The Once and Future King

by T. H. White

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In "The Once and Future King", what events in Merlyn's cottage prove he's a magician?

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The description of Merlyn's cottage takes place in the first book of "The Once and Future King", entitled The Sword in the Stone. This is the portion, and version, of the Arthurian legends that most people are familiar with, through the Disney film of the same name.

Some of the things that Wart (Arthur) observes in Merlyn's cottage include;

  • A stuffed "corkindrill" (crocodile) hanging from the rafters that winks at Merlyn
  • Books that have been chained to their shelves
  • "a complete set of cigarette cards depicting wild fowl by Peter Scott." Peter Scott was a 20th-century British ornithologist.
  • A talking owl, Archimedes
  • A mustard pot that moves on its own
  • Dishes and cutlery that wash themselves at Merlyn's command

At first, the magic is merely implied, although strongly, but as the story continues Merlyn performs more and more significant magic. For example, the paragraph which introduces the contents of his cottage ends with the mention of the cigarette cards; it seems clear that Merlyn must have obtained them by some supernatural means, since this story is set in the past, but the means by which he acquired them is not explained. By the time Merlyn is ordering dishes to clean themselves, it seems very clear that he is a magician and must have acquired the cards, winking corkindrill, and so on, by magical means.

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