I happened upon The Once and Future King at our local bookstore. I had heard of it, had heard it was to do with Arthur and Merlin, and remembered that it had been recommended by friends in the writing circle. So I picked it up and settled down for a read.
The first book was a pleasure. It reminded me of my own childhood, not because of the quests or the forests, but because of the sheer simplicity of Wart’s life and the complexity of everything else surrounding him. There is Kay, quick to resent and to be jealous, though a decent chap when he wasn’t busy bullying. There is the stigma around Wart’s parentage, that he accepts but does not completely understand. There is Merlyn, living backwards, discussing the Boer War, and his clever owl, Archimedes. There are the ants, there are the fish, there are the geese, there are the falcons, and there is the wise badger with his thesis.
The second book strayed down darker paths. It made me resentful. My childhood had not been perfect, but compared to what had followed, it had been heaven. I had wanted Wart’s teenage years to be happier, and the rest of his life to be made of beauty and joy. That didn’t happen, and I felt cheated. Surely, at least on the pages of a book, a child begotten of misfortune could come to happiness?
The books after that were as expected. There could hardly be a happily forever ending after everything that had transpired. The wizard and the wart had wanted to harness might for the sake of the right. It had backfired on them. The tutor and the pupil had not accounted for the average human. They had their ideas, and there had been everyone else in their world. Arthur eventually thinks upon where it went wrong, and comes up with the idea of justice and civil law. It is too late for him, though. So one lies trapped in a cave for centuries while the other lies awake at night betrayed and awaiting betrayal, haunted by babies in the water. They meet their fates with equanimity, but that doesn’t make it more pleasant.
Perhaps it was for the best that I hadn’t read the books when I had been a child. I might have been disillusioned. Perhaps I should have read them earlier, for I might have learned to be more resilient and to not seek fortuity in the world’s embrace.
It is a new year. Flowers are blooming and they say it is spring come early. I need to hunt down some documents and fill some forms. Paper work. I have been putting that on the back-burner for two months now.