April 26th, 2008

Castor and Pollux Blow Me to Bermuda!

I have finished reading Lord of the Rings to T.R., having refused to read the appendices out loud. If he becomes fascinated and needs to know the ancient history of Gondor, the end of Aragorn’s and Arwen’s story, the differences between the various scripts, or the proper pronunciation for words in the different languages, he is more than welcome to read them himself. I bought him his very own copy of the book for exactly this reason.

However, once one book ends, another begins. We are ten or eleven chapters into T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I picked it because I thought T.R. would like it, given his fascination with knights and swords and such. And it is a wonderful book, if a little challenging to read aloud.

What I love about the book is the balance between the ideal of knighthood and the realities of life. When Wart sees King Pellinore for the first time in the moonlight, he is beautiful, silver, perfect. The subsequent silliness with his glasses and his brachet and all the humdrum chaos of his existence does nothing to dispel that vision; it just puts the real earth underneath.

I also love the close observation of the writing. Trees always have a species. I’ve already had to look up words for pieces of falconry equipment that I had to look up last time I read the book—I haven’t really had much opportunity to cement them into my brain by use in everyday conversation—“Honey, would you please hand me those varvels over there? Have you seen T.R.’s jesses?” (T.R., for his part, is learning useful words like “anachronism.”) Wart’s transformation into a perch and into a merlin are feats of imagination coupled with detailed study that leave me with my jaw hanging.

And it is a funny book, both on the low level of two knights yelling like kids on a playground: “Did not!” “Did too!” as well as on the slightly higher level of Merlin exclaiming, “Castor and Pollux blow me to Bermuda!” and ending up there.

I think I will be allowed to pick again.