading it made it possible for me to finish.


    Has The Once and Future King turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No.


    Which character – as performed by Neville Jason – was your favorite?

    Merlin


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    My reaction was a series of yawns with brief moments of actual interest.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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