The Once and Future King Part 1, Chapters 3-4 Summary

T. H. White

Part 1, Chapters 3-4 Summary

The Wart sleeps all night in the forest, not waking up until nine o’clock, long after sunrise. He can hear the insects and reptiles crawling along the forest floor; he also hears an odd metallic clanking. He thinks it is King Pellinore, passing nearby on his chase of the Questing Beast, and follows the noise into a clearing where he espies a rustic stone cottage. In front is a well where an old man is drawing up water, cursing the primitiveness of it, and wishing that he was hooked up to electricity and the water line. The Wart asks him if he knows where Sir Ector’s castle is. The old man immediately recognizes him and calls him by name, though the Wart has never seen him before. The old man introduces himself as Merlyn and invites the Wart into his cottage for breakfast.

The Wart is astonished at the array of displays and inventions, many seemingly futuristic and from another time. Merlyn is dressed as a wizard, with a bird’s nest in his hair. An owl calls out, using human speech. Merlyn introduces the bird as Archimedes and explains that it might take him a while to condescend to speak to the Wart. Not only does the owl speak, but so do the pots. The Wart sees that Merlyn has set the table for two and asks him how he knew that he would be coming. Merlyn explains that he was born at the other end of time and is living backward. This gives the impression that he has second sight; however he is unable to stop what he knows will happen, since he does not know when the event had started. Archimedes eventually greets the Wart and Merlyn announces that the three of them will go to Sir Ector’s castle, where he will become the Wart’s tutor. But first, he orders the dishes to start cleaning themselves. The Wart feels thrilled, believing that he must have been on a quest after all.

The Wart returns to Sir Ector’s castle, accompanied by Merlyn and Archimedes, as well as Cully. Archimedes had found the hawk and guided Merlyn to him. Refusing to use magic, Merlyn set a trap for him. Hop is overjoyed to see Cully and impressed that the Wart stayed out all night in the forest. Sir Ector is also happy to see him and proud that he chose to stay out rather than return without the hawk. The Wart introduces Merlyn as his new tutor. Merlyn performs some magic, but Kay is unimpressed. Merlyn predicts that Kay will come to misfortune through his own mouth.