The Once and Future King Part 2, Chapters 4-6 Summary

T. H. White

Part 2, Chapters 4-6 Summary

Merlyn talks with Arthur and Kay about his philosophy of war. In his youth, he says, it was considered wrong to go to war at all, though he since changed his mind. He believes that it is acceptable to fight a defensive war, but wrong to be the aggressor. Arthur points out that both sides think that they are standing up against aggression. Merlyn speaks of the future, especially comparing war to Victorian foxhunting. In Arthur’s time, the nobility go to war as a hobby, rather than to stand up to injustice. Kay wants to hear about Queen Morgause, but Arthur asks about her husband, King Lot. Merlyn says that Lot is nothing. He is not interested in standing up for the Gaels, since he himself is from Norway. He warns Arthur that his reign may become a series of petty battles.

Gawaine and his brothers go to the cottage of Mother Morlan to hear a story. They find St. Toirdealbhach there also, and the saint tells them the story of the martyrdom of King Conor of Ireland. Afterwards, the boys steal a couple of donkeys to ride down to the port. They see a boat containing three knights and a dog coming toward land. The knights are King Pellinore and Sir Grummore, accompanied by Sir Palomides, a Saracen from Africa. The knights amaze the people of the town, especially the black Palomides. The townsfolk gather around the knights, who are not aware that England and King Arthur are at war with Orkney.

In Carlion, Merlyn helps Arthur prepare for the second campaign against King Lot and the Gaels. Lot has already chosen the place for the battle at Bedegraine. Arthur climbs up the tower to talk to Merlyn. The wizard chides the king for coming to see him, instead of summoning him to his royal chambers. Arthur leaves, waits an hour, and then sends a summons to Merlyn. When the wizard arrives, Arthur orders that the chair should be taken away, since no one may sit in the presence of the king without royal permission, taking Merlyn’s chastisement to a higher level as far as the duties owed to a sovereign. Merlyn is furious, but soon Arthur laughs and sends for chairs. Arthur speaks to the assembled knights and Merlyn of his thoughts on war. Though Merlyn is against warfare, nevertheless he has aided the king in planning two battles. Arthur states his belief that Merlyn’s meaning is that victory at these two battles will aid the king in preventing further warfare. Rather than the philosophy that “Might makes Right,” Arthur wants Might to aid in the cause of Right.