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Book 2, Chapter 1 Notes from The Once and Future King

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The Once and Future King Book 2, Chapter 1

There is a castle with a tower, at the top of which is an uncomfortable room, cold and damp. It is the bedroom of four boys: Gawaine, Agravaine, Gareth, and Gaheris. They are Scottish and are collectively called the Orkneys, because they are from those islands. The room is unfurnished and they have no beds. They are telling a story quietly, because they can hear their mother downstairs. She is the sort of mother who might punish her children, or might not, depending on her mood, so the boys are afraid of her. The boys are aged ten to fourteen, and Gawaine is the oldest, so he tells the story. They know little English-they speak Gaelic and the old language of chivalry-but that will change once they grow up and become knights at King Arthur's court. Gaheris is a good, reliable person, and Gareth is the baby of the family. Gawaine tries to be authoritative, and Agravaine does too, but in a more bullying way. The story is about King Uther Pendgragon. Many years before, he had fallen in love with Igraine, the boys' grandmother, even though she was married and had three daughters-the boys' mother, Morgause, and their two aunts, Elaine and Morgan. Uther went to war with the Earl of Cornwall, Igraine's husband, and the Earl was killed in battle. Then, according to the story an evil magician named Merlyn brought Uther to Igraine, who was forced to marry him, even though he had been responsible for her husband's death. The boys, even though they have heard the story many times, are still shocked by how evil the English can be. Their mother had taught them the story.

In the room below, their mother, Morgause, is entertaining herself while her husband is away at war. She is boiling a live cat, so that she can take one of its bones, which will make her invisible. Her sister, Morgan, is the witch who kidnaped Friar Tuck, but Morgause is not so involved with magic. She is lazy and ignorant and cruel, but she is very beautiful.

The boys reflect on the story. Gareth is upset by it because it involves someone being forced into marriage: he doesn't like the idea of bullies overpowering the weak. Gawaine is not too bothered by this, but he is loyal to his own family, so he resents that the wrong was done to Igraine, his grandmother. Agravaine is upset because the story involves his mother, who he feels strangely about. Gaheris simply agrees easily with others. They all agree that they must hate Arthur, because their mother has told them that he is a Pendragon, and they love their grandmother Igraine, and, especially, their mother Morgause. This, they say, is the reason "we of Cornwall and Orkney must be against the Kings of England ever more" Book 2, Chapter 1, pg. 223 Morgause, however, does not particularly care about her sons. She is too self-absorbed to really be interested in anything but her own beauty and charms.

Topic Tracking: Love 4
Topic Tracking: Love 5

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