August 1st, 2010

The Sword In The Stone

I read The Sword in the Stone as a child. In fact I read it twice- because there are two versions- the larky kiddies' book it started out as- and the rather more adult thing it became when White retrospectively incorporated it in his Arthurian cycle The Once and Future King.

I remember being dismayed by the second version. White had scrubbed my favourite chapter- which had a giant in it and gave full range to the zany humour of King Pellinore-  and replaced it with some high-minded, didactic stuff about migrating geese.  It's the second version I'm re-reading now- and, though I haven't yet come to the geese, I suspect the chapter they replaced was just too silly to live.

I loved King Pellinore- so much so that I later stole him for use in a narrative poem of my own- but that's fair, because White had already stolen him from Lewis Carroll. There's a lot of Carroll in The Sword in the Stone- and even more Kipling (equal measures of the Jungle Books and Puck of Pook's Hill).  I like Pellinore less than I did. He and Grummore and Ector- with their public school honour code and their verbal mannerisms- rather date the book. Anachronism is fun as long as the misplaced thing remains au courant, but that's never for long- and these Blimps- representatives of a completely extinct type- intrude quaintly into the ambient timelessness. 

Of course Merlyn is my favourite character now.

We'll pass over the film in silence. It was a travesty. I hate it. Like most of the texts that Disney has trashed in its quest for world domination The Sword in the Stone is an English book about the experience of being English.