What do the incidents with the pike, the joust, and the adventure with the birds help to illustrate in The Once and Future King?

In The Once and Future King, the incidents with the pike, the joust, and the adventure with the birds help to illustrate the point that people should be careful what they wish for. In each case, Wart makes a wish and ends up being thoroughly disappointed.

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As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.” Unfortunately, no one seems to have told this ancient truism to young Wart, who casually makes a series of wishes which give him a whole lot more than he bargained for.

First of all, Wart wishes that he were a fish. Immediately, the wizard Merlin magically transforms him into a fish, and the young lad/fish swims in the castle moat with Merlin, who turns himself into a roach, in tow.

Once there, Wart meets with a pike, the undisputed king of the moat. After answering some of the boy's questions, the pike tries to eat him, but Wart mercifully escapes, and Merlin changes him back into his real body.

Wart experiences further disappointment when he expresses the wish to be a knight. Merlin partially accedes to his request by allowing him to see some real knights involved in a joust. Unfortunately, the joust turns out to be a total farce, with the combatants so weighed down by armor that they're both unable to win.

The bored Wart then makes another careless wish. This time, he wishes that he were a bird. Merlin responds by turning him into a merlin, a bird of prey. Unfortunately, Wart is then forced to prove himself by sitting near Cully, the fearsome goshawk, until all the other birds have rung their bells three times.

In the event, Wart is incredibly lucky to escape with his life after Cully, the expert hunter, brutally attacks him. It would seem that being a bird, like being a fish or a knight, isn't really all it's cracked up to be.

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