The Once and Future King Part 1, Chapters 17-19 Summary

T. H. White

Part 1, Chapters 17-19 Summary

Winter is over and Twyti, Sir Grummore, and King Pellinore depart. The Questing Beast had recovered and left before the snow melted. In the spring, the Wart wants to turn into a bird again, since he did not get a chance to fly. Merlyn suggests that he change form at night, so the other birds will not escape. He and the Wart discuss the nature of bird language with Merlyn’s owl, Archimedes. Merlyn claims that bird language evolved from the cries that the birds’ prey made at the point of death. Archimedes views this theory with doubt. Kay arrives for his lesson, announcing that he has killed a thrush.

The Wart lies awake during the night, waiting for his chance to be a bird. Archimedes arrives and gives him a dead mouse to eat. He does, marveling at how good it tastes, and finds that he is an owl. Archimedes guides him through his first attempts at flying, showing him the finer points of landing and discerning the layout of the ground below by the air temperature rising up. The Wart also discovers that he can see in the dark, as an owl can. He is soon changed to a wild goose. He joins a flock and lands on the lake, watching the sun rise. A female goose tells him it is his turn to stand sentry. Wart does his guard duty, though he is not sure exactly what he is supposed to be watching for. He questions the other goose about geese, whether they join together to fight other geese. This is something that the female cannot fathom. When she tells him that all the geese around him are from different parts of the world, Wart is amazed that there is no fighting among them. The female goose does not understand the concept of national boundaries. Wart tells her that he enjoys fighting because he is a knight. The goose responds that this is because he is a baby.

It seemed that the Wart spent several days and nights among the geese. He learns their habits, but soon senses an odd feeling. The female tells him to wait and see what it means. Soon the flock of geese takes off for their yearly migration, with the Wart joining them. They cross the North Sea, over the islands and water, across Norway, and eventually landing on the first day of their trip to Siberia. The Wart awakens the next morning to Kay’s complaint that he was snoring like a goose.