The Best English-Language Fiction of the Twentieth Century
A Composite List and Ranking
by Brian Kunde


<- White, T. H., 1906-1964.
         Full name: Terence Hanbury White. English author born in Bombay, India to English parents, best known for the Arthurian fantasies compiled as The Once and Future King.
  • <- The Once and Future King. 1953.
             A lengthy reimagining and retelling of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, resetting the King Arthur legend from its Dark Age origins into an alternate version of the High Middle Ages. A somewhat daffy take on the story, it darkens as the novel progresses. Originally published as three shorter novels, with a fourth issued only as part of the larger work, and a fifth suppressed and omitted entirely, only seeing publication posthumously. All three of the previously published parts were revised for inclusion in the complete volume, sometimes extensively, and many readers prefer the original versions. The divisions are as follows:
             1. The Sword in the Stone (1938). Arthur's youth, education via transformation into various animals by the wizard Merlyn, and ultimate elevation to the throne. Adapted to radio in 1939, 1952 and 1982, and to animated film by Disney in 1963.
             2. The Witch in the Wood (1939). The establishment of Arthur's rule and the conflict between his England and Orkney. Introduces the Orkney princes Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth, later knights of the Round Table, and culminates in Arthur's seduction by their abusive mother Morgause, which leads to the birth of his nemesis Mordred. The version in the complete volume was drastically cut, largely rewritten, and retitled The Queen of Air and Darkness.
             3. The Ill-Made Knight (1940). The story of Sir Lancelot, portrayed as an ugly knight whose self-loathing motivates him to excel; includes his affair with Arthur's queen Guinevere, his complicated and doomed relationship with Elaine, and the quest for the Holy Grail.
             4. The Candle in the Wind (1953, as part of the larger work). The plot of Mordred and Agravaine that reveals the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere and leads to the downfall of Arthur's kingdom.
             5. The Book of Merlyn (1977, published separately from the larger work). A final meeting between Arthur and Merlyn on the eve of the last battle, which gives the king the resolution to attempt one last (unsuccessful) bid for peace with Mordred.
             The work as a whole was adapted to stage in 1960 and screen in 1967 as the musical Camelot, which draws primarily on the third and fourth parts.

Posted Dec. 9, 2013, and last updated Dec. 9, 2013.
Please report any errors to the compiler.
Published by Fleabonnet Press.
The source list data is public domain.
Additional material © 1999-2013 by Brian Kunde.