Like his fellow author Rudyard Kipling (coming up shortly in this reread), T.H. White was born of two worlds: Great Britain and India. White’s early home life was miserable—his father was an alcoholic reportedly prone to violence, and his parents divorced when he was a child. White was sent back to live with grandparents in England, losing his early home. As an adult, he never married or formed any lasting relationships, except with Brownie, an Irish setter. By his own admission, the dog was his family; he was devastated when she died. Some critics have speculated that he might have been gay, and had difficulty accepting that identity, but the evidence for this is ambiguous.
In any case, until the dog, like many lonely, miserable children, he ended up finding his solace in books. Among these: Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, which White used first as a subject for his university thesis, and later as a subject for a series of novellas finally collected in The Once and Future King, by far his most popular work. It can be read as an epic, or as an individual work: in this post I’m going to focus on the first novella: The Sword in the Stone.