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Reader-Response To Chapter 12 Of 'The Once & Future King'

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Chapter Five starts off with a description of the Castle of the Forest Sauvage, specifically the areas in which Wart would most likely be found. Merlyn informs Wart that it’s time to start his education, which in this case happens to involve the two of them turning into fish and swimming around the castle moat. After a brief swimming lesson, Wart is introduced to an entire underwater community. Merlyn plays the part of the doctor for an ailing fish. Wart receives something of an omen from one fish, a king who tells him that “Might is right” and then tries to eat him.

For the most part, I found this chapter to be very light in tone. For example, Merlyn finds Wart licking a dog’s nose, a tattooed Neptune makes an appearance, and Wart encounters a surly swan. More than any other part of the book, this chapter made me think of the animated Disney movie. That isn’t a positive endorsement; by the time Merlyn started singing a song I was beginning to wonder how this little episode was serving the narrative thrust of the story.

Things take a turn when Wart meets the King of the Moat. The king is described as a scarred, perhaps haunted figure who has spent his life pursuing and most likely abusing power. White pulls a neat trick here, dragging the reader through this saccharine little escapade and then suddenly throwing a bloodthirsty tyrant at the protagonist. Knowing Wart’s destiny as king, this scene is also a little eerie; he’s literally staring at what can become of those in power.

At first I felt like this was an overly elaborate device just to get to that one scene, but after reading subsequent chapters it’s become clear that nature and the natural order of things figure prominently into the way that Wart sees the world. Merlyn’s stint as a healer seems like more evidence of the wizard as someone to turn to for help. Without



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