|It’s New Year’s Day… And here is the Wart, on New Year’s Day, pulling the
Sword from the Stone in the Disney cartoon of the same name. The film
was based on TH White’s The Once and Future King,
Happy New Year Everyone! Since people seem to be making resolutions and planning for 2015 I feel as if I should too, even though I know from past experience that I rarely stick to the lists I draw up. I’m toying with the idea of joining a couple of blogs. I like the idea of finding a bookish connection for every one of the traditional English counties, so Reading England 2015 sounds fun, but I don’t want to be tied down to too many books, so maybe I’ll aim for a lower level and just read half a dozen books for this one. And the What’s in a Name Challenge sounds fun – I could do this one easily using books from the TBR pile, and there aren’t that many books, so I’d still have plenty of time to read anything else that takes my fancy.
Meanwhile, I seem to have gathered a pile of books by my armchair while ‘catching up’ on Radio 4 over the Christmas period– I love BBC Radio’s readings and dramatisations, and there have been some real goodies over the last couple of weeks. I’ve enjoyed TH White’s The Once and Future King, Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring and The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield, which are all old favourites so, of course, so I had to hunt out the books for some re-reading. And I’ve also ended up with a stash of other Arthurian books, and a copy of Christina Hardyment’s biography of Malory, which someone gave my mother, and she gave me!
|A Walter Crane illustration of Arthur pulling the
sword from the stone.
I’m looking forward to listening to Fay Weldon’s The Girls of Slender Means, which is the current Book at Bedtime (I like listening to serials in one fell swoop – I get frustrated with them because I want to know what happens, even when I’ve read the book!). And I’ll be glued to the radio for much of today for a marathon session of Tolstoy’s War and Peace – though I’m not sure I’ll remain uninterrupted until the end!
Arthur, or Wart, if we’re following White (because, as he says, it more or less rhymes with Art, which is short for Arthur) must be the only person in the kingdom who knows nothing about this sword in the stone, which miraculously appeared on Christmas Day. According to White, the sword is ‘stuck through an anvil which stands on a stone. It goes right through the anvil and into the stone. The anvil is stuck to the stone. The stone stands outside a church’.
He pretty much follows Malory, who tells us in Le Morte d’Arthur of a ‘great stone four square, like unto a marble stone; and in midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus:—Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England’.
Arthur, knowing nothing of all this, hands the sword to Kay, who initially lays claim to it, before admitting it is Arthur’s achievement But the noble lords of the realm are not happy and refuse to believe this seemingly base-born lad, a foundling, of unknown parentage, is really the son of dead King Uther. There are contests on Twelfth Day, Candlemas and at Easter when the knights gather to pit their strength against Arthur – but on each occasion he is the only one who can draw forth the sword, so he is finally crowned at Pentecost.
|This is from an early 14th century manuscript, produced more than 150 years before
Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur. It shows the sword pushed sideways into the stone.