Before there were comic books and superheroes, there were legends of the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Lancelot was medieval Europe's Batman, and Sir Galahad was their Superman, and Queen Guinevere was their Catwoman, and...well, I don't know, but that parallel went farther than I thought it would.
Though many takes on Arthurian legend have either tried to spoof it (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, yeah!) or ruin it (Quest for Camelot, dear lord!), The Sword in the Stone (1963) did neither.
It's based on the first part of the book "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White, which is probably the most popular retelling of Arthurian legend and has also been adapted into the musical Camelot. The book is fantastic, hilarious, heart-wrenching, and really whimsical. I love it and you should too, or I'll sword you.
And while you're recovering from those sword wounds, here's the heralds list of Titillating Comments from Last Post, on Sleeping Beauty:
"Anita is totes Aurora; I mean, the red fairy even became her nanny!"
"I have never watched The Sword in The Stone. Therefore, I shall imagine it to be a two hour heart-warming, fist-clenching, brain-thomping, all around awesome tale of Luna and Nevile going to war with Hagrid's badly cooked cakes as shields and Gryffindore's sword as a weapon and then making out in the broom closet until the Carrows find them.
But in case you need an Arthurian refresher, here's the plot of the movie in simple terms:
The Wart, a young orphan whose real name is Arthur, befriends a magician named Merlin who teaches him that knowledge is power, and it's power that's more powerful than power. Physical power, you know?
Arthur then finds that his destiny is to draw an ancient sword from an ancient stone/anvil which will designate him as king of England. But, see, he doesn't draw the sword by physical power, he...well, actually, he doesn't draw the sword by knowledge power either, he kind of draws it because he's the king and that's how kings deal with the haters.
The Disney film, while offering a somewhat faithful interpretation of the characters, does differ from the King Arthur legend in a few ways...
1. Merlin teaches Arthur using magic to turn him into animals. Obviously, Arthurian legend never states that Merlin didn't turn Arthur into, say, a goose, but it didn't say he did.
2. The "villain" of the film was made up. The magician villain of King Arthur's story is usually Morgana Le Fay, but in this film they made up a purple-haired, jumper-and-parachute-pants wearing villain named "Madame Mim." She might have been inspired by Morgana, but she has none of the nefarious nastiness; i.e. she has no evil master plan. She's more like a troll; despite being as or more powerful than Merlin (if not as intelligent), all she does is sit in her cottage playing solitaire until something happens. (Which happens to be all my brother does, too. He's a warlock! I'd better burn him.)
3. It gives a close level of reality to the legendary characters. Everyone from Merlin to the Wart/Arthur to Merlin's fussy owl Archimedes feels more real.
That being said, there are many ways the movie could have been better if it followed the book...
1. Merlin can only see into the future. In The Once and Future King, Merlin actually ages backwards. Like Benjamin Button, except not really because he was born young sometime in the present and then aged back through history. Meaning that he's known his whole life about Arthur and what he would do...which is a pretty cool concept, if you think about it.
2. The conclusion is rushed. The movie goes straight from Merlin's confrontation with Mim to Merlin leaving to the Wart becoming the king to Merlin returning in about 15 minutes, and the movie's pace was slow up to that point.
Despite this, the Sword in the Stone is a great part of the Disney collection and is probably one of their more hilarious pieces; while 101 Dalmatians makes me smirk, The Sword makes me laugh out loud every time.
(Did anyone else think that sounded badass? When I said "The sword makes me laugh out loud every time"? No? Alright. That's fine.)
Favorite Part: Wizard's duel between Merlin and Madame Mim. It's a great demonstration of knowledge-power over power-power.
Next Week: The Jungle Book!
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