The Once and Future King Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary

T. H. White

Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary

Fourteen-year-old Gawaine tells a family story to his three younger brothers: Gaheris, Agravaine, and Gareth. Their grandmother, Igraine, was the Countess of Cornwall. She and her husband, the Count, were invited to visit King Uther in London. The king propositioned Igraine, suggesting that she leave her husband and marry him. Igraine tells her husband, and they leave in the middle of the night. Uther makes war on the count and, with the help of Merlyn, manages to get inside the castle where Igraine is hidden. The count is killed and Igraine is forced to marry Uther. For this reason, Gawaine and his brothers are sworn to fight against any member of the Pendragon line, which is why their father, the King of Lot and Orkney, is off fighting against King Arthur. Their mother, Morgause, is casting a spell of invisibility by boiling a cat alive. It is said that a certain cat’s bone will make a person invisible if he holds it in his mouth. Morgause places the bones one by one into her mouth but without effect. She loses interest before she has gone through all the bones.

In Camelot, Arthur enjoys being king. He has just returned from a victorious battle against the King of Lot and Orkney, where the sword Excalibur tipped the scale in his favor. Merlyn warns him against stupidity and has him think about the loss and destruction that his victory cost. He tells him that he needs to start thinking for himself, since it will not be long before Merlyn is tempted by Nimue and trapped in a cave for hundreds of years.

Kay is curious about Queen Morgause. He has heard that she is beautiful, but Merlyn tells him of her background. He tells about the history of the British Isles, how there was one invasion after another, with each invader pushing back the current inhabitants. Before Uther, there were the Saxons, who also pushed out the Gaels. All of them are of Teutonic origin, Merlyn says. Arthur listens as Merlyn tells of Uther’s aggression against the Count of Cornwall, learning that King Lot has a legitimate complaint against Arthur. He wonders if he should abdicate, but Merlyn says that he is the only one who can make that decision. Merlyn says that he himself was one of the Gaels, his mother being Gaelic and his father supposedly being a demon. He denounces the Gaels’ idea of nationalism, so he is almost a traitor to his race, but there is too much bitterness without wars and feuds already.