Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 2, Chapter 7

By T.H. White

Book 2, Chapter 7

  • And now we're back to Lothian, and King Pellinore is telling Queen Morgause he's in love.
  • The lucky girl is the Queen of Flanders' daughter, who is a middle-aged, brave, and industrious woman.
  • Too bad for Pellinore: the magic barge took him away, since knights are never supposed to refuse adventures. And there was much weeping from the daughter of the Queen of Flanders (whose nickname, incidentally, is unfortunately "Piggy").
  • So now Pellinore is moping around, all lovesick for her, and people are getting fed up with him.
  • This behavior confuses the people of Lothian and Orkney, because they think Pellinore—an Englishman—is up to no good. He must be pretending for some nefarious reason.
  • Morgause's sons are not happy that the Queen seems so interested in these foreign visitors.
  • It seems the explanation the boys were given was that Queen Morgause wanted to hunt a unicorn, and the three knights were helping her. She, natch, was the virgin requisite for unicorn hunting.
  • Agravaine is confused by this, and seems uncomfortable.
  • The unicorn hunt was designed by Morgause to take Pellinore's mind off of Piggy. Since he was accustomed to hunting the Questing Beast, she thought a unicorn would be a good substitute.
  • The boys are quite uneasy with the interactions between their Mammy and the knights.
  • What better way to get their minds off of this than to visit St. Toirdealbhach for another story.
  • Unfortunately, the Saint claims to not have any stories to tell them, since he hasn't been in a battle or chatted up any of the ladies in a good long time. And, without battles and women, what good would a story be?
  • Instead, the Saint tells them about his shillelagh—a big old whuppin' stick.
  • He then moves on to telling them about a little girl, the daughter of a witch, who bets her father that she can make a huge ship come to shore at her command. She jumps into a well, and the ship is crushed against the rocks of the shore. Wait…what?
  • Not liking all this witchy nonsense, the father demands that his wife not teach their daughter any more witchcraft. She refuses and he leaves. They never s him again. The End. Great story, huh?
  • Dramatic Irony Alert: Gareth says (with a straight face), "It must be dreadful to have a witch for a mother." Well, no kidding, kid. And have you seen your black cat lately?
  • Gareth proposes the boys have a unicorn hunt of their own, since they have nothing better to do and they haven't seen their mother for a whole week.
  • They bug poor St. Toirdealbhach again, this time for instructions on how to catch a unicorn.
  • It just so happens that he has a book on this very subject. How fortunate!
  • The book confirms that they need a virgin to lure a unicorn to them. So, they decide to make the kitchen maid serve in this capacity.
  • Despite the kitchen maid's protestations that her job will be at risk if she leaves her duties, Gawain hauls her off by her braids and makes her do it anyway.
  • The boys take her out into the wilderness, and make her swear she won't run away while they go hide and await the unicorn.
  • Apparently, the unicorn must be killed so they can take it back to their mother, and win her favor again. Their hope is that they'll allow them to serve at table as they are accustomed to do.
  • Lucky for the alleged unicorn that the boys decide it doesn't have to be killed; instead, they could try to catch it and drive it home.
  • Agravaine hopes this will involve beating it with sticks. Oh, and they could beat Meg, too (he adds).
  • Well, this is unexpected. A unicorn does, indeed, show up, laying its pearl horn in Meg's lap.
  • Contrary to the plan that had been decided upon, Agravaine kills the unicorn brutally, shouting out that Meg is his mother, and laying his head in her lap. He also seems to want to kill Meg. How disturbing!
  • Gareth doesn't want to participate in the butchering of the unicorn (to get it back home), and he unties Meg; she promptly runs off toward the castle.
  • In a gory scene, the three remaining boys fail miserably at their attempt at butchering the unicorn. They just make a huge mess of it and feel guilty, which fuels their hatred toward the unicorn all the more.
  • In the end, they decide to just take the head. Makes things easier, we'll give them that.
  • The boys are still looking forward to the praise they will get for their mother for bringing her the unicorn.
  • Turns out, though, the head is even too heavy for them to carry. They take turns dragging the head by its horn. The head becomes more and more battered and gory.
  • Finally, when it becomes way too difficult for them to drag, Gaheris runs ahead to the castle and gets a rope, which they use to drag the head the rest of the way home.
  • Hoping for a grand reveal, they set it up on a seat in the garden, arranging the gory mane as best they can (there's not really much left of the head by now).
  • At the time of the big reveal, Morgause is too engrossed in chatting up Sir Grummore, and she doesn't even see her sons' gory gift.
  • Gawain calls out to her, but she still does not notice. She doesn't even notice that they are covered in blood. Later, though, when she finds out about the unicorn, she has them whipped. It's safe to assume that Queen Morgause is not going to win any Mother of the Year awards anytime soon.

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