Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 2, Chapter 8

By T.H. White

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Book 2, Chapter 8

  • We're back with Arthur and his soldiers, all in their tents on the battlefield.
  • The ambush plan is still secret, but everyone in the camp thinks Arthur is holding war councils every night (really, he's just chatting with Merlyn, Sir Ector, and Sir Kay about various things).
  • He's back to talking about his plan to have an order of knighthood for good. Kay's saying the men will be jealous of each other, and Arthur decides to have a round table, so they don't fight over who sits at the head of a square one.
  • Kay doesn't believe a table can be made big enough to seat 150 knights, but Merlyn has the formula (handy 2πr).
  • Still not buying this, Kay notes that there would be all kinds of wasted space in the middle, and everyone would be separated—food couldn't even sit in the middle, it would be so far away.
  • Then, Arthur says, why not a circular table instead. With open space in the middle where people could walk around and get right up close to each other?
  • And he'll call his group (wait for it): The Knights of the Round Table. But you all saw that coming, right?
  • Also, he decides the trick is to get the knights young, so they will be open to new ideas. Not like the old knights—like King Lot and that lot. Can't teach old dogs new tricks. This even includes King Pellinore and Sir Grummore, unfortunately.
  • But, Arthur will still have these guys as part of his knights. These two are generally good guys.
  • There's a new guy Arthur's heard about—a knight by the name of Lancelot. Kids like that will be great for this new group.
  • How lucky is this? Merlyn says that King Leodegrance has a table which will totes work for Arthur's Round Table. He could be persuaded to give it up as a wedding present.
  • Arthur's all like, "Um…am I marrying his daughter anytime soon?"
  • Yep—and her name is Guenever.
  • Remember: Merlyn knows these things. He also tells Arthur there's something he thinks he's forgetting…something really important, but he can't remember it right now. Probably not too important, then.
  • He tells Arthur to remind him to warn him about Guenever later.
  • Kay interrupts this discussion with the idea that Arthur needs to have special feasts and all that once his Round Table is up and going.
  • Merlyn could even write all their names where they sit. That would be pretty neat, Kay suggests.
  • Kay and Arthur get right to work designing their symbols that Merlyn will later put on the Table.
  • Then Kay has to go and ruin it by telling Merlyn he thought up a good reason for war. Like, what if a king has a really good idea about how people should live, only they won't listen to his good idea. Shouldn't he then make them do it for their own good, even if it's by force?
  • Merlyn gets mad at this and tells Kay and Arthur that there was precisely that kind of guy when he (Merlyn) was a young man. This guy came from Austria and sounds suspiciously like Hitler.
  • Anyway, this guy thought he had a great idea for how people should live, so he tried to force his ideas on everyone else, and people suffered.
  • There was another guy, by name of Jesus, who much earlier had some good ideas for how people should live… only he didn't try to force them onto people.
  • Ideas should be available, Merlyn suggests, and not imposed.
  • Stubborn guy that he is, Kay won't give up. He suggests Arthur's current war is all about imposing his ideas on King Lot. Just has to have the last word, doesn't he?

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