The Once and Future King

by: T. H. White

Important Quotations Explained

1
Power is of the individual mind, but the mind’s power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right.

The great pike, king of the fish in Sir Ector’s moat, speaks these words to the Wart in Book I, Chapter 5, after Merlyn transforms the Wart into a fish. The great pike presents a simplistic view of power and the nature of leadership. He insists that power is a value in itself, to be sought and exercised for its own sake and instituted by physical force. The Wart’s discussion with the pike is his first exposure to a philosophy of government that emphasizes force. The Wart responds to the pike’s views with disgust, which suggests that he has the potential to be a just, good ruler. This quote is also important because it presents the vocabulary of power and morality that will dominate Arthur’s mind for the rest of his life. He begins to consider the relationship between “Might” and “Right,” and to criticize the status quo of English society. Arthur’s firsthand experience with the pike’s style of leadership motivates him to be a different type of ruler and to formulate a new type of philosophy about war and justice.