Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 1, Chapter 5

By T.H. White

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Book 1, Chapter 5

  • We learn that Sir Ector (and Wart and Kay) live at The Castle of the Forest Sauvage. Best castle name, or best castle name?
  • On the downside, we also learn that these are some troubled times, so when tyrants attack or there's a raid of any kind, all the people in the nearby village flock to the castle for protection.
  • The castle is still standing, and you can go visit it if you're ever over in England.
  • We get a long and quite detailed description of the castle. Its architectural niftiness is mostly for protection (or for offense—like pouring boiling hot lead or oil onto invaders' heads).
  • Today, Wart is hanging out in the kennel.
  • There's a boy who lives in the kennel, called (wait for it) the Dog Boy. He takes care of the dogs and acts kind of like a dog, and is missing his nose because it was bitten off by a crazed guy named Wat.
  • No time to remain in the kennel, though, because today's the day Wart will start his lessons with Merlyn.
  • Wart, like most medieval boys, isn't interested in being cooped up in a stuffy classroom. He wants to swim in the moat.
  • Wish granted. Merlyn summons Neptune, who gives permission for Wart to be turned into a fish. Merlyn is also turned into a fish.
  • Not surprisingly, he enjoys being a fish. Swimming as a fish is kind of like flying.
  • A little fish comes up to Wart (a roach, not the insect but a type of fish) and wants help for his mother. She swims upside down all the time, and needs someone to straighten her out.
  • Merlyn sings a song to Mama Roach, and by the end of it, she's straightened up and swimming right.
  • The pair hang out for a while in the moat, just watching the various water creatures doing their thing. It seems safe enough.
  • Not so fast, Merlyn points out. There are dangers here Wart hasn't considered. For instance, it's kind of like the forest, which was a scary place initially to Wart.
  • Merlyn introduces Wart to the King of the Moat—a fish named Black Peter. This will give Wart the chance to see what it's like to be king. Hmmm… more prophecy?
  • Black Peter looks horrible. His expression conveys the bad aspects of kingship, such as pride, selfishness, loneliness and cruelty.
  • He kind of looks like Uncle Sam (anachronism alert!)
  • Black Peter tells Wart that there is nothing except power. Power of the body is the ultimate thing. Might is Right.
  • Wart should leave right now, the King of the Moat tells him, otherwise he might gobble him right up.
  • Merlyn turns them back into humans, and they're out of the moat, now lying on the drawbridge.

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