Leadership in The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Leadership

In The Once and Future King T.H. White conveys his personal thoughts on leadership through the help of Merlin, and Wart's transformations. Through each transformation Wart experiences different forms of power, each being a part of a whole idea on how a leader should act. He must piece together these ideas for the definitive way he should rule as king. In order to teach Wart, Merlin transforms him into several different forms, a fish, hawk, ant, goose and a badger.

"‘I wish I was a fish,' said the Wart." (p.45) At that, Wart's first transformation plunged him and Merlin into the castle's moat. They proceeded to meet the largest fish in the moat, who is the ruler. This fish took what he wanted because of his size. In a speech about power, he told Wart "Might is right," and might of the body is greater than might of the mind. Because of the way the fish-king ruled, his subjects obeyed him out of fear for their lives. Wart experienced this firsthand when the fish-king told him to leave. He had grown bored of Wart, and if Wart didn't leave he would've eaten him. The king used his size as his claim to power, therefore his subjects followed him out of fear.

In Wart's next transformation into a hawk he soared into the castle's mews. All the birds in the mews had a military rank. Their leader was an old falcon, who was kept for show. The birds who ranked below the falcon, held her in highest regard because of her age. She applied her power over the other birds with no concern for their lives. In one instance, Wart is ordered to stand next to the cage of a crazy hawk who almost killed him. On the other hand, her age brought respect. The falcon was much older than the others because she had not been released once she outlived her usefulness as a huntress. Her age and attitude allowed her to maintain a powerful grip over all the birds she ruled through fear and respect.

Next, Wart was transformed into an ant and posted within an ant colony. There was a single leader of the ants, and she was the only thinking individually in the whole nest.

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