DO YOU HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH A FANTASY CHARACTER? I HAVE ONE. Mine is Merlyn, the Wizard famous as King Arthur’s mentor. I first met Merlyn in the T.H.White’s book The Once and Future King. If you have not read the book and have any interest in wizards or Camelot, war and peace it is a must read.
Masquerading as a children’s tale, the story is the source of the musical Camelot, the more serious Excalibur, and the Star Wars movies. The value of the book lies for me in its entertainingly but sad commentary on war and peace.
White’s Merlyn educates Wart as the young Arthur is known, by turning him into various creatures. At one point Wart asks to become an ant. Merlyn is cautious saying ants are dangerous, but finally consents. The first thing Wart sees when transformed into an ant is a sign proclaiming the rule:
“Every thing not forbidden is compulsory.”
As Wart soon learns he is now a puppet. He wants to ask an ant he meets if that ant is happy and discovers two things; happy is not in the ant’s vocabulary and asking questions in the ant nest are dangerous signs of insanity,
Wart also discovers that his brain is being filled with lectures about the right to war on other nests. Here is one:
,,,Ant the Father had ordained in his wisdom that Othernest plamires (ants) should always be the slaves of Thisnest plamires.
The Wart listened to two of these broadcasts carefully, so that he would be able to remember them afterwards:A. We are so numerous that we are starving. B. Therefore we must encourage still larger families so as to become yet more numerous and starving. C. When we are so numerous and starving as all that, obviously we shall have a right to take other people’s stores of seed. Besides, we shall by then have a numerous and starving army. It was only after this logical train of thought had been put into practice, and the output of the nurseries trebled–both nests meanwhile getting ample mash for all their needs….starving nations never seem to be quite so starving that they cannot afford to have far more expensive armaments than anybody else. It was only at this point that the second type of lecture began. This is how the second lecture went: A. We are more numerous than they are, therefore we have a right to their mash. B. They are more numerous than we are, therefore they are wickedly trying to steal our mash. C. We are a mighty race and have a natural right to subjugate their puny one. D. They are a mighty race and are unnaturally trying to subjugate our inoffensive one. E. We must attack them in self-defence. F. They are attacking us by defending themselves. G. If we do not attack them today, they will attack us tomorrow. H. In any case we are not attacking them at all. We are offering them incalculable benefits.
Sound like today’s ranting from many quarters? Does to me. And this was first published in 1939.
White was not a pacifist. I was at one point. I would even say that I was a radical pacifist—one who would rather die than defend myself. No longer, I have lived through too many wars to and dealt with too many bullies. Self-defense is a right and an obligation.
White agrees with me about self defense. “There is one fairly good reason for fighting – and that is, if the other man starts it. You see, wars are a great wickedness, perhaps the greatest wickedness of a wicked species. They are so wicked that they must not be allowed. When you can be perfectly certain that the other man started them, then is the time when you might have a sort of duty to stop them.”
The difficulty, of course, is knowing when sword rattling does mean you are about to be attacked. White claimed that was when you saw the enemies troops gathering on your borders. Sadly today, with advance weaponry and some people’s penchant for suicide bombing it is harder to determine who is being attacked and by whom. Teasing that out is not always easy, but must be done if the world is to move forward toward peace.
You can down load the book free from this site: The Once and Future King. If you have any interest in bringing the world to peace, reading this will affirm your beliefs, but also add a bit of gloom to your heart. I believe it should be on every high school students list and every adult’s read next list if not yet read.
Another reason I am obsessed with Merlin as I spell his name, is that he is the hero of the novel I am writing Merlin and Meredyth. Mainly it is a book about men’s war on sexual pleasures, particularly those enjoyed by women. Merlin is no wizard in my book, but a man seeking to make the world a bit better. His father was a Jewish Mercenary—yes there were such hired killers in the 4th and 5th century AD; his mother was a novice in a Celtic Sect called Sisters of the Heart. That sect hoped to bring peace on earth by focusing men on sexual pleasures.
Merlin is torn between his parents versions of higher powers and in his quest to believe in something travels the known world, becomes an alchemist and confirmed atheist with no faith in anything but reason and what he can see and touch. He does accept the belief of both his parents that it is man’s duty to create a peaceful earth. A young girl seeking his help in obtaining the herbs that will bring about the premature birth of a baby shakes him from a mid-life crisis and forces him to yet again question his beliefs.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for me to finish, but keep good thoughts that it will be done before my brain becomes incapable of writing coherently. It is about 2/3 finished, but Merlin keeps leading me down different paths and so the book gets added to and changed and that demands re-writing and re-writing is one of my “issues.” I re-write, re-write, re-write.
Meanwhile, do try to read the Once and Future King. You can down load it to your computer as I noted above and here.
Share, care, work for peace and justice. Doing so will strengthen you and those you love.