Study Guide

The Once and Future King Family

By T.H. White

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The next time you're mid-eyeroll at a family Thanksgiving, think of The Once and Future King. You have it comparatively easy.

Because there is a significant dark side to family in White's story. Families become too clannish and insular (like the G-boys and their bizarre relationship with their mother); relationships between families devolve into never-ending, bloody feuds; and unstoppable tragedy can arise from family ties being hidden—either accidentally or on purpose (think of Arthur's incestuous affair with Morgause).

Questions About Family

  1. How might the story be affected if Merlyn had remembered to tell Arthur who his parents were?
  2. Why do you think Guenever is unable to have children? What would introducing a "legitimate" Arthurian heir do to the web of family relationships among Arthur, Mordred, and Gawain?
  3. Who are the various father figures that help Arthur develop into a man, and what does each bring to the table?
  4. In what ways does Galahad inherit some of Lancelot's propensity toward mental illness?

Chew on This

King Pellinore must have raised his sons very differently from the Orkney faction, since we don't see the Pellinores acting as the aggressors in the feud.

Arthur's fate is deserved, because he should not have tried to kill Mordred when he was a baby. He can't atone for the crime of trying to kill his own son.

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