Book Review: ‘The Book of Merlyn’ by T. H. White

Posted: 14 March 2016 in Book reviews
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In a riveting conclusion to T. H. White’s classic ‘The Once and Future King’, we see Arthur at his camp before the final battle against Mordred. He is visited by Merlyn, whom he believes is a dream. Merlyn tells him he has two lessons yet to learn. These lessons are supposed to help him with the war. He takes Arthur back to Badger’s home in order to do so. There he finds all his animal friends. They converse together for a while before sending him off for his first lesson.

His first lesson is with some ants. And he hates it. The ants have no real minds of their own. They simply do what they are told and say what they should say. Anyone who goes against is deemed as ‘undone’ and is thus removed. The longer he is with them, the more disgusted he gets at them. It comes to a head when the ants decide to wage war against the neighbouring nest.

As he recovers from the experience, they discuss the experience. Arthur absolutely did not enjoy it. Once he is able, he leaves to finish off his lessons. This time he finds himself with the geese. His experience with them is quite different than with the ants. He befriends on of the geese and they become very close. He learns their ways and quickly becomes as if one of them. Then, in the height of his happiness, he returns to his normal self.

Arthur is angry at his return and tries to cope. He has seen his life and what he wasn’t able to have. But as he gazes over the landscape of his beloved country, he comes to terms with his destiny. And so he returns to his camp to complete what he started.

My Thoughts

I discovered this book shortly before finishing The Once and Future KingObviously I had to read it since it is the ‘true last chapter’ of T. H. White’s classic.

The story fits in perfectly with it’s aforementioned predecessor. It completes the story in the same fashion and storytelling. In regards to the story, it sounded awfully familiar. I could swear I had read those same stories before. I did a quick skim of the copy I had but couldn’t find anything. Otherwise, I enjoyed it better than any of the others. It had more feels in it than the others. You got to see a side of Arthur not seen in any of the stories. He is filled with regret for a life seemingly unfulfilled. It is something I can take personally as I oftentimes wonder if what I am doing at this moment is fulfilling or if I will look back at this time and regret I didn’t do more. What I like is that Arthur’s feeling is something that thousands, if not millions, of people experience. It makes Arthur more relatable, that royalty suffer from the same matters of heart and conscience that we other mere mortals do. You also get to see some real emotion from him. Throughout the stories he was never seemed truly emotional, but here, in this story, you see him get angry and then mournful. I love the humanity Arthur is given.

Something else I liked about this story was that there really wasn’t anyone new in it. Sure there are the ants and Lyó-lyok, his goose companion, but no new primary characters. Rather, it is a reunion of Arthur’s beloved animal friends, and Merlyn of course. It was like his life flashing before him in slow motion before his final end. It was nice being reminded of Badger and the others.

All in all, as I said before, I liked this better than all the other stories in The Once and Future King. Of course, If you have read the TOFK then you must read this. If not, then do so so you can read The Book of Merlyn. Enjoy 😉

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