The Ill-Made Knight

Cover of the First Edition of The Ill-Made Knight (1940)

The Ill-Made Knight is the third book in the Arthurian series by T.H. White.  It was released by Putnam (New York) in 1940 and by Collins (London) in 1941 (World Cat).

Once Arthur had brought relative peace to his kingdom, he sought to create a utopian society in which force was used only for protection.  To this end, he created the Order of the Knights of the Round Table, with the hope that he could get knights to channel their energies into protecting the people of Britain, rather than rampaging around the countryside pillaging it as they had done during his father’s reign.

In France, the child of a petty king is captivated by stories of Arthur and Camelot.  He spends all his time training with the dream of someday becoming one of Arthur’s knights.  When he is an adult, he leaves his home in France and joins Arthur.

That child was Lancelot.  He went on to become Arthur’s greatest knight and best-friend.

Much of The Ill-Made Knight describes Lancelot’s efforts not to fall in love with Guenever (note the somewhat unusual spelling).  Once that is impossible, he tries hard not to act on his feelings, and the effort comes at a great cost to himself.  It isn’t until Guenever is kidnapped and attacked that the pair become romantically involved.

Lancelot is portrayed as brave, noble and extremely pious.  One of the main threads of the book is Lancelot’s inner conflict between his desire to follow his religion and his love for Guenever.  Another of the main threads is the triangle with Arthur-Guenever-Lancelot.

White also covers unusual territory in that his characters age.  Although previous authors, like Malory, had covered many decades in their work, the characters did not seem to feel the aging process.  In The Ill-Made Knight, Lancelot and Guenever feel the aging process, and stay in love.  This adds depth to the story that is missing from other versions.

The love triangle is especially poignant in The Ill-Made Knight.

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