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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 (2881 )
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4.3 (2516 )
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Performance
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  •  
    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
  •  
    John 07-18-17
    John 07-18-17 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 08-09-17
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Missing chapters"

    I'm reading this book as a summer reading requirement. I have been reading along with the audiobook when I'm with my book, but only listening when I'm out the house. I noticed that some chapters and sections were missing from The Sword in the Stone such as chapter 13 and 17

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Jett Albany, NY USA 05-22-17
    Susan Jett Albany, NY USA 05-22-17 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book, but..."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend it to anyone who loves the book--it's performed beautifully, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. My only complaint--and it's not an actual complaint since I'm not sure how they'd get around this--is that because of the nature of the book (ie: it's actually several books, written over a period of years, and much revised & altered, borrowed from, changed as they went in & out of publication.) a couple of my favorite passages in the 'first book' (The Wart's time with the geese & the ants) were omitted. Other passages I'd never read were a lovely surprise, so all in all, it's still a grand performance of a glorious book--though I rather wish I could ALSO purchase a performance of Neville Jason reading my old dog-earred version of the Sword in the Stone -- with Lyo-Lyok & the good/not-good ants!


    What about Neville Jason’s performance did you like?

    What a voice! And he did a fine job of differentiating between characters without tipping into parody.


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

    It's something like 50 hours long. Not so much a book for listening to in one sitting!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-23-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Spectacular "

    I love and cherish this book. It's message will carry on for generations. I recommend this book to everyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy Squiers 10-21-17 Member Since 2017
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    "A childish version"

    I felt the other reviews were misleading, so I wanted to put this out there. Be aware, this is a childish and whimsical version of the King Arthur legend. I was expecting a more serious, gritty style—like Lord of the Rings. Not endless paragraphs about silly things like Merlin keeping frogs and mice under his hat, or pages of The Wart learning to swim like a fish. The narrator, while very skilled, feels like he is reading to a group of grade school kids at the library. If that is what you are looking for, this will be great. Otherwise, skip this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    a audiobook listner 10-19-17
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    "Fantastic narrator--best ever!!"

    I am astonished that no one has reviewed this audiobook yet. The narrator is just amazing. He had me enthralled in the story. I have listened to dozens of audiobooks of many of the great classics. Neville Jason is by far the best I heard. In addition to being a master storyteller, he can so do many accents! He's amazing!

    On top of that, the story itself was fantastic. Interesting, adventurous, well-written. I'm about 98% done with the audiobook, and have enjoyed it thoroughly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anonymous 10-06-17
    10-06-17 Member Since 2016
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    8
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    "Pretty. Every child knows war is bad yet exciting."

    Narrator is unbelievable with accents. Neville Jason could likely command 100 characters through the cut of his vernacular jib, with War and Peace to boot! Chose this book just because of the narrator after War and Peace.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-06-17 Member Since 2017
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    "An epic journey "

    A amazing story tead by an enchanting narrator. If you like classic fantasy you will not want to miss this adventure!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-03-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Not really that good"

    I enjoy Arthurian legend, but this was a let down. It was boring and almost put me to sleep at times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • W. Reid
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "Magical"

    Though I liked all the books, the first was my favourite. Captivated from the first words and the narration is excellent; as good as Stephen Fry in the Potter books. Neville Jason manages all the parts beautifully and with enthusiasm. Well worth the money.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • J
    Ellesmere Port, United Kingdom
    7/26/12
    Overall
    "An old favourite made even more enjoyable"

    One of my favourite books from childhood. When you listen again as an adult you appreciate fully the
    wit and wisdom of the author. Neville Jason's narration is delightful, capturing the many characters perfectly.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. K. A. Carr
    UK
    1/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The all encompasing Arthur"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I do recommend this but you do have to be dedicated, it is a long "read". The story is of course interesting but TH White's discussions on everything from falconry to warfare, from costume to food, from fortifications to manners are a revelation.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not sure - Merlin probably; for the humour and his knowledge of the future. The warnings of what was to happen in nazi Germany were fascinating especially as, I believe, it was written around 1938.


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

    Lancelot - he was ugly, lovable, completely moral (that should go first) and just GOOD.


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

    No - it was so long and intricate it had to be taken in bites (whilst I was ironing - I grew to love ironing).


    Any additional comments?

    I cried at the end and I don't know if it was the story or the fact that the story had come to an end.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Victoria
    Oxford, United Kingdom
    7/26/12
    Overall
    "Full of delights"

    Such a delightful book. Neville Jason is an amazing narrator. His voices are varied and so apt for the characters. Makes me feel like a child again.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine Howard
    Newport, S Wales
    9/20/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Starts well, ends up as an author's soapbox"
    Any additional comments?

    Beautifully read by Neville Jason, this series of books starts well with a comical tale of Arthur's boyhood, but the rest of the books become heavy going, and especially towards the end seems nothing more than a soapbox for the author to preach from.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Steve
    2/3/17
    Overall
    Performance
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    "One of the best books of my life."

    Great book, brilliantly read. incredibly funny, tragic, thoughtful, poignant, relevant, beautiful and vulnerable. Just superb!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • MaDr8y
    Cambs., UK
    6/30/16
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    Love love love it. Everybody should read\listen to it immediately and act accordingly.
    It's like listening to Compared to What by Roberta Flack or toast & butter (salted butter, your majesty). It just makes sense. Good and the product of much considered work and ready and fresh and valuable. And beautiful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • C
    4/4/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I keep listening to it over and over again!"

    It is an interesting book and full of action and adventure.
    It teaches you in old language.
    But the best thing about it is that it is all fiction.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    London, United Kingdom
    12/30/11
    Overall
    "Let Down"

    Knowing the books well I was very let down by the narrator who sounds like Brian Sewell with a sour taste in his mouth.

    Be warned, listen to the sample before buying to check you can live with the style of reading.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    pre St Clar, France
    12/30/12
    Overall
    "Historical story but with made up events too"

    The Once And Future King is a very interesting story, I would suggest listening to it in little stages so you can come back for more of it later - there is a lot of information to take in! The Once and Future King is a story set in the past, but the story is made up. The tutor is a wizard... which is lots of fun.

    Jodie age 14

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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