Book Review: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle

☑☑☑☑☑  5 Pager Lesson Time read

This book doesn’t exactly fall into my Tired Mom Rating System because it was ‘obligated’ reading. I read it to my son for literature. So I HAD to stay awake for all 4-5 pages that I read aloud. Staying awake usually isn’t a problem for me during the morning lesson time- usually.

Often I would read this book to my son in his room while he and his little brother played with legos. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t. The problem wasn’t the legos and him catching the story, the problem was the little brother in the room. I digress….. I found that he could listen just as attentively playing with legos, and possibly better. I didn’t require narrations after each reading, but after about half. He never had a problem narrating.

This book is a great read for a boy, any age boy. It would work great for a family read aloud. It has adventure, fighting, knights and horses, swords and enchanted lakes.

One of my favorite parts is midway through the book at The Book of Three Worthies. The author leaves the narrative story  to speak directly to his reader. He reveals sound wisdom and natural law, fitting for any of us.

“So now presently follows the story of the passing of Merlin the Wise; in the which you shall see how the very wisdom that Merlin possessed in such great measure was the cause of his own undoing. Wherefore I do hope that you yourselves may take that story unto heart so that you shall see that those gifts of mind or person which God assigns unto you may not be so misused by you or others that they shall become the means of compassing your own downfall.

For it shall not excuse you in any wise that, as you journey forward in your life, you shall find many men who, like Merlin, have been endowed by the grace of God with very great gifts of talent which they might very easily use to the great benefit of mankind, but which they so misuse as to bring the greater ruin upon themselves and the greater harm unto other men. … therefore seek to guard yourself well, not only against sin, but against folly and weakness likewise.” p. 131-132

There are lessons to be learned in this book about jealousy, envy, naivety, misplaced trust, rashness, friendship, brotherhood, duty, and fortitude.

Particularly in the chapters of the second half of the book, one of the larger themes deals with the powers a person can have over others, for good or ill – in this book, often ill. We found ourselves saying, “Oh no, not again,” as yet another knight fell to the bewitching charms of a beautiful maiden of disguise. It was to the knight’s discredit and downfall, causing grief and hurt to himself and others. Good life lessons.

This book presents a picture of the nobleness and respect which with a female ought to expect to be treated. Chivalry. Care out of reverence, something that we might have forgotten in our hurry to equalize.

I did find it somewhat irritating that the knights always fight and defend the maidens of fair and beautiful qualities…with hair as black as a raven, and eyes of gleaming jewels, and skin as fair …. blah, blah, blah. How about fight for the average gal with a heart of gold? There is  a chapter in which two Ladies are debating who is the most beautiful and knights are sent out to fight about it. I almost couldn’t stand the frivolousness and nearly abandoned this book. I kept going, and in the end some of the better lessons about rashness, loyalty to friends, duty, and caution in trust were developed. So if you can stomach a little valley girl- I’m- prettier- than- you syndrome, the end is worth it.

We read this as a read-aloud, but older students could also read it on their own.

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