The Once and Future King Part 1, Chapters 22-24 Summary

T. H. White

Part 1, Chapters 22-24 Summary

King Pellinore arrives for Kay’s knighting ceremony with the news that King Uther Pendragon has died. Sir Ector orders that the banners should be lowered to half-staff. Sir Grummore keeps saying, “The King is dead. Long live the King.” Pellinore wants to know who the king is now, since Uther does not have an heir. He adds that a sword in an anvil on top of a stone has appeared at the church in London, with the words “Whoso Pulleth Out This Sword of This Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of All England” written on it. There is to be a gathering in London for all those who want to try to pull the sword out of the stone. Kay begs his father to let him go to London, but Sir Ector objects that he has never been to the capital city. The Wart and Merlyn arrive and hear the news. The Wart announces that Merlyn is leaving. Sir Ector begs him to stay, assuring him that there is always a need for a wise man around the castle. Merlyn declines and disappears.

Sir Ector, Kay, and the Wart travel through the English countryside to London, amazed by the extensive tournament ground in preparation for all the knights and kings coming to try their hand at pulling the sword from the stone. After arranging lodgings at an inn, Kay and the others go to the tournament. Kay suddenly realizes that he has left his sword at the inn. He commands the Wart (calling him “Squire”) to run to fetch it, offering him a shilling if he is speedy. Though he is irritated by Kay’s condescending tone, the Wart agrees. He finds that the inn is locked, however, and he wonders where he can find or steal a sword. Wandering through the streets of London, he stumbles upon the sword in the stone. He thinks it is some war memorial and decides that no one will mind if he borrows the sword. He touches the sword and feels his senses heighten. He hears music, and his animals friends appear to urge him on. He pulls the sword easily from the stone and takes it to Kay. Recognizing the sword, Kay takes it to Sir Ector and says that it was he who pulled it from the stone. Sir Ector takes him back to the stone and has him swear that this is the truth. Kay sheepishly admits that it was the Wart who pulled the sword. Sir Ector kneels before the Wart and then admits that he is not his father.

After some fuss from the barons, the Wart is crowned king of all England. Merlyn appears to him and says that Uther Pendragon was his father. Merlyn brought the Wart to Sir Ector and is now privileged to call him by the name he was born with—King Arthur.