The Sword In The Stone Summary

T. H. White

The Sword In The Stone

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

The Sword In The Stone Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Sword In The Stone by T. H. White.

T. H. White’s novel The Sword in the Stone (1938), originally written as a stand-alone work, is part of the tetralogy, “The Once and Future King.” It was adapted into a Walt Disney film in 1963 and a radio show by BBC in 1939.

Wart, a young, innocent boy living in twelfth century England, is just beginning his education. He goes on an adventure with King Pellinore, hunting for the Questing Beast. Later, he wanders through the Forest Sauvage and chances upon a cottage. There he meets Merlyn, an old wizard who lives backward through time and has the ability to see the future. Merlyn says he will be Wart’s tutor, and they return to Wart’s home, his father Sir Ector’s Castle of the Forest Sauvage. Sir Ector agrees to the tutor’s suggestions, but Kay, Wart’s older brother, is jealous of Wart’s fortune.

Merlyn teaches Wart to transform into different animals. First, he becomes a perch, swimming through the castle’s moat. He meets Mr. P., a ruthless tyrant who talks about power. Wart also becomes a hawk, an ant, an owl, a wild goose, and a badger. Each teaches him a life lesson about politics, philosophy, or war. Wart watches a joust between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore. The two men follow the rules of combat in an absurd display of sportsmanship.

Wart feels sorry for Kay and wants to transform him into an animal too. Merlyn says he cannot, though he says the two brothers should follow a path in the Forest Sauvage, where they will find adventure. They do, and meet Robin Wood, the famous outlaw, who is often mistakenly known as Robin Hood. He says that a band of fairies have kidnapped his companion, Friar Tuck, and the Dog Boy, a servant of Sir Ector. The fairies, the Oldest Ones of All, are being led by Morgan Le Fay. The boys help Robin and his men storm the Castle Shariot, where the captives are being held. They rescue the men, and Kay kills the griffin that guards the castle.

Uther Pendragon, the king of England, sends a letter to Sir Ector one day. He says he is sending Sir William Twyti, his royal huntsman, into the Forest Sauvage to hunt for wild boars. Sir Ector is expected to care for and house Sir Twyti and his host for the duration of their stay. Twyti arrives, and Ector throws a magnificent Christmas feast, where songs are sung and Sir Ector gives a warm speech, welcoming his guests. The hunt goes well at first, but Beaumony, Twyti’s favourite hound, is injured and paralyzed from the waist down. Robin kills the dog to spare it pain while it lies in Twyti’s arms. King Pellinore happens upon the Questing Beast, which is sick with long for King Pellinore’s once fanatic hunting. Pellinore vows to resume the chase.

Six years go by, and Kay prepares for his knighthood, while Wart continues his education. Wart will become Kay’s squire after he is knighted. King Pellinore announces to Sir Ector, Sir Grummore, and Kay that Uther Pendragon has died without an heir, a politically chaotic situation. He says a sword that runs through an anvil and into a stone has appeared outside a church in London. It reads, “Whoso Puleth Out This Sword of the Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of All England.” A tournament on New Year’s Day is planned for all able men to try to remove the sword. Kay wants to attend, and Ector agrees. When Merlyn says Wart’s tutoring is over,Wart is upset, but Merlyn says they will meet again. Wart enters the tournament as well.

At the tournament, Kay realises he has forgotten his sword. He tells Wart to go back to the inn to get it. The inn is locked, though, so he must search for a replacement. He sees the sword in the stone. Animal friends give him guidance and advice, and he removes the sword without realising the significance of his actions. He returns to the tournament and gives Kay the sword, telling him where he got it. Kay lies to his father, and says he himself pulled the sword out. As soon as they return to the stone, though, Kay cannot keep up the lie, and admits the truth. Sir Ector falls before Wart, and hails him as the King. Wart is confused and embarrassed by this, and bursts into tears.

Soon, though, Wart regains his confidence and accepts his new title. There is a grand coronation party, and everyone offers him gifts. Merlyn reappears and finally tells Wart the truth: his real father was actually Uther Pendragon. He tells Wart that it will be a glorious doom to take up the burden of his nobility. Merlyn promises to stay for a while, and then addresses him as King Arthur.