Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 2, Chapter 14

By T.H. White

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Book 2, Chapter 14

  • After their attempt at psychoanalysis, the Questing Beast has now fallen in love with Sir Palomides. Even though only a Pellinore can catch her, the Questing Beast now follows Palomides.
  • Incidentally, we learn that in Malory's version, no one ever really captures the Questing Beast.
  • A grand procession of litters and knights makes its way from Dunlothian to Carlion, the Questing Beast at the tail end.
  • Not surprisingly, this journey is super exciting for the four princelings. So is Carlion, when they arrive. It's quite a sight to these country bumpkins (even more bumpkin-y than Wart was before he became King).
  • King Arthur is happy to see his friends again, and also happy to hear of Pellinore's impending wedding.
  • After the double wedding (St. Toirdealbhach and Mother Morlan also get married) there is a sumptuous wedding feast, with all kinds of delicious foods to eat, like porpoise and jellied eels. Yummy.
  • Merlyn even sends a wedding gift, and asks that his love be conveyed to Aglovale, Percivale, Lamorak, and Dornar (who haven't been born yet).
  • The youngsters play games amongst themselves, and one of them is the new boy, the son of King Ban of Benwick. His name is Lancelot.
  • Many miles away, Merlyn suddenly jumps out of a dead sleep. He has remembered something important!
  • That thing that he has remembered is Arthur's mother's name. This is the super important thing that has been bothering him.
  • Igraine. That's Arthur's mother's name.
  • Turns out, even Igraine had not known that Arthur was her son. Since he was fathered before Igraine and Uther were married, he was secretly taken to live with Sir Ector, so only Merlyn and Uther ever knew about this.
  • And Uther has been dead for quite some time. Oh, and Merlyn forgot.
  • Unfortunately, Merlyn is now too confused to immediately go to Carlion and tell Arthur. He doesn't know if he's currently in the future or the past. Plus, he's sleepy.
  • So, he goes back to sleep. Duh.
  • Back in Carlion, Arthur, too, falls asleep, thinking about how great it's going to be now that there will finally be peace in the kingdom. He also thinks of beautiful women.
  • How lucky! When he wakes up, a beautiful woman is right in front of him. She's also royalty—bonus.
  • On the downside, though, there are four disheveled children behind her. So, she's got some baggage. Who doesn't?
  • She also has some kind of tape in her hand that she's fiddling with. Oh, no…
  • Queen Morgause (always with a flair for self-centered theatricality) has strategically timed her appearance so that she looks her best, and so that it's the first time Arthur has seen her.
  • Who knows why things happen? Maybe the Spancel worked, or maybe Arthur's into older women (she's twice his age), or maybe he's just looking for a mother figure, since he never had one.
  • Maybe it's because Morgause has her four little wild wingmen standing behind her. Who knows, really?
  • Anyway, Arthur falls for Morgause, and falls hard.
  • Nine months later (after a jump cut to make the book fit for family audiences), Morgause has a bouncing baby boy. The father is none other than her half-brother, King Arthur.
  • There's even a nifty family tree that Merlyn later drew for Arthur that shows his pedigree, in case the words didn't sink in.
  • Arthur has unknowingly committed incest with his sister.
  • Mordred's name is in all caps in that family tree—so he's got to be important later. Probably not in a good way, either.
  • The text instructs us to read that pedigree again, because it's important. Too bad Arthur didn't have a subscription to Sure would have come in handy right about nine months ago.
  • This twisted family tree is why Malory calls his work the Death of Arthur. Because it's all about tragedy—not just about knights whacking away at each other, or the holy grail or any of that stuff.
  • Ultimately, it's about being punished for your sins, and not being able to escape your fate—even if you're totally innocent and it's not your fault.
  • Tragedy (much like the honey badger), however, just don't care. Innocence doesn't cut it. What a downer.
  • The second book ends.

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