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T H White 1905 - 2006

A celebration of the author of The Once and Future King

29th May 2006 is the centenary of the birth of one of the greatest contributors to classic fantasy literature, and a gem on the Voyager Classic list, T H WHITE

The Man Behind the Legend

Often considered alongside Tolkien in terms of influence, T H White is best known for his brilliant adaptation Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century romance, Morte d’Arthur, into The Once and Future King which he began writing on the very eve of the second world war . This quartet of novels was written between 1939-58, and includes The Sword in the Stone, The Witch In The Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, The Candle in the Wind, and then later, The Book of Merlyn. Exquisite comedy offsets the tragedy of Arthur’s personal doom as White brings to life the major British epic of all time with brilliance, grandeur, warmth charm and occasional moments of darkness. The changing tones and moods of The Once and Future King clearly reflect the internal life of T H White whose tombstone described him as a man ‘Who, from a troubled heart delighted others loving and praising this life’.

As so many writers and young readers have grown up reading The Once And Future King the breadth of White’s influence on contemporary fantasy and portrayals of Arthurian legend is hard to measure, and his appeal is at all times universal. “It is the book which changed the legend forever. White did what Malory did. He recreated and reconsolidated the story for his era. No version of the Arthurian story can ever again be told without the influence of T H White being present, whether one is working with it or against it”, Sarah Zettel, author of Camelot’s Sword.

White’s work is also best known for its direct manifestation into Disney’s The Sword In The Stone film of 1963, and also Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical Camelot of 1960 (made into a film in 1967 and revived as a musical in 1980), which is also directly based on The Once and Future King. And X men hero Professor Charles Xavier also frequently cites The Once And Future King as his favourite book in the X Men, testifying to the very range and impact of his infuence.

It can also be read as political commentary -White’s revisitation of Malory’s classic Morte D’Arthur is infused with his own pacifist beliefs,evident in Arthur’s own weariness, as he gave the tales new meaning in a world dominated by the Second World War.

“This ambitious work will long remain a memorial to an author who is at once civilized, learned, witty and humane.” Times Literary Supplement.


T H White and Voyager

HarperCollins author Robert Carter, is an Arthurian expert and enthusiast. His latest title, Whitemantle, is out in May, based on the tale of a young man, Willand, believed to be the 15th century reincarnation of King Arthur. When Robert Carter first joined HarperCollins in 2002, Publishing Director Jane Johnson saw the comparisons between Carter and T H White almost immediately and said “As the long-time publisher of both J R R Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS and T H White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING and THE SWORDIN THE STONE, I’m usually very chary of drawing comparisons between these two pillars of mythic fiction and any new writer, but in the case of Robert Carter I have no choice.”

“The Once and Future King” will stand as a strong link in the chain of storytelling that has maintained this tale for over a thousand years.” Amazon reviewer.

So, with 100 years to celebrate, Robert Carter takes time out from his world of myth and magic, to reflect on the magnificent life and influence of T H White.

‘Like most people, when I think of King Arthur I tend to think of the Disney cartoon “The Sword in the Stone”, but I didn’t know until recently that the author of the book that that film was based on was from Bombay.

Terence Hanbury White was born 100 years ago this year. His father was an offical in the Indian civil service, and young Terence was soon shipped back to England to attend school and then Cambridge where he developed his interest in history and his love of the English countryside. His Arthurian quartet, collectively known as “The Once and Future King”, came out just before the second world war. It is, like Tolkien’s work, deceptively complex and is capa­ble of both a naive reading and a knowing one. This of course is a measure of an author’s skill and scholarship.

My own work “The Language of Stones” trilogy, was inspired by some of the same sources that inspired both Tolkien and White. It’s good to feel the ghosts of the past smiling down on one’s work, or to imagine it at any rate, for if culture is anything it’s that unbroken thread which descends though time. Though better than half a century separates Tolkien’s and White’s writing from my own, it’s satisfying to be published by the same company that still publish both those luminaries.’

The Once and Future King Complete Edition, T H White is available from HarperCollins, £9.99 PB. Whitemantle, Robert Carter, is available from HarperCollins, May 2006, £17.99

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