One Friday afternoon when I was ten years old, just about to turn eleven, our teacher, Mrs. Lund, assigned us the first chapter of The Once and Future King to read over the weekend. That’s the cute and child-friendly chapter where Merlin teaches important values to young Wart (the future King Arthur) by temporarily turning him into different animals.
I liked it so much that I kept reading. And reading, and reading. At night I would read it under the covers by flashlight, so my mom wouldn’t know I was missing sleep.
By Monday morning, when I got to school bleary eyed, I had read all 632 pages of the paperback edition of T.H. White’s masterpiece. I had been through the life and death of King Arthur, the founding of the Round Table, the quest for the Holy Grail, the evil power grab of Morgan le Fay, the shocking betrayal of Arthur by Lancelot and Guinevere, the breathtaking rise and tragic fall of a beautiful dream.
But there was nobody to talk with about it. The class discussion that morning was just a nice chat about young Wart getting turned into various little animals, and the lessons he learned along the way.
It was my first “big book”, an experience that opened up a whole new world for me. It gave me the confidence to pick up and read long and challenging books, and changed how I looked at everything.
In a way, it’s my origin story.