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Learning Leadership In The Once And Future King

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1456 words Published: 4th May 2017

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Having the position to lead can be challenging depending on the leader. In the beginning of the book The Once and Future King, the Wart is placed in the position where he has to learn quickly to transform from a young boy to fulfilling the shoes of his new title as King Arthur. Despite bad leadership from certain characters, many display leadership throughout the book, but some are better. At the end of book one, Arthur starts his leadership and not as confident as many kings usually are, Merlyn’s leadership inspired and helped King Arthur become a better king and ultimately shaped the book into the classic that it is today.

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There is bad leadership from certain characters. In book one, The Sword in the Stone, Arthur and his brother, Kay, went on a hunt with Cully. They had taken this hawk from the Mews without permission from Hob, the owner. While on the hunt, Cully flew away and Wart chose to search for him in the woods while Kay did not. This is bad leadership shown by Kay but luckily Wart was wise enough to make the responsible decision to search for Cully. (T.H. White, pg. 12). Kay also was not always nice to Wart, and Wart was going to become his squire. In one instance, Kay said to Sir Ector “Wart is stupid.” (White, pg.73). This shows how Wart was treated, taken advantage of and made fun of from time to time.

Another bad influence in this book is Morgause who is introduced in book two, The Queen of Air and Darkness. She is the cruel mother of four boys and teaches them cruel ways. In her attempt to seek revenge against her half-brother, Arthur, she successfully seduces him. Unfortunately, people like her eventually lead to the downfall of Arthur as a king because their bad qualities affected him.

Next, White illustrates tension between the violence of knightly behavior and complex codes of morality and courtesy. This hidden tension between violence and chivalry is embodied well in the figure of Lancelot. Lancelot plays a major role as an untrustworthy knight in the third book, The Ill-Made Knight. “His belief that he is ill-framed combine with a constant awareness of his perceived imperfection makes him a more sympathetic character.” (Andrew T. Brewick, par. 1) This quote describes Lancelot as not being very confident with his appearance, however he is full of pride of being a knight to Arthur. With Arthur’s rules for the Knights of the round table, each knight must follow these rules to retain their honor, but Lancelot seems to drift away from what is considered to be right. He is obsessed with Arthur and envious of the love he shares with Guenivere. Although he has an affair with Guenivere, Lancelot is not perceived as a bad character because when he first developed feelings for her, he resisted his love.

In the last book, The Candle in the Wind,” Lancelot is fighting with the love he has for Guenivere and the loyalty he is obligated to have toward his king. After making many mistakes, Lancelot is still a good knight but has made enemies with Gawaine, Gareth, Gaheris, Agravaine, and Mordred. This later.

Even though there is bad leadership from certain characters, many show leadership throughout the book and some are better than others. Throughout book one, “The young royal’s schooling in leadership consists of a series of transformations into different animals, experiences that together teach him how to be a good king.” (JoEllen Broome, par. 1). Arthur abides by the principle that Might is Right throughout the book. Although he is not as confident as many kings usually are, he learns valuable lessons because of Merlyn.

On Wart’s first account being alone, he was in the forest searching for Cully and met King Pellinore. The reason he is in the forest is because he is chasing the questing beast. (White pg.22) There is no explanation as to why he was so eager to seeking the questing beast, but it always kept him searching for something in life. This foreshadows what Wart becomes that he is seeking the main goal of having peace and honor with his people.

In The Sword and the Stone, War transforms. ‘I wish I were a fish,’ said the Wart.” (White pg.45). While going on this expedition, comes across a large pike, the ruler of all creatures in that water. From this, Wart understands the main idea of being a ruler is to make peace and not make the people do what you want.

On his next life changing transformation, Wart is turned into a hawk and goes into the castle’s mews. There he meets the old leader of the birds who is a falcon. Even though she seemed to not care for the other birds, she was very respected by all. . This was a good experience for Wart because this was helpful to see how to gain respect from the people he ruled. (White, pg. 77).

Along with the values he learns, Wart learns about duty when he transforms into an ant and experiences time in the ant colony. They are very loyal to the queen ant and the ants perform certain duties. This foreshadows later how Arthur wants his knights to act. (White, pg. 122)

Additional transformation depicts peace among the people was shown during the geese transformation. The one leader in the group was referred to as The Admiral. He received his position because of his knowledge of the migration route. He was elected if all the geese in the migration group agreed he was capable of doing the job. During the flight, the geese obeyed his choices because he was the leader. When his power ended, he is only looked upon as a respected elder. (White, pg. 176)

Last, Wart visits the badger. He sees how the animals were picked on but and listened and respected the badger. Wart began realized by talking to the badger, human qualities always are not the best or admirable. (White, book 1)

These qualities stay with Wart as he becomes King. In the later books, “He is the symbol of a wide abstraction: that of the courage, honor, honesty, and chivalry of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table.”(Little, par. 4). Although he shows these qualities well when he meets milestones, he lacks the ability to always lead in every obstacle he goes through. Little also notes that Arthur, “. . . is a peripheral character-sometimes virtuous-but rarely with a penetrating intelligence capable of seeing long-term effects. . .” (par.9). Arthur was in fact incapable of looking at the world with more than one step at a time. In one instance with Sir Lancelot, it was in the nature of [Arthur’s] bold mind to hope, in these circumstances, that he would not find [Lancelot and Gueniever] together. (White) Instead of confronting him after he had been told about the affair by the Orkneys, he still would not believe the truth. Even though this does not relate to him being a king, it still shows his lack of leadership.

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– The most important reasons of leadership were inspired by Merlyn and how helped King Arthur learn. In book one, Merlyn says to Arthur, “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. . . .” (White, pg. 186). Merlyn is a positive role model for Wart in the beginning, because he wanted to help him overcome being overshadowed by Kay in the beginning of the book. “Arthur does not always understand the implications of events and is unable to draw his own conclusions without Merlin’s help.” (Steve Little, par.7). Each of the magical adventures that Merlyn gave the Wart seemed planned in order to teach him a set of lessons.

So it can be seen that although there is bad leadership from certain characters. Many characters show leadership throughout the novel and some are better than others for two main reasons. First, at the end of book one, it shows how Kay and others treat Wart differently because he is not the direct son of Sir Ector. Others try to belittle King Arthur and stand in the way of his leadership. However, Merlyn was one of the book’s best characters at showing leadership. He was an old and honorable man that lived in the future. He knew how the world worked and used this to his advantage by helping Wart learn helpful lessons.

All through The Once and Future King, lessons are taught. Arthur learns more than any character in book due to the responsibility he had to acquire as king at such a young age. Many characters treat him badly but in the end, he does well with displaying leadership to his knights and abiding by one of the best lessons taught in the book, which is Might is Right.


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