I’m pretty young in the scheme of things. Twenty-five (twenty-six in 2 weeks!) isn’t old enough to remember much about the 80s, Mt. St. Helens erupting, the Reagan presidency or even big hair. So you’ll pardon me when I tell you that T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is a forgotten classic for my generation. In fact, it might qualify as a complete unknown.
I read it because my mom had an old paperback edition in our bookshelves, and because I’m liable to read any and all material available – age-appropriate or no. I’m not sure I’ve met another person (in real life) under the age of 40 who has even heard of this book, much less read it for pleasure. It could just be that I run in the wrong circles, but it’s a shame, regardless.
Why? Because this is a classic novel. It’s epic. It’s Arthurian myth. It’s witty and extremely intelligent. It’s coming of age and magic and legend. But mostly it’s the story of a mischievous and wise old man named Merlin, and his protégé Arthur. It’s a series of adventures, both magical and mundane, that make up the traditional Arthurian lore – all joined together into a grand narrative with a deft touch of humor and human understanding.
This book is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot; of Merlin and Owl and Guinevere; of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war. It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad.
So, who needs to read this? My generation, obviously. And anyone in search of entertaining and worthwhile literature. Discover a classic that just might surprise you. In a good way.