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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

BOOK TWO: THE QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS

Chapter 3

Summary and Notes

Kay is curious about Queen Morgause and asks Merlyn about her. The young men and the wizard are out hunting. Merlyn evades his questions, but uses the opportunity to discuss why the King is fighting the Gaels anyhow.

Merlyn again expresses sympathy for the Gaels because of their displacement. He tells the men that there will be a new war this year, but instead of just being against Lot, as the battle in chapter 2 was, it will be against all of the rebels, who have allied together against Arthur.

At this point, Merlyn gives a short history of the aggression with which various have displaced these rebels, and relative novelty of the British (or the Normans, or the Gauls) on their soil.

Merlyn is clearly continuing his quest to make Arthur a responsible, peaceful, and revolutionary king. He leaves the young king with an ominous message: Life is bitter enough without war.”


Chapters 3 and 4 reinforces the lessons as themes of the previous chapter, and thus it is not essential that the reader make much of what is said beyond understanding the idea that Arthur is on the verge of restructuring England’s entire way of being.

Chapter 4

Summary and Notes

The conversation continues on another day. The young men and Merlyn discuss the philosophical problem of whether war is ever justified. Of course, this must have been a real problem for the British in the late 1930’s; if ever there seemed to be a reason to fight war, it must have been as a defense to Hitler’s aggression. It is unclear here whether the author is asking the British to find another way to deal with this aggression in the 20 th century as well, or whether this conversation is local to the medieval age of Arthur.

Merlyn believes that there is never a justification for war, never, and Kay and Arthur argue with him, presenting him with various hypothetical situations, which he argues against. Merlyn does relent a bit when presented with the idea of pure aggression, but he points out the difficulty of figuring out exactly who is the aggressor. While it should be obvious that whoever strikes the first blow is the aggressor, Merlyn says that it is sometimes impossible to determine who that is.

Arthur asks Merlyn to tell him about Lot; interestingly, at this point Kay interrupts as in Book One and wants to hear more about Morgause, but Arthur vetoes him effectively. This establishes Arthur’s supremacy over Kay once and for all.

Merlyn gives this background information about Lot: he is a noble, he is a “cipher,” and is only fighting because Morgause makes him. Merlyn equates fighting for a lot of these disenfranchised noblemen to fox hunting: the men don’t take it seriously; it is racist, classist and petty.

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