"The Once and Future King" and "A Great and Terrible Beauty"

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Literary archetypes are universal models or patterns that characters are based on, they aren’t necessarily stereotypes. Archetypes can enhance or degrade the novel depending on their quality. Fantasy novels are heavy with archetypes, possibly more than any genre. T.H. White and Libba Bray break through the wall of the norm and expand the archetypes of the sage, the shrew, virgin huntress and the reluctant hero in both novels The Once and Future King and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Without a doubt, Merlyn is a vital component to Arthur’s destiny to become the greatest king of England. Although he only serves as a main character in books Sword in the Stone and Queen of Air and Darkness, T.H. White successfully expands Merlyn from the roots of the sage archetype and exposes his omniscience and temper. Typically a sage is an old teacher who advises the hero. At first glance, Merlyn is described briefly with a white beard and a long mustache on his face (29). Making up for Merlyn’s cliché appearance, T.H. White expands Merlyn’s character further by allowing him to live backwards; he knows the outcome of Arthur’s every action. Merlyn indirectly warns Arthur about Queen Morgause’s seduction, which is one of King Arthur’s biggest downfalls. Arthur tells his men, “This battle at Bedegraine is the preliminary, you see. It is after the battle that Merlyn wants me to think about” (247). White has conveyed that Merlyn uses a calm and new-school teaching method to tutor Arthur. Merlyn’s omniscience is the key to why Merlyn is a unique tutor. As an aged wise man, the reader would presume that Merlyn would have patience and understanding; however, Merlyn is a very temperamental person when scolding Arthur, “And what is going to happen when ...

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...ts desires. Although White plot contains cliché fantasy, White’s development of archetypes is more successful than Bray’s. This is because method of characterization disrupts the flow of the story to give an in-depth analysis of the character’s flaws, which works to the readers benefit, making it more clear . White’s method allows Morgause to be set apart from any shrew in literature by writing two or three paragraphs about the complexity of her character. Her cockiness and shallow personality along with her diabolical plan to steal King Arthur’s throne make her one of most complex shrews. Bray uses a more underdeveloped method of characterization, allowing the readers to draw their own bias conclusions. No matter what method used, T.H. White and Libba Bray extend four great archetypes in their novels Once and Future King and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

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