Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 2, Chapter 5

By T.H. White

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Book 2, Chapter 5

  • Gawain, Agravaine, Gareth and Gaheris visit Mother Morlan to hear a story.
  • Saint Toirdealbhach is visiting Mother Morlan, and he's the one who is going to tell the story.
  • The boys don't want a moral tale, though. They want, variously, a story about: fairies; murders; maidens and questing; and fighting.
  • The Saint tells a story about King Conor, who is shot with a magic ball (from a slingshot) made from the brain of his enemy. It gets stuck in his own brain, and he must avoid any excitement for the rest of his life, or else the magic ball will rupture his brain and kill him. What a predicament.
  • Turns out, the King dies when he attempts to get his sword in defense of Jesus, the death of whom one of his men told him about. His righteous anger makes the magic ball move, and so bursts his brain. The End.
  • Gawain thinks the King foolish, because he did something that wasn't for his family, and that killed him.
  • Instead of more stories, the four boys want to hear about war, which is where their father is off to right now.
  • They discuss the positives of all-out war, although Saint Toirdealbhach and Gareth think single combat makes more sense—so innocent people aren't killed.
  • Gawain, Agravaine and Gaheris don't agree with this. They're a bit more bloodthirsty.
  • While this discussion is going on, the Saint is getting drunk, and is feeling a bit frisky toward Mother Morlan, and wants all these kids out of the place. He scares them off and the four boys leave.
  • After they leave, the boys go into the village and steal two donkeys to carry some fish back home.
  • Sadly, the boys only want to hurt the donkey. They are so accustomed to casual cruelty that the donkey's suffering doesn't even make a blip on their collective radar.
  • Well, we weren't expecting this. A magical barge shows up in the ocean near Queen Morgause's castle. Upon this barge are King Pellinore, Sir Palomides (a Saracen knight, who is described as "black"), another unnamed knight (it's probably Sir Grummore, since he's King Pellinore's bestie—well, besides the Questing Beast), and King Pellinore's ever-faithful brachet.
  • Amazed at this marvel, many of the townspeople come on the scene to see what's up.
  • Even Mother Morlan and the four princelings show up.
  • No one in Lothian has ever seen anything like these three—especially the black man.
  • The Orkney people recognize these knights as being part of King Arthur's band, and they're not sure what kind of treachery is afoot.
  • The knights, on the other hand, have no idea that King Arthur is even at war with the Gaels. Things could get ugly very quickly!
  • It would seem that the three knights are just as wary of the crowds as they are of them, though. Pellinore asks if the other two think these people are "all right."

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