Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 23

By T.H. White

Book 1, Chapter 23

  • Kay is finally knighted, and the group leaves for London.
  • England back in the day was a pretty desolate place, mostly wilderness, with only a few towns that had good inns. Along the way, Sir Ector's group sometimes took shelter at castles or even pitiful shacks.
  • They finally reach London, which is full up with people. It's so full that they have to share three beds among five people.
  • The following morning, Kay is nervous—he's been up all night thinking about the tournament and afraid he won't be able to beat the other guys.
  • Sir Ector, Kay and Wart are basically country bumpkins, so the London tournament arena is quite impressive to them. They've never seen anything like it, and are quite intimidated.
  • Of course, something just has to go wrong. Kay has forgotten his sword at the inn.
  • Sir Kay orders Wart to go back to the inn and get his sword. Along with this order, Sir Kay (always charming) throws in an insult: he'll give Wart a whole shilling if he brings it on time. Plus, he insultingly calls him "Squire" (instead of Wart).
  • We don't blame Wart for being ticked off at this. Kay is literally lording it over him.
  • Too bad for Wart: when he arrives at the inn, it's closed. Everyone is off to see the tournament, and the joint is locked up tight.
  • Where on earth can Wart get a sword on such short notice?
  • He comes across a churchyard, in the middle of which is a stone with a sword stuck through an anvil.
  • Figuring it must be a war memorial, Wart decides to try to take this sword. Makes sense, we guess.
  • As he starts to pull on the sword, he fancies he hears music, and senses people around him, and a bright light shines down upon him.
  • But, the sword remains stuck fast—at least until Wart calls out to Merlyn to help him draw the sword.
  • All of a sudden, he is surrounded by all of the thousands of animals that have helped him in his education, and he starts to feel his power increase.
  • The third time's a charm, and Wart finally draws the sword from the anvil.
  • After he makes his way back to the tournament, Wart gives Sir Kay the sword.
  • He tells Sir Kay that he found it stuck in an anvil in a churchyard.
  • Not really paying attention, Kay is all of a sudden like, "What?!?" Then he calls his father over and tells him that he (Sir Kay) pulled the sword from the stone. Wow. What a lying liar that lies.
  • Sir Ector instructs them to go back to the church, and he makes Sir Kay promise that he did, indeed, draw the sword out himself.
  • After a moment, Sir Kay admits that he's a lying liar that lies, and that it was Wart who actually pulled out the sword. So, Kay redeems himself a bit.
  • Sir Ector makes Wart put the sword back, and then Ector and Kay both try to pull it. Not happening.
  • Wart just keeps pulling it back out, and then all of a sudden, Sir Ector is kneeling before him, and Wart doesn't like this a bit.
  • Sir Ector admits that he's not really Wart's father, and that Wart must come from higher blood than he knew. Wart dismisses this, though, and says it doesn't matter. He obviously still regards Sir Ector as his pops.
  • Before he gets up, Sir Ector asks only that Wart will be a good king, and will make Sir Kay his seneschal (which is a kind of caretaker of his lands). By this time, Kay is kneeling down too.
  • Wart says that of course he'll do this, but he really wants them to get up right now, because their kneeling is just totally breaking his heart.
  • He wishes he never even saw the danged sword, and bursts out crying.

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