Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
BOOK ONE: THE SWORD IN THE STONE
Summary and Notes
This short chapter opens with Kay and Wart playing at archery. They play a game called Rovers that involves shooting their arrows at “agreed upon marks.” Then the boys hunt rabbits, kill one, and gut it. The boys shoot one more arrow in celebration and a crow flies by and snatches the arrow in its beak. The boys understand this as an omen and are suitably unsettled. Kay declares that the crow was a witch.
Summary and Notes
Part of Wart and Kay’s education is learning how to joust (or tilting), which Merlyn thinks is ridiculous. The author explains the complicated nature of not only the sport itself but its equipment. Jousting involves two knights rushing at each other on horses with lances; each tries to knock the other off his horse.
Kay in particular is learning how to joust because he one day will be a knight, whereas Wart will not. Wart is disgruntled by this fact and complains to Merlyn one afternoon while they watch Kay practice. Wart has dreams of the knighthood and is impressed by its glamour, something that Merlyn seeks to dispel by allowing the boy to see a “real” joust.
So begins the second of Wart’s lessons: he is suddenly transported into the forest, where he sees his favorite knight of all, King Pellinore, who is still searching for the Questing Beast. Merlyn has arranged for Pellinore and Sir Grummore, Ector’s friend to fight each other that very afternoon.
What follows in the continuation of White’s satire on the knighthood. The knights are barely able to fight each other, or move for that matter, because of the weight of their armor. Furthermore, there are elaborate rules to jousting that imitates the “I did not,” “You did too,” character of children’s arguments. The two knights move back and forth clumsily, occasionally knocking one another down (and then having to help one another up because the armor is so heavy), unable to see each other because of the visors, and arguing over the rules. The joust “ends” as the knights run into each other and knock each pother out cold. Merlyn finds the whole situation humorous, but it is unclear whether Wart recognizes the absurdity of the joust as he hopes for their well being as the chapter ends.
The reader understands at the onset of the book that Wart is the future King Arthur, and that Merlyn knows this will happen ahead of time because he is a magician. Therefore, Wart’s lessons take on extra importance. In this chapter Merlyn is trying to impress on Wart the futility of the knighthood; whether the joust between Pellinore and Grummore has had its desired effect, the reader will have to wait and see.