From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 9: The Final Chapter



Thangar and the princess returned to his castle. A large welcome was held for her and Thangar’s safe return, with a large feast and song and dance, joy and happiness. 


Then one day, a great sadness came over the land. 


“Thangar . . .” the princess asked, “. . . where art Sint, my nobleman?”


“I am sorry, but he is d-dead,” Thangar replied with sorrow. 


And the princess wept. 


“He died for you and without him I would be dead also,” Thangar told her. 


“If he died for me, I will die for him also,” she said with tears.


“NO! . . . But you can’t!” Thangar said.


“There is no reason for me to live,” she said, “unless . . . unless you marry me.”


“What?” Thangar said. “I can’t! I would betray Sint.”


“But Sint would be happy if I were happy. We’ll be married, and then break our vows when we get into heaven. Sint would want a man like you to live with me for the rest of my days.”


“Then it will be done, to be my queen!”


They were soon married and with their two kingdoms combined, Thangar became the greatest of all kings and many envied him and his riches.






Closing Thoughts: With double extra cheese, Thangar 2 comes to an end. On second thought, calling this ending cheesy would be an understatement. I think it interesting how much of my beliefs are revealed in this one chapter. Like most 11 year olds, I struggled to understand adult themes like love and marriage, and as an 11 year old writer, it was especially frustrating incorporating it into my fiction. It’s one of those lessons I’ve come to learn only recently, in my thirties, that no matter how many books you read or education you have, you simply cannot fake life experience. If you’ve never been in love before . . . you can’t write well about it. Even if you mimic what others have done, it wouldn’t be genuine; it wouldn’t be art. Now that I’ve been married for ten years, struggled with family and finances, and know what it means to be a father (to two wonderful children) I find that I can better populate the worlds I create, with not only young, brash, idealistic heroes like Thangar, but more world-weary characters like Demacharon from Age of Aenya


If you’ve come with me this far, THANK YOU


What’s next? Well, three years after writing this story, I made my first attempt at getting published. At 14 years of age, I picked up a copy of Writer’s Market, picked three publishers, and sent out three copies of a manuscript entitled, Dynotus’ Adventures. Of course, I only heard back from this one agent, but that didn’t stop me from writing Dynotus Adventures 2, 3, 4, 5 “The Metal God” and my first novel starring Dynotus, The Nomad


To this day, I’ve written more about Dynotus than any other character. He’s the precursor to Xandr. He is what got me through many lonely years. So I feel I owe it to him to post his story, the first one, anyway:


COMING SOON: Dynotus’ Adventures: Book 1: The Island of Fotiaskotoma   



From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 8

Author’s Notes: No thoughts tonight—just read the exciting conclusion!




Thangar 2
Chapter 8


Thangar was more equipped than ever because he now had two power swords and a gold, magical medallion. He pressed forward to his goal, Zarack’s Throne Room, with great anger, slashing the large door in front of him and fearlessly entering.



“It’s over, Zarack! Your time has ended,” Thangar boasted.



“Ha! You are no match for my alien power,” said Zarack, as an electro beam blasted from his hands.


Thangar blocked with his swords and then tied a rope to one sword and threw it at a skull on the wall, using it to swing across the fire pit. Zarack blasted the rope in two but Thangar flipped across the chasm, sticking his swords into the side of the cliff. 


Hanging to the narrow cliff, he started to climb, step by step, by sticking his swords into the stone. From the top, Zarack blasted electricity downwards. Thangar crossed sideways, dodging the beams. Zarack fired again and Thangar absorbed the electricity with his sword and threw it upward, stabbing Zarack and shooting his electro beam back at him!


“AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRH!!!” Zarack cried in pain. “You fool, you cannot stop me!”


While Zarack was hurting, Thangar climbed to the top and flipped backwards onto the ledge, near the door leading to the dragon. Thangar quickly entered the door, avoiding another shot from Zarack, saying, “Phew! I’m safe now . . .”


He then heard a noise and turned.


“Holy cow! It’s . . . it’s . . . it’s the dragon!”


RRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAARRR!!! 

It’s Polykephalos, the Three-Headed!

He cowardly turned to run away, but was blocked by Zarack, face-to-face. Quickly, he ducked an electro beam and Zarack accidentally shot the dragon. Thangar stood up and stabbed Zarack.


Zarack was stuck to the sword, and Thangar carried him over to the pit and kicked him down it. Zarack would fall forever.


Thangar ignored him now and turned to face the dragon! 


He lifted a shield stolen from a knight, and blocked the fire bursting from the dragon’s mouth. He then got out the medallion and it magically floated to the dragon’s middle head. Amazingly, a beam surrounded the dragon. The earth started to shake. Thangar ran and slashed the door behind the dragon. A girl was standing there.


“Come, woman, I have come to rescue you!” Thangar yelled. Together, they ran out of the castle and suddenly . . .


KA-WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! 


The entire castle crumbled under the magic of the medallion. The princess turned, saying, “Thank you for saving me.”


“Do not worry; I am Thangar the Mighty. But do not give credit to me for saving you. Give credit to Sint.” And Thangar’s heart was set. 

From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 7

Author’s Note: Writer’s write. That’s what we do to survive, to make sense of life, to find meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence. For many people out in Internet land, it may seem like a waste of time to keep posting something nobody responds to. 


Long before the Internet existed, I was writing to no one in particular. On occasion, I might even design promotions for my stories, little drawings that said things like, “COMING SOON: THANGAR 2!” I would imagine that if Emily Dickinson lived today, she might have a blog like this one. She wrote 1800 poems, most of them unknown and unpublished. Why did she do it? Because writer’s write, because she suffered from the writer’s disease


Of course, no one will ever dig up Thangar 2 and proclaim it some great lost work of literature. I consider it poor writing even by 1970’s comic book standards. But it’s a part of me. I am a very nostalgic person, and I long for the good ol’ days when my mind still burst with ideas. My six year old daughter already insists on growing up to be an artist. She has produced some very thick ring-binders of her own. And therein lies the beauty of youth: without knowing what came before, you believe anything is possible. As long as that belief persists, I think, success is within her grasp. Who knows? Maybe someday she can illustrate a book I’ve written.




Thangar II
Chapter 7
Edited by Nick Alimonos
Special Guest Edit by Arthur Karapateas 


Everything was being watched from Zarack’s crystal ball and he was greatly angered. “If I have no warriors mighty enough to defend me, I shall create one!” he said. Electricity bolted from his hands, electrifying a thick stone wall. It exploded. Eyes pierced the light and from the ruins of the wall a human form appeared. As life was rooted into him, his work began. Instinctively, he knew what his destiny was, his reason for living: give death to gain life. 

“I am Stonehedge and I will complete my destiny, master!” He ripped off a pillar and ran to his enemies.


Meanwhile, Sint and Thangar, both wounded, continued fighting, till Stonehedge blocked their path. He struck them down with his pillar. Thangar quickly slashed the pillar in half and Sint, behind him, cut Stonehedge. But the rock [body] grew back immediately.


“The more we hit him, the more he reconstructs himself!” said Sint.


Stonehedge turned around and struck the sword away from Sint. Thangar, all the while, slashed at him, crying, “Ye shall fall, evil giant!”


But Stonehedge kicked Thangar and sent him flying through a wall. Sint turned, boasting, “Come and get me, you wimp!” 


At this, Stonehedge was angered. He punched Sint down and Sint’s neck whiplashed. But he got up and struck back with his fist, breaking his hand. Stonehedge pounded him again, yelling, “DIE! DIE! DIE!” When he finally stopped, Sint was in a pit, because Stonehedge had crushed him through the ground.


From behind, Thangar slashed a statue and it came down, crushing Stonehedge. And for a moment, he thought the monster dead.


“ROAR!” Stonehedge screeched, rising from the rubble. He went to pound Thangar, but Thangar blocked with his sword and returned the attack with a quick blow to the head. Stonehedge’s head crumbled and Thangar knew he was victorious.


He ran to Sint’s aid, but this time it had gone too far. 


“What’s wrong?” said Thangar.


“I am dying,” said Sint.


“But you . . . you can’t!” Thangar replied.


“Nothing will save me now,” Sint said weakly. “You saved me twice; I only wish I could save you now, Thangar. Make my soul rest in peace, strike down the FIST of FASCISM and spread the ideas of freedom and democracy, and save my beloved one.”


“I swear to god, I will not fail you!” Thangar told him.


“Take this,” and Sint gave Thangar a gold medallion.


“What is this?” Thangar asked.


“Put it on the dragon’s middle head and he will die. Avenge my death . . . avenge my death . . .” Sint’s voice faded away.


“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!”  


Angrily, Thangar continued on his quest, this time without Sint.  

From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 6

Author’s Notes: Not much to say here except this chapter contains my favorite line from the story. I won’t tell you what it is . . . but it sure made me laugh! Just look for the italicized sentence. 




Thangar II
Chapter 6


Deep in the heart of the castle was Zarack’s Imperial Throne Room. Sint and Thangar continued to fight, getting closer and closer to him. But Zarack had one more man to defend him: THE EXECUTIONER. 

Notice the logo on his shirt? Not a fan of stick figures, this guy.



“Go and destroy mine enemies!” Zarack commanded and the Executioner took up his ax in search of Sint and Thangar.


Meanwhile, Thangar rested, tending to Sint’s injuries from the arrow in his arm to his burned hand. But their safety was cut short. Out of the darkness, a voice broke the silence and a new enemy arose!


“Ha!” said the Executioner. “Your puny swords are no match for my power ax!” 


Thangar turned to Sint, saying, “I’ll fight this battle . . . you stay here and rest.” He then got his sword and the two power weapons clashed like lightning. Both fighters blocked blows for a great length of time. Whoever tired first would die—and Thangar grew ever weaker from the weight of the ax. 


Suddenly, the Executioner made a lucky blow, slitting Thangar’s stomach! Too weak to fight, Thangar lowered his defenses. The Executioner did not finish the job, however, but picked him up and carried him away. 


Thangar looked for Sint, but Sint was gone! 


The Executioner took Thangar to the guillotine [original spelling: guiliteen] and set him up for a painless death. His ax was about to cut the rope to release the blade when suddenly, a brick flew into his head knocking him unconscious. Then the ax accidentally cut the rope! Thangar jumped forward, past the blade, and the Executioner fell into his place; the rest was too sickening to talk about. 


Thangar survived. He turned to see Sint, who had knocked out the Executioner, and was glad Sint hadn’t abandoned him . . . but saved his life.   







From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 5

Author’s Notes: Am I crazy? Why am I doing this, showing the world my very worst work? You don’t see J.K. Rowling publishing her work as an 11 year old, even though she professes to have been writing since age six. I honestly don’t have a good answer for that. I consider this a kind of literary experiment, a way to learn about the writing process and the evolution of learning how to write better. There is so much that could be improved upon here it almost pains me to leave it as is. If there’s one thing this experiment proves, at least, it’s that a story is so much more than a string of events. 


Every writer arrives at mastery (or at least competence) by a different path. Some are born predisposed for word play or grammar, but I was never good at any of that. All I had was an insatiable imagination. If genres can be said to fall into the category of a medium, then whatever category mediums fall into—let’s call them “things”—is what I loved: stories, any kind of stories, from books or movies or comics or games, whatever ignited the flame of my imagination.




Thangar II
Chapter 5  





The castle was astoundingly huge and dreadful. It looked thousands of years old with spider webs and slime. The roof reached up to the vanishing point.


All was silent and an evil cold blew in with the wind. Back to back Thangar and Sint held their swords, entering with caution. They walked silently into an area of complete darkness. 


Suddenly, a blast of fire burst from the ground! It was as if the earth opened and the core blew out. A few more steps, and they would have been fried. 


The fire lit up the place but turned the room into an oven. Sint and Thangar ran back, but a door slammed in front of them. Even their swords were useless against it. They had to go forward—and then the roof grew spikes and so did the floor, which elevated to crush them! They were trapped between a door on their left and fire to their right. And there was the crushing floor and roof too! The safest way, it seemed, was straight into the fire. They took a rope and tied it to Sint’s sword, then threw the sword up, which stuck to the roof. One by one, they swung across the pit of fire, giving themselves great, grave pain. Thangar went first and then Sint. 

Suddenly, halfway across, the sword came loose and fell along with Sint. Sint quickly flipped across, barely making it to the other side of the pit, which was good, but his sword was lost in the fire! And he needed it to fight an enemy guard at the exit. It was Eeya-To-Shun, a Japanese samurai. His large sword clashed with Thangar’s and Sint wanted to help. Eeya karate kicked Thangar down and Thangar’s sword flew backward. Eeya then lifted his sword for the killing blow.


Meanwhile, Sint saw the rope still in the fire pit. He bravely stuck his hand into it and got the rope and pulled out his sword, which was on fire. Sint grabbed the burning sword and blocked Eeya’s sword, saving Thangar. Then, with all of his strength, Sint thrust forward, stabbing the samurai. The fire from the sword slowly burned Eeya-To-Shun from the inside out. 


Sint helped Thangar up and screamed in pain, having fought with a burning sword.   

From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 4

Author’s Notes: One thing I can’t stand is when people get excited about reading my work. They practically beg me. 


When I was growing up, everyone just assumed I was some kind of genius. Either that, or they hoped to learn some dirty secret about the inner workings of my mind. Despite repeating that my story is fantasy and that it probably wouldn’t appeal to them if they don’t like fantasy, they’d insist on reading it. After relenting, I often didn’t hear from them again—they even avoided eye contact. Sometimes I never even got my story back. 


Which makes me wonder . . . what does Thangar say about me? Does it reveal potential genius? In 1986, I honestly thought so. I deluded myself into believing I was destined for greatness. And that belief built the stepping stones upon which my writing stands today. Without that practice, without all those crimes against fiction, I couldn’t write nearly as well as I do now. So many people have this Mozart theory stuck in their brains—this idea that some kids are born great. They never stop to think about the rest of humanity, the people who work hard at being good, or the people who simply write bad fiction. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers argues that there has likely never been any real such prodigies. After all, Mozart’s father was a musician who taught him piano from as early as Mozart could reach the keys. It’s no wonder Mozart could play by age 6.




Thangar II
Chapter 4


Thangar and Sint rode off on their horses, leaving the Enchanted Mountains, towards the dreaded castle. They saw the castle guards and more jousters. Some of the guards who’d managed to flee acquired a new weapon—catapults—which flung giant stones into the air and crashing to the ground. 



Thangar and Sint went back south to the mountain and took the knights’ [the ones killed earlier] armor. When they returned to the castle, the knights thought Thangar and Sint were jousters and ceased firing the catapults. Then Thangar and Sint neared the catapults and cut the wood [holding them together]. When the knights saw this, they knew they had been tricked and attacked them. 


“Come on, Thangar, let’s ditch these suits—they’ve been giving me the cramps,” said Sint.


The two fighters [Thangar and Sint] took up lances and jousted down the knights. All of a sudden, an arrow cut into Sint’s arm—his sword fighting arm—and he had to switch to his bad arm, handicapping him. Arrows were tumbling down from the balcony. 


“It’s the archers!” Sint yelled in pain and Thangar rode to his aid. But Thangar’s attention was drawn off and a jouster knocked him off his horse. He’d lost his horse but fought on.



Sint fought the knight while Thangar climbed up to the balcony and into the window. Inside, he quickly spun around with his sword, cutting the balcony! Thangar then jumped down and it tumbled onto the archers. 


Thangar ran to Sint’s aid and helped him kill the rest of the knights. Thangar and Sint were in pain but were victorious at last. The giant draw bridge was closed but Thangar and Sint slashed the door as if it was paper and together they ran into the castle. Their map did not reveal the inside, however, which was a mystery!  




From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 3

Author’s Notes: When I started this crazy project, I went into it blindly. I honestly don’t remember this story, but I am finding out about it as I edit it. I feel I must apologize for the level of violence in this chapter—and in this story in general. When I was growing up, I was exposed to many violent movies and TV shows, and unfortunately, my early writing was influenced more by these mediums than by books (this still affects my style, which can often be excessively literal). There was a time when I believed, without really thinking about it, that the only conflict resolution was violent resolution—that the climax of any good story was a fight. 


Also of note: The binder where I found Thangar 2 featured many drawings by me, so many of the characters mentioned here (like Tull and Racklor) have no description, since the drawings did the job. I will try to post these in the future.   




Thangar II 
Chapter 3


They finally reached the Enchanted Mountains knowing the enemy was near. They drew their swords, prepared for battle, and soon saw the Deckronian Knights rushing to attack them. Sint and Thangar clashed swords and started sword fighting. Sint took on twenty men while Thangar, being the better warrior, took on thirty. Their powerful swords slashed the guards’ defenses, cutting the enemy shields and swords in two. Weaponless, but still with armor, the evil knights fled. Thangar slashed through their armor, killing them before they could return with more weapons. The knights were obviously outmatched. But then they sent their jousters in to attack. But, just like the knights, their spears were slashed and they were knocked off their horses. Even the jousters were useless.

When the battle was over, Thangar and Sint took their prize, two of the jousters’ horses, which would allow them to ride quickly toward the castle. But they still could not leave the mountains safely. They still had a more dangerous battle ahead, two obstacles named Tull and Racklor.


“What manner of beasts are these?” asked Thangar.


And Sint said, “Evil creatures which we will see more of in the future.”

They did not talk long. Sint started to fight Racklor, while Thangar dodged Tull’s fireballs. Sint’s feet were swept off the ground by Racklor’s tail and then Racklor went to stab him. But Sint dodged the blades and stood back up. Sint slashed Racklor’s blades and stabbed Racklor.


Meanwhile, Thangar had more trouble fighting Tull. Tull swept down to the ground and his claws scratched Thangar’s skin. Thangar bled but fought on, even as Tull’s fireballs kept coming. Sint saw this and ran to a dead knight, taking up a shield and throwing it to Thangar. Thangar used the shield to block the fireballs. Seeing that his fireballs were now useless, Tull swept down for another claw attack. This time, Thangar ducked and when Tull came back up, he cut off his wings.


Tull plunged to the ground and Thangar made a final blow, killing him.

From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 2



Author’s Notes: Editing a story I wrote in 1986 has been a unique challenge. How many mistakes do I keep? How much do I change? From the start, my intent has been to preserve as much of the original as possible with the least amount of editing (spelling and grammar have been corrected). In this way, I hope to offer you, the reader, a glimpse into my 11 yo brain.


Thangar II


Chapter 2


Sint and Thangar made the perfect team. Hand in hand, with the might of their power swords, they traveled through many lands in search of their enemy. On the road, Sint explained to Thangar their deadly mission to save his princess, who had been captured by Zarack, an evil being from “the realm of stars”. Zarack, Sint told him, with the help of his three-headed dragon, Polykephalos, forced the Kingdom of Palantine under evil rule. The dragon was their symbol.  Sint was just married to the princess when she’d been captured, which is why he made so daring an attempt to go on this quest. 


At night, Thangar and Sint rested. Sint talked about how he loved his princess and how grateful he was for Thangar’s help. He mentioned how he could not live without her, and would die trying to rescue her. 


By morning, Thangar and Sint traveled through Shadow Pass to the Enchanted Mountains. Sint told Thangar that the enemy’s castle lay beyond. He had a map of the castle and knew they had to pass the jousters of the Deckronian Knights, the archers, and the castle’s catapults. 


The tension was drawing nearer as they got nearer to the castle.   



From the Mind of an 11 Year Old Boy: Thangar 2: Chapter 1

 
Forward:
One day, I was in my mom’s attic looking for stories I feared she’d thrown away, and found boxes of ring binders containing fiction I don’t remember writing. One binder was entitled, Thangar II: The Omen of Sint. The only thing I remember about Thangar is how I came up with the name. As a kid, I used to watch old pirate movies with guys like Errol Flynn, and before a sword fight somebody would cry, “en garde!” but what I thought they were saying was “thangar!” The second thing I recall, from when I was 8, is that after writing the original Thangar, I accidentally left it at Country Pizza Inn. When I went in the next day to find it, I discovered, to my surprise and confusion, that the writing in the binder wasn’t my own. My story. Not my handwriting. I eventually learned that a busboy who worked there, Chuck Briceno, who aspired to becoming a writer himself, had picked up my story and edited it (to this day I have no idea why he did this). Interestingly enough, Chuck moved to New York City and now writes for the New York Times. [If you’re reading this Chuck, please send me a message!] Unfortunately, I do not know what happened to Thangar, but I did manage to hold on to the sequel, which I wrote years later in 1986 when I was 11.  
 

My birthday is this month. I’ll be 36 years old and will have been writing for 30 million years (OK, maybe not, but it sure feels like it). To commemorate, I thought it’d be fun to post Thangar II with minimal editing for the Internet world to see. Also, I name-dropped Thangar into my current novel, Age of Aenya, as a story within a story (it’s one of Emma’s favorite books). I was not exactly a Picasso when it came to writing back then, so the story is pretty awful (but unintentionally funny at times). So without further ado, I give you: 


Thangar II and the Omen of Sint
Written by 11 year old Nick Alimonos
Edited by 36 year old Nick Alimonos 

Chapter 1


Sint was very hungry. But he did not hesitate from his journey to eat, but continued on his way through the courtyard and into the Imperial Throne Room. 


“Who goes there?” said King Thangar, after seeing Sint barging through the gates.


“It is I,” Sint said. 


And the King replied, “Why have ye come hither and barged in without my permission, Sint?”


“Because I am here on a very important mission and need your help as soon as possible,” Sint replied.


“What need of thee?” the King answered him, “riches . . . gold?”


“No,” said Sint, “I need you and you alone to join me to raid a castle and save my princess.”


“But why,” the King asked him, “need me alone? I can give you one hundred knights, and one hundred jousters.”


“They’d all die,” Sint told him matter-of-factly, “for this mission is so vile . . . Within the castle is all that is evil.”


And Thangar replied, “If that is so, what can a mere king be able to do?”


“But ye are no mere king, but the mightiest warrior in the land; legend has it that ye once yielded a sword like mine,” and Sint removed a glowing sword from his scabbard.


When the king saw the sword, he was astounded. He jumped off his throne and said, “If you are telling false words, ye will be greatly punished.” And the king laid down his crown and robe, saying, “When do you need me?”


“ASAP,” Sint said.


“Then let us be on our way,” Thangar replied. “As we have no time for explanations, you will tell me your story on the journey.” And he took up his sword and armor and followed. The priests and governors were shocked at the sight of the king departing his post so hastily. 


Soon, the sun fell and rose again, and Thangar and Sint were far from the kingdom in an unknown realm.


“We’ll soon reach the Creature Cavern, oh King,” Sint said to his companion.


“That is all well and good, but call me Thangar.”


“OK, Thangar,” said Sint. And their quest began.

 

The Five Greatest Books I’ve Ever Read: #1: The Once and Future King

Recently, a friend showed me an excerpt from a book about words and their meanings. The author was critiquing the biased nature of the dictionary, of all things, using the definition of civilization as an example. Civilization, she argued, should not be generally defined as “advanced” unless the dictionary was (and I paraphrase here) the White, Male, European version. She is obviously referring to the history of genocide enacted in the name of civilization. But as a history major, I tend to bristle at such casual generalizations. Who, exactly, are these white, male, European evil-doers? And how are they differentiated from any other culture, race, or nation-state? There is no doubt that, looking strictly at numbers, Europeans probably take the top spot for evil, but Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are just as infamous. It would be like arguing that Ted Bundy is somehow a better person when compared to Jeffrey Dahmer: it’s pointless. Even the Spanish conquistadors, who committed perhaps the worst crimes against humanity in the name of civilization, can be judged as no more callous than Aztecs who disembodied their peasants. And as far as being white and European, my people, the Greeks, are innocent of enslaving anyone during colonial times, being subjugates of the (non-Anglo) Ottoman Empire. If it’s one thing I’ve learned in history: it’s complicated. But despite historians who discredit the romantic view of medieval times (and I refer here to knights-in-shining-armor) there is no denying that Romanticism was, in and of itself, a thing produced in these times. Whether knights actually stayed true to chivalrous ways is besides the point (probably not, if looking at Amin Malouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes). I prefer to judge societies not on the mob of the masses, however, but on that society’s aspirations. In other words, at one point in time chivalry meant something, and it is a sad loss that we do not remember it. Nothing expresses this sentiment better than T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

I chose this book as my no. #1 for a moment of reading akin to religious revelation. Granted, I was impressionable in my youth, but The Once and Future King had me balling. It isn’t sad things that open my tear ducts, however—it’s something else entirely—something close to my heart, redemption. For me, redemption is the defining quality of Christianity, and while I no longer label myself a Christian, I still hold dear many of its values. On the surface, The Once and Future King is about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, which is probably the most written about subject in the fantasy genre. In fact, Disney’s Sword in the Stone is based on its first third (side note: Professor Xavier, in one scene of the X-Men movie, teaches The Once and Future King to his class). But T.H. White’s masterpiece is more than just a retelling of the Arthurian legend; in its second third (in some publications, The Ill-Made Knight is part 2 of 4) the focus rests exclusively on Sir Lancelot Du Lac and the quest for the Holy Grail.

The Holy Grail, as many people know, is symbolic of Jesus Christ, and the knights who seek it serve, allegorically, as Christians fighting for salvation. To be a good knight is to be without sin. For the larger part of his life, Sir Lancelot avoids sin and is invincible. His moral failing comes from the forbidden love between himself and King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere. Despite this love triangle, Lancelot’s love is entirely platonic, yet he is still tormented by guilt and desire. This kind of conflict may be a foreign concept in our modern ME generation; it may be difficult for people of today to understand the angst by which a man struggles for his soul—and though I do not prescribe to many of the values that existed during medieval times—I am still saddened by the fact that most people care little about simply doing good. Goodness, it would seem, has been hijacked by the Religious Right. And while The Once and Future King may be to Christianity what Grapes of Wrath is to Socialism, it in no way diminishes the book or the strength of its narrative, and it never, ever, comes across as preachy. Without giving away spoilers, redemption ultimately saves Lancelot (just as Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners) and isn’t that a value we can all, left and right, agree upon?

OK, maybe not.

While it may not touch everybody in the same way, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King had a powerful impact on my life. It’s a book that, I can quite honestly say, made me a better person. And while chivalry may be dead and forgotten for most people, it’s still alive in me, and in others. Just as the knights of old, some people still fight for truth regardless of consequences. These ideals came out of a “civilized” Christian Europe, passed down to us by the bearers of those ideals, by writers like T.H. White who taught kids of the 80’s (like me) the meaning of chivalry.

Of course, none of this would matter if the writing wasn’t superb, if the story wasn’t engaging or the characters memorable. Strictly as an adventure story, or an epic fantasy, or as a retelling of Britain’s very best myth, any way you read it, here is a masterpiece. But it’s the subtext, the inspiring lessons behind the story, that bring tears to the eyes, and that makes The Once and Future King my #1 book of all time.