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The Once and Future King. By T.H. White. Terence Hanbury (T.H.) White. Born May 29, 1906 in Bombay, India At age 5, White’s parents took him to England to live with his maternal grandparents while they returned to India.

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The Once and Future King

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terence hanbury t h white
Terence Hanbury (T.H.) White
  • Born May 29, 1906 in Bombay, India
  • At age 5, White’s parents took him to England to live with his maternal grandparents while they returned to India.
  • Established his reputation as a writer after his version of the Arthurian legend.
  • Began OFK after re-reading Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur
the once and future king1
The once and future King
  • “The Sword in the Stone” –1938
    • “The Witch in the Wood” –1939
      • Later named “The Queen of Air and Darkness”
  • “The Ill-Made Knight” –1940
  • “The Candle in the Wind” –1958
    • This was published with the other three books as a tetralogy.
  • The Book of Merlyn was published posthumously in 1977.
  • White worked on this project for 20 years.
other works
Other works
  • England Have My Bones (1936)
  • Mistress Masham’s Repose (1947)
  • The Age of Scandal (1950)
  • The Goshawk (1951)
  • The Scandal-mongers (1952)
  • The Book of Beasts (1954)
  • The Godstone and the Blackymor(1959)
the legend of arthur
The legend of Arthur
  • The real Arthur was a composite of two people:
    • Ambrosius Aureliannus
      • Governor of Britons in the mid 400s AD
    • Artorius
      • Romanized Briton
      • Military leader in 5th Century England
      • Became a legend by slaughtering the invading Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Badon Hill.
      • Because of this, the Saxons did not fight for over 30 years.
arthur in literature
Arthur in literature
  • 7th Century: A Welsh poem, “The Gododdin,” portrayed Arthur as a fierce warrior
  • 9th Century: A Welsh monk named Nennius wrote “This History of the Britons,” in which Arthur is the leader of British armies against the Saxon invaders. He wins 12 battles and dies at Camiann.
  • 1137: Geoffrey of Monmouth (England) writes The History of the Kings of Britain
    • Contains Merlyn as an enchanter, UtherPendragon as Arthur’s father, sword called Caliburn, Guenever as Arthur’s wife, etc.
more literature
More Literature
  • 1170’s: Chretien de Troyes (France)
    • writes about various romances in Arthur’s courts.
    • Lancelot mentioned for the first time
    • Camelot mentioned for the first time
    • Morgan le Fay as Arthur’s sister
    • Holy Grail
  • 1200s: Unknown author in France writes The Vulgate Cycle
    • Galahad achieves the Grail and is son of Lancelot
    • Merlyn becomes prophet and enchanter
    • Mordred is Arthur’s son
    • Arthur is carried to sea
    • Final battle on Salisbury Lake
more literature1
More Literature
  • 1469: Sir Thomas Malory (France) writes Le MorteD’Arthur
    • Ideals of chivaly are embodied in knights of the Round Table
    • Morgan le Fay is evil and tries to kill Arthur
  • 1859-1885: Lord Alred Tennyson (England) writes The Idylls of the King
    • Tennyson applied the legend of Arthur to his time period to teach people lessons of right and wrong (morals).
  • What pieces of these legends can be found in OFK? Which authors are directly mentioned in OFK?
  • The tale of Tristan (or Tristram, “sad man”) and Isolde (La Beale Isould) predates and influenced the story of Lancelot and Guenever..
  • Tristan’s character is similar to that of Lancelot.
  • Isolde’s character is similar to that of Guenever.
plot diagram fill in
Plot Diagram – Fill in


Falling Action

Rising Action

Initial Incident


Resolution/ Denouement

  • Man vs. Self?
  • Man vs. Man?
  • Man vs. Society?
  • Man vs. Nature?
  • Man vs. Fate? (Free Will vs. Fate)
  • Education is of high importance.
  • Right should triumph over Might. Might must be controlled.
  • War is wrong unless it is fought to defend oneself.
  • Fate and Free Will play equal roles in determining a person’s destiny.
ofk as a greek tragedy
OFK as a Greek tragedy
  • The ancient Greeks believed that the gods controlled a man’s fate, but they also believed that a man is responsible for his or her own sin.
  • Free Will: Arthur pays for his sin of incest through Mordred’s treachery
  • Fate: Uther raped Igraine, and Arthur has to deal with her angry descendants.
  • Similar to Oedipus