The Unicorn is Attacked - Tapestry

Scene Retelling – The Once and Future King – Part 1

This scene from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King I read years ago stays in my memory. Today I’m retelling it in my own words.

The Unicorn is Attacked - Tapestry

Detail – The Unicorn is Attacked, ca. 1495–1505

Mordred and Gawain had messed up childhoods

I’ve always loved this scene from T.H. White’s Arthurian series. I haven’t read it in several years and am not going to bother rereading it now, since it’s more fun to just tell it from memory.

Want to skip straight to reading the scene? Scroll down to the next header!

To give you a quick background on what you’re about to see, this scene takes place at the beginning of the second book in the series. Elsewhere, Arthur has already drawn the sword from the stone, and is learning how to be king.

His nephews, on the other hand, are still children. They live on the island of Orkney with their mother, who is a witch–the bad sort of witch.

The children by name are Gawain, Gahareth, Agravain, and Mordred.

Gawain is the big, tall, brawny and brave one. He’s a bit dumb, has red curly hair, and enjoys pushing the others around.

Gahareth and Agravain are complete opposites, but we won’t go into too many details for the sake of brevity.

Now Mordred is the odd one. You see, Mordred is supposedly King Arthur’s “nephew”–at least, that’s what everyone thinks.  In truth, he’s more than that: he’s also King Arthur’s bastard incestuous son.

Right after Arthur was crowned king he decided to take advantage of his new status with the prettiest woman in the castle. It wasn’t until the next day that he learned she was his sister, and by then it was too late.

But we can’t tell the whole story here, we’re just going to tell one small moment of it.

In their beginning

The boys lived in a tower of their witch mother’s castle. Children their age don’t know whether the house they’re living in is a mansion or a dungeon, or if their mother is loving or cruel. They haven’t had time to compare such things to other options, so whatever they have is what must be normal. Unfortunately for them, in their case they had an unpleasant situation: Their mother spent her days looking in the mirror, and the tower in which she left her children was bound to collapse at any minute. All the children knew, however, was that mothers in nursery stories loved their children, and they wanted her to be that kind of a mother.

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