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In the book, The Once and Future King, T.H. White shows the importance that educationrelies heavily upon ones own personal experiences. When Merlyn is called on to tutor Wart, anadopted child, he uses this exact learning method on Wart. Merlyn, who is a magician, usestransformation as a his learning tool.
Merlyn turns Wart into different animals to show Wartlessons of life. Through each transformation Wart experiences different forms of power, eachbeing a part of how he should rule as king. When Wart experiences each of these different stagesof lesson he finds out from Mr. P that mind power is nothing, from the wild goose he learnsfreedom, and the badger teaches him to accept what you have.When Wart is transformed into a fish Merlyn takes him to go talk to the master of themoat, Mr.
P. This is the first transformation that Wart will learn his first lesson in. When Wartapproaches Mr. P he already senses a great deal of danger because of his massive size andstrength. Wart was so flabbergasted by his enormous structure that he could not think of anythingto ask Mr. P. Then Mr.
P replies with his view on life, a simple statement, “There is only power. Power is of the individual mind, but the mind’s power is not enough” (52). Mr. P is showing theimportance of physical power over the minds with this comment he makes . What Mr.
P statesastonishes Wart so much that Wart becomes speechless and does not move from where he ispositioned. As Mr. P teaches his theories of life he becomes very agitated with Wart andPronounces, “I think you ought to go away really almost at once in case my disillusioned mouthshould suddenly determine to introduce you to my gills, which have teeth too” (52). As Wart islistening to Mr. P say this he is stunned by the words he is saying to him. Wart is astonished thatMr. P is thinking about eating him.
At this instance Wart has enough time to turn around andswim away just in the nick-of-time to escape from Mr. P.Another one of Wart’s transformation places him in a flock of geese. These geese are apeace loving race that never kill. Wart learns all about being a geese from other geese. Wart learnsmost of his lessons from a goose named Lyo-lyok.
Wart and Lyo-lyok talk about how the geesecommunicate and most everything about geese. When Wart asks, “Are we fighting people?”(169). Wart and Lyo-lyok get in an argument. Lyo-lyok refuses to listen to Warts explanation tohis question. Lyo-lyok did not understand Wart’s point of view. Once Wart explains to Lyo-lyokhis situation, she then helps Wart in his understanding of the goose.
Wart learns that there is oneleader to a group who is called The Admiral. He guides them on their flight south for the winter.The Admiral receives his position because of his knowledge of the southern migration route. He isonly elected if all the geese in the migration group agree he is capable of doing the job. During theflight the geese obey his choices, since he is their elected leader. But his power ends once they areback on the ground, where he is only looked upon as a respected elder. Lyo-lyok teaches Wartabout this and tells him, “this is how Great-uncle became an admiral” (171).
Through out Wartexperiences as a goose he learns alot about why the geese are not a group that fights within theirspecies. Lyo-lyok tells Wart that the only reason humans fight amounts each other is that we setboundaries and that is what causes fighting.In the final transformation Wart visits the badger.
The badger is a great philosopher whoenjoys giving scholarly commentaries, this is why Merlyn wants this to be Warts lasttransformation. Merlyn explains that, “except for Archimedes, he is the most learned creature Iknow. You will like him” (183). While Wart is visiting him, he explains a story he has written onthe creation of the animal kingdom’s hierarchy.
In his commentary he explains how man answeredGod’s riddle and is awarded control over the animal kingdom. The Badger explains to Wart, inhis view, that God created embryos and that the embryos had a chance to pick out three differentcharacteristics to change about themselves. When man approaches God he states, “I think thatYou made me in the shape which I now have for reasons best known to Yourself, and that wouldbe rude to change” (192). This, God explains is a riddle which Man has solved. In this lessonWart learns that some things are better off being left alone than being changed.Through each of the transformations, Wart sees different uses of power.
Wart mustchoose how he will eventually govern his kingdom. The leaders he visits, govern in their ownway, each retaining their power through different methods. When these are combined, thefollowing picture of how a leader should or should not rule emerges: A leader should not attemptto rule his or her people through might and fear, as does the fish-king. A democratically electedleader, whom subjects have faith in his or her ability to get a job done, and who has the requiredskills will complete the task at hand, as do the geese. Leaders must give great thought to makingdecisions related to their use of power, and use their experience, like the Badger.
Also like theBadger, these decisions should be made without the help of others, and therefore may lead tosolitude. T. H.
White is therefore similar to Merlin in trying to teach us about leadership.Bibliography: