Story: A Wizard’s Advice

Excerpted from “The Once and Future King” by T.H.White

One day, towards the end of his childhood, the future King Arthur was having a terrible day. Following the advice of his seniors, he went to see his teacher, Merlyn.

Asking his advice on the matter Arthur spoke, “Well, what about it?”

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – learn.”

TH White - The Once And Future King


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“Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

“Look at what a lot of things there are to learn – pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics – why you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to defeat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.”

“Do you think you have learned anything?” Merlyn inquired.

“I have learned, and been happy.” King Arthur said.

“That’s right then,” said Merlyn, “try to remember what you have learned.”