Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur (1485)

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Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur (1485)


Then Arthur made great dole when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father. Sir, said Ector unto Arthur, will ye be my good and gracious lord when ye are king? Else were I to blame, said Arthur, for ye are the man in the world that I am most beholden to, and my good lady and mother your wife, that as well as her own hath fostered me and kept. And if ever it be God's will that I be king as ye say, ye shall desire of me what I may do, and I shall not fail you; God forbid I should fail you Sir, said Sir Ector, I will ask no more of you, but that ye will make my son, your foster brother, Sir Kay, seneschal of all your lands. That shall be done, said Arthur, and more, by the faith of my body, that never man shall have that office but he, while he and I live Therewithal they went unto the Archbishop, and told him how the sword was achieved, and by whom; and on Twelfth-day all the barons came thither, and to assay to take the sword, who that would assay. But there afore them all, there might none take it out but Arthur; wherefore there were many lords wroth, and said it was great shame unto them all and the realm, to be overgoverned with a boy of no high blood born. And so they fell out at that time that it was put off till Candlemas and then all the barons should meet there again; but always the ten knights were ordained to watch the sword day and night, and so they set a pavilion over the stone and the sword, and five always watched.

So at Candlemas many more great lords came thither for to have won the sword, but there might none prevail. And right as Arthur did at Christmas, he did at Candlemas, and pulled out the sword easily, whereof the barons were sore aggrieved and put it off in delay till the high feast of Easter. And as Arthur sped before, so did he at Easter; yet there were some of the great lords had indignation that Arthur should be king, and put it off in a delay till the feast of Pentecost. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury by Merlin's providence let purvey then of the best knights that they might get, and such knights as Uther Pendragon loved best and most trusted in his days.


This excerpt is from Le Morte D’Arthur written by Sir Thomas Malory in the late fifteenth century. Walt Disney’s The Sword and the Stone, released in 1963, is based on T.H. White’s 1938 story The Sword in the Stone, which is a children’s tale about what King Arthur learned in his childhood from Merlin. Arthur’s childhood is not mentioned in Sir Thomas Malory’s telling of the Arthurian legend; it begins with Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon. Malory’s story indicates that only Uther and Merlin know Arthur is the son of Uther and Igraine. None of this is mentioned in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, but the movie does share a set of characters with the original source material: Sir Ector, Sir Kay, Arthur (Wart), and Merlin. In this passage, it is revealed to Arthur that he is not the son of Sir Ector and not brother to Sir Kay. This story underscores the importance of the Church in Arthurian romances, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is pushed by Merlin, is the person who finally persuades the barons and knights to accept the boy as their king. Also, this passage stresses the importance of the declaring or crowning kings on Christian holidays—here, the focus is on Candlemas, which is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

In addition to the shared characters, Disney’s The Sword in the Stone takes one of its pivotal scenes from Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. In Malory’s story, there is a tournament in London and Arthur forgets Sir Kay’s sword, and spots one in the churchyard and takes it to Kay. Everyone stops to examine the sword and the nobles hardly believe Arthur (Wart) pulled it. However, unlike Sir Malory’s story, the other baron’s hail Arthur as their king before Sir Ector and Sir Kay, who ultimately do so as well.  Unlike Malory’s story, there is no crowing by the Archbishop; Merlin has that honor in the film.  


Sir Thomas Malory


Malory, Thomas. Tales of King Arthur. Edited by Michael Senior. New York: Schocken Books, 1980.


Schoken Books


c. 1485


Christopher Mangine


Schoken Books


Middle English


Primary Source Text


Sir Thomas Malory , “Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur (1485),” Medieval Hollywood, accessed April 19, 2024,

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