Monday, December 14, 2009

The Once and Future King

I was just doing some research about the First Cemetery in Athens as part of a pseudo-project to collect/document the graves of archaeologists in Greece. I was utterly dumbfounded to realize that T.H. White is buried there in Athens' enormous graveyard.

T.H. White is considered one of the most influential and important fantasy writers of all time. While his name might not sound familiar, everyone knows his story. If you've ever seen Disney's The Sword and the Stone, then you can thank T.H. White.

The Sword and the Stone is part of T.H. White's larger story, The Once and Future King, which is consistently cited as one of the greatest fantasy stories, ever.

It is the 20th century's retelling of the tale of King Arthur. White's story has impacted countless readers and SF authors, from Tolkien onward. Wikipedia notes, "J.K. Rowling has said that T. H. White's writing strongly influenced the Harry Potter books; several critics have compared Rowling's character Albus Dumbledore to White's absent-minded Merlyn, and Rowling herself has described White's Wart as 'Harry's spiritual ancestor.'"

The fact that White is buried in the First Cemetery, it seems, is complete happenstance. Apparently, he was on board a ship in the Piraeus harbor when he died of a 'heart ailment.' He never made it home to England.

I'll have to get a photo next year, unless some of the Athens peeps feel like sending one along sooner.


Anonymous said...

I had no idea! We'll see if we can get there over the holidays to get that picture for you. No promises, my army of relatives might keep us busy for the whole time, without a minute for ourselves.

Pierre A said...

If your only experience of T. H. White's Arthur fantasies is the rather drastically altered Once and Future King, see if you can find a copy of the original 1938 The Sword in the Stone, especially if the heraldic book=jacket is still preserved (Collins Clear-Type Press, London and Glasgow). The Sword in the Stone is a much sharper and tighter story than what got blended into the later composite.

doug said...

I greatly enjoyed The Once and Future King. Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever seen the Disney cartoon, which is surprising considering half of the movies I saw in my childhood were made by Disney.