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The Once and Future King Audiobook

The Once and Future King

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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

4.0 (2889 )
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  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 04-22-12
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 04-22-12

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "King Arthur's story from birth to ?"
    Where does The Once and Future King rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of the best books on Audible! It is a classic story told with a fantastic narrator, made to read aloud. A wonderful listen.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The many characters both animal and human that make up the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Every time an animal is mentioned we learn how humans could do a better job if we only learned to follow the animals.
    This was a great book to end on Earth Day as the last book has Arthur the old man embracing "his England" and realizing he loves her more than any one else in his life. Beautiful sentiment.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I think the scene that stands out the most is when Arthur as Wart runs into Madame Mim and Merlin has to save him and Kay from the mad witch woman. It's a very funny scene and is told with lots of witty lines. I laughed out loud!


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Guenevere and Lancelot realize that Mordred is outside the door ready to arrest them and they realize they will never have that special something between them and Arthur anymore. Very sad.


    Any additional comments?

    I highly recommend this book. It is the source for Camelot the Musical and Disney's Sword in the Stone. It is much more than just a story. I learned so much about different animal species and political parties besides being told a great epic.
    The Narrator is top notch and has his characters down pat.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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.

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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.

    17 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Amherst, MA, USA 07-13-12
    Jessica Amherst, MA, USA 07-13-12 Member Since 2017
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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!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sher from Provo Utah 07-21-14
    Sher from Provo Utah 07-21-14 Member Since 2015

    Tired teacher. That is, REtired 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.

    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John 07-18-17
    John 07-18-17 Member Since 2016

    St. Louis, Missouri

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    "Five Books, Four Stars"

    Ben Webster plays “Autumn Leaves” differently than Miles Davis. Botticelli paints Our Blessed Mother differently than a Jan van Eyck. And T. H. White tells the story of Arthur differently from Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, Chretien de Troyes or Sir Thomas Mallory. In all three cases, we are perfectly familiar with the subject matter. The delight is in seeing how each artist makes the familiar material new. The only question is, do they succeed?

    T. H. White does, in high style, through the first four of his five novels that run about as long as the book on which they are loosely based, Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur. He is a supreme craftsman of the language; his descriptions of human feelings, or pieces of armor, or birds and beasts and landscapes—especially birds and beasts and landscapes—can be astounding in their precision and clarity. Of course, that’s T. H. White the Naturalist at work. He also has a lot of fun with time: Wart, Sir Ector, Lancelot and Guinevere are living forwards through time as Merlyn is living backwards, but even that is not strictly adhered to. Merlyn knows about microbes, yet Sir Pelinor wears spectacles behind his visor. At one point Merlyn asks for his hat and plucks from the air a black topper, circa 1890, which he throws back into the void, calling it an anachronism. But what constitutes an anachronism in a story where the future King Arthur (6th Century) meets “Robin Wood” (12th Century)? It took me some chapters to settle down into willing-suspension-of-disbelief. Once I did I enjoyed the ride very much—especially White’s telling defense of the Middle Ages against our Modern condescension.

    The first volume, The Sword in the Stone, is a charming children’s book. With the second volume, The Witch in the Wood, things start getting psychologically complex and deeply insightful. This passage from chapter 11 of the fourth novel, The Candle in the Wind, is a fine example:

    “People write tragedies in which fatal blondes betray their paramours to ruin, in which Cressidas, Cleopatras, Delilahs, and sometimes even naughty daughters like Jessica bring their lovers or their parents to distress: but these are not the heart of tragedy. They are fripperies to the soul of man. What does it matter if Antony did fall upon his sword? It only killed him. It is the mother's not the lover's lust that rots the mind. It is that which condemns the tragic character to his walking death. It is Jocasta, not Juliet, who dwells in the inner chamber. It is Gertrude, not the silly Ophelia, who sends Hamlet to his madness. The heart of tragedy does not lie in stealing or taking away. Any feather-pated girl can steal a heart. It lies in giving, in putting on, in adding, in smothering without the pillows. Desdemona robbed of life or honour is nothing to a Mordred, robbed of himself—his soul stolen, overlaid, wizened, while the mother-character lives in triumph, superfluously and with stifling love endowed on him, seemingly innocent of ill-intention. Mordred was the only son of Orkney who never married. He, while his brothers fled to England, was the one who stayed alone with her for twenty years—her living larder. Now that she was dead, he had become her grave. She existed in him like the vampire. When he moved, when he blew his nose, he did it with her movement. When he acted, he became as unreal as she had been, pretending to be a virgin for the unicorn. He dabbled in the same cruel magic. He had even begun to keep lap dogs like her—although he had always hated hers with the same bitter jealousy as that with which he had hated her lovers.”

    That’s nothing short of illuminating. But the final installment of the story, The Book of Merlyn, very nearly destroyed the delight I had taken in the first four books.

    Some years ago, I read that J. R. R. Tolkien always insisted his Lord of the Rings should never be read as an allegory of the Second World War. That used to puzzle me; it doesn’t now. Writing during the war, White draws definite parallels to his own times, even going as far as to tell us Mordred is forming a Fascist organization that threatens Jews. I can’t tell you why, but that diminished the impact of the story—at least for me. It sounds preachy, sanctimonious (the besetting foible of people who, like White, are agnostics) and limiting. The anachronisms mentioned above are fun; these just get heavy-handed.

    Oddly, much of this occurs in the fourth book of the series, The Candle in the Wind. I ignored it because the story was so compelling. But by the time we hit the committee meeting in the final volume, I was just waiting for the thing to end.

    This extended meeting between Arthur, Merlyn and an assortment of woodland creatures, concerns war: its roots and its eradication. That had always been at the heart of the Arthurian project: the rechanneling of violence to good ends (the Medieval concept of chivalry). The problem (for me) is that I was raised in the 1960’s and 1970’s, on the PBS-esque, humanity-loathing, animal-admiring, one-world doctrines Merlyn espouses. They struck me now as all rather shopworn.

    He exalts the patience of birds who raise coo coos in their nests, or the “love lives of ravens”—forgetting that animals act upon instinct, while we humans must make a conscious decision to be brave or generous or patient. Likewise, seeking a cure to war while insisting upon the individuality of man seems to me a logical Mobius Strip. Only if we weren’t individuals, only if we didn’t have the pride to feel an affront or the courage to stand up to a bully—only then would warfare cease. But there I go, sounding like the committee meeting I’m carping about. The conversation in this last book gets as tangled as the anachronisms in the first four.

    In the end, the committee is really a conclave of central planners trying to construct heaven on earth—forgetting that, like the poor, war will always be with us. And forgetting (or ignoring) that Christ’s suffering and death (under the very brutishness they are trying to eradicate) redeems suffering, death and our brutish lives. But that’s T. H. White the Agnostic at work. "Notably free from fearing God,” one scholar noted, “he was basically afraid of the human race." So, despite some fine writing, the committee meeting turns in upon itself seemingly endlessly, never finding an answer. If you exclude God from the universe, complaining about sin strikes me as pointless. I’m not trying to be awful here; I, too, once thought Art, Discussion, Education, Enlightenment would lead to the Truth, a new Truth no one had ever thought of before. Then I found I was wrong.

    Final score: one star for The Sword in the Stone, one star for The Witch in the Wood, one star for The Ill-Made Knight and one star for The Candle in the Wind. But no star for The Book of Merlyn.
    However, our reader, Neville Jason, would get six stars if that were possible. Maybe even more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nelson 03-27-17
    Nelson 03-27-17 Member Since 2015
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    "This version has chapters missing!!!"

    Book 1, Chapter 13 - Wart as an Ant - Everything not forbidden is compulsory - missing!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 01-27-14 Member Since 2017

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth FLORENCE, AZ, United States 09-17-12
    Elizabeth FLORENCE, AZ, United States 09-17-12
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    "Classic knights in shining armor"
    What made the experience of listening to The Once and Future King the most enjoyable?

    I commute 1.5 hours one-way three days a week with my toddler and we listened to this book together. I doubt very much that he got a lot of it, but when it came time to buy a Halloween costume he said he wanted to be a knight, so it must have rubbed off! The book made my drive so enjoyable that I actually looked forward to my commute!


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

    Neville Jason is excellent! The voices for the various characters are well-done and the pace of the read is perfect. It was much more entertaining than what I might have heard in my head had I read it alone.


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

    I forgot how witty this book is! Old King Pelennor always gives me a laugh.


    Any additional comments?

    You'll have to excuse the patriarchal slant of the book given the time it was written and the time in which it is set. Women were certainly not given equal consideration in either. However, the story does transport you to the medieval times and gives a good sense of life in that time and place. I loved it!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Ewing, NJ, United States 09-07-12
    Joseph Ewing, NJ, United States 09-07-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Classic King Arthur Book"

    If you like Arthurian legends and streamlined/rewritten TV shows and movies don't cut it, what are you waiting for?!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey C. Coyne Chapel Hill 03-25-12
    Jeffrey C. Coyne Chapel Hill 03-25-12

    Jeff Coyne

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    "A Classic"

    Beautifully written, well performed and quite enjoyable. If you have any interest in the King Arthur legend, it is a must read

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • rachelle
    8/12/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing story."

    Absolutely loved it, wept when it was finished.
    Would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
    Difficult to follow up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. A. Moore
    Redditch UK
    6/18/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Tedious"

    I love Just King Arthur takes but this I found slow and tedious.
    I don't know if it's the writing or the narration because I liked Disney's animated version and the Richard Harris film Camelot, both of which were based on parts of this story. I didn't even get 1/4 through before giving up.
    Having said that my daughter likes it so perhaps it's just me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Simon
    walsall, United Kingdom
    2/13/13
    Overall
    "Disappointingly dull"



    Be warned, I gave this one star before realizing that I couldn't remove it! Although I wanted so very much to love these books .... If only I'd known how lacking in description and dull these books were I wouldn't have struggled on for so long hoping for some improvement. As it was I became more and more disheartened and frustrated the more I listened.

    4 of 9 people found this review helpful

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