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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 6

Summary and Notes

The second round of battles between Lotís confederation and King Arthurís army continue, and King Arthur has a revelation. He climbs up the tower to tell Merlyn his ideas, but Merlyn dismisses him, saying that now that Arthur is a proper king, he should summon people to him.

Arthur then gives his first speech to a summoned Merlyn, Ector and Kay. Arthur is uncertain about his ideas and words, but slowly builds in confidence as he gauges Merlynís reaction to his ideas. His ideas are as follows:

a) the ethos of the land up until now has been Might makes Right;
b) we shouldnít always do what we can, but rather what we ought to;
c) Merlyn disagrees with war but nevertheless has been helping Arthur win these current battles;
d) Merlyn must have a reason for allowing Arthur to keep fighting
e) that reason must be that this should be the battle to end all battles;
f) in order to make a fresh start and begin something radically different
g) what we ought to do should rule the land; that is, Right should be Might;
h) All the opposing parties involved in the current battle can be united once Arthur has won this last battle and given a chance to be part of this new way of ruling and living.

Arthur in addition adds that he plans on making this new knighthood, this new order of chivalry fashionable so that knights from all of the different factions will desire to be part of it and do good throughout the countryside.

Merlyn is ecstatic about Arthurís new approach; he has, after all, been trying to bring this about since Arthurís boyhood. This is the beginning of Might as Right rather than Might is Right.

Chapter 7

Summary and Notes

Back on the island, Pellinore is lovesick. In turns out that a few months earlier on their trip before the magic barge landed on the island, he met and fell in love with the daughter of the Queen of Flanders, whose name is Piggy. Now he is lovesick and forlorn and wants nothing more than to see her again.


Morgause wants to capitalize on the situation by seducing Pellinore or either of the other knights. She lures them into the countryside under the pretense that they are going to hunt unicorn together, and she will be the virgin required for unicorn bait.

The reader learns all of this secondhand via a conversation between Morgauseís four sons. It is clear from the conversation that not only are they enamored by the visiting knights, but that they are skeptical of Morgauseís virginity, and thus her ability to catch a unicorn. There is a lot of confusion on the boysí part about the nature of their motherís sexuality, especially for Agravaine.

The boys decide to visit St. Toirdealbach for counsel on how to catch a unicorn. They would like to surprise their mother and the knights with a unicorn, for then they would win her love and the knightsí admiration. Apparently Morgause has not seen or spoken to the boys for over a week, and, like puppies, they need her attention, no matter how distracted it is.

St. Toirdealbach goes through he books until he finds the information the boys need. The boys find a virgin; the kitchenmaid named Meg, who is extremely reluctant and scared to play this crucial part in their scheme.

The boys take Meg violently into the forest, dragging her by the hair, and threaten her into waiting by a tree for the unicorn to appear.

The unicorn does appear, and he is far more sympathetic and beautiful than any of the children expected. He peacefully and movingly places his head in Megís lap, and all of the children are moved, except for Agravaine, who has a moment of violent delusion. The boy imagines that Meg is his mother, and is a rage of sexual confusion, kills the unicorn. His brothers and Meg try and stop him, because they understand the nobility of the creature, but to no avail.

The scene is extremely upsetting for all of the children; the unicorn dies with his head in Megís lap, and Agravaine cries that it was necessary for him to kill the unicorn in order to protect his mother. The boys remember that the whole point of the unicorn was to win their motherís affection and this desire for her overrides their sorrow for the passing of the creature. The boys then have to slice off the head as their souvenir; this scene is particularly grisly.

The boys lug the unicorn head home and display it for their mother, who returning home after a frustrating day with the knights is too distracted to notice it. When she finds out about the unicorn later that evening, she whips the children because she is upset and her lack of success with the knights.

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