There have been a lot of interpretations of the famous story about the King Arthur, his glorious knights and beautiful Guinevere and her romantic relations with Lancelot. T.H. White used this scenario for presenting of his personal understanding of the ideal society. Most of the information he took from The Death of Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, adding however some unique meaning to the epic story.
In the novel Once and Future King by T.H. White, the author explores the sophisticated and universal themes of relations between power and justice in any society along with the political and social role of war.
White changed not only the flow of narration, but the main heroes as well. In Sir Thomas Malory’s writing the King Arthur is presented as an outstanding hero, who was able to gain his glory and respect first of all in the battlefields. White, however, pays greater attention to this personality as a political rationalizer and innovator. This important detail changes absolutely the whole message of the writing ”“ the King Arthur was so glorious and successful not due to his physical strength and skills, he revealed during battles, but his main strength was hidden in the moral of Merlyn’s teachings, which he was able to correctly apply for building of his governing structure. The distinction between the greatest strength and the one, which is just, is very serious, actual not only for the medieval England, where it was hard for people to define what is really right and wrong, but also for any modern society. Arthur was able to see the difference between might and right after the lessons, he received from Merlyn and became such a successful leader, because he introduced justice and civilization to England.Â The simplified meaning of justice is expressed in the words of Sir Ector “Power is of the individual mind, but the mind’s power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right”ť (White, 36).
Nowadays, the situation in the world is different, all countries have the concrete territories and officially not subdued to each other, thus there is normally no need for battles and wars in order to ascertain power. However the philosophy of the King Arthur regarding justice, leadership model and power interrelations is absolutely applicable in the modern world.
In most of the legends, written about the King Arthur and his round table knights, we are used to meet romantic heroes, protecting the moral codes of Camelot. In the White’s novel the images of the knights are different, as the writer concentrates upon the brutal means of establishing justice and rules, applied by these knights and compares them to the real honor and morality notions. The knights are not idealized as mythical warriors; especially the feelings of Lancelot, his uncertainty and internal conflict are made evident to the readers.
Modern political leaders are different, some are actually using their power, not physical one, but political in order to make the improvements convenient for them, others are trying to establish social order, using more legitimate means, however none of them should be idealized.
White underlines, that war conflicts should not server as major means of establishing and guaranteeing power and fulfillment of the set laws. This is also relevant to the nowadays’ world, as wars and armed conflicts in reality do not support justice determination, rather have ruining power for all sides of the conflict.
Overall, based on the examples taken from the novel by T.H. White Once and Future King, we tried to fit the conclusions and major messages of the author to the realities of the modern world. We can conclude, that most of the principles, reflected exactly in White’s presentation of the epic events, are quite applicable to the modern world.