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Comparing and Contrasting Kay and Wart in The Once and Future King

Comparing and Contrasting Kay and Wart in The Once and Future King


White presents to the reader a relationship between two brothers; Kay and Wart, also known as Arthur. Though they are not blood brothers, they are brought up together by the same father named of sir Ector. One can attribute their evident differences to be the result of having different parents. Wart is an adoptive son to sir Ector, thus making Kay to be his foster brother. This article is determined to look into similarities and differences of the two brothers, and most importantly, how Kay has been a hindrance to his brother Wart’s success.

Shared Characteristics

Having been brought up at the same home, Kay and Arthur share some characteristics. Both Kay and Arthur are destined for leadership. In the long run it can be deduced that Kay becomes a knight while his brother, Arthur, rises to the position of a King, when the leader of England dies. This is a clear indication that they have leadership qualities that the other men in England lack, hence making them rise to such positions in order to lead others. Merlyn’s utterance  to Arthur  “you and your brother  should follow a certain path into forest Sauvage, where you will find an adventure (White 12)” does confirms that the two brothers are destined to have great adventures which not everybody is destined to.

Accepting to follow the path to the forest, shows their obedience, when they chose to do what Merlyn asked them to. The two brothers are also kind. After getting to the forest, they find Robin Hood who is troubled by the fact that one of his companions is kidnapped by a witch in the forest “a band of fairies, the Oldest Ones of All led by witch Morgan Le Fay, have kidnapped one of my companion, Friar Tuck, and the Dog Boy, who is one of sir Ector servants” (White 17). The two resolve to help Robin and his accompanying men by ambushing the Castle Chariot owned by the witch and his followers. Helping Robin free his companion, the boys also participate in rescuing other captives who were held together with Friar Tuck and the Dog Boy. This action does not only explicitly demonstrate their great level of kindness, but also their boldness to have the guts to attack such a strong castle. That meant risking their lives in the pursuit to rescue Robin’s men.

One can also say that both Kay and Arthur are cooperative. Successful battles are a product of great cooperation among the fighting crew. Their success in rescuing the captives indicates that there was an intense cooperation between Robin’s crew and the two boys. Most of their success can be attributed to their ability to be effective listeners. Just before they attacked the castle that contained the captives, Robin gave them instructions how they could behave while in the castle. He advised “do not eat anything while you are in the castle, since you will be trapped there forever if you do so (White 22).” After getting in the castle, they did exactly as Robin had instructed them.

Another instance when the two came out to be effective listeners is when Arthur was in the form of a badger. In that case, he keenly listened to the wise badger when it was narrating to him. Arthur is seen to be highly interested in the narration and he used some of the lessons that he learnt from the narration later in his life. On his part, Kay becomes a good listener when he chooses to listen to his father’s warnings. He chose to clear up the lies for being the one to have removed the sword from the stuck stone near the church in England. If he was not a good listener, he could have chosen to be stubborn and, therefore, hold to the lie that he was the one who removed the sword from the stone and not his brother. This paragraph has given instances whereby Kay and Arthur appear to share similar characteristics.

White’s Efforts to Reveal Kay and Wart Similarities and Differences

White demonstrates both similarities and differences in Kay and Arthur’s characters. Moreover, the similarity is brought to the surface when White makes them share the same characters in some instances throughout the novel. This paragraph, therefore, seeks to establish how White has generally made Kay appear different from Arthur. In the first place, White was successful to show the reader how both Kay and Arthur have different bloods. That was made evident when he revealed to the reader that the two brothers were from different fathers. Arthur’s life is marked by instances where he has to obtain some knowledge receiving education from different individuals. His father sir Ector tells him “you must begin your education (White 26).”  That way, he is fortunate to get Merlyn as his tutor. Furthermore, he learns magic from him when he is transformed to different animals such as a perch, ant, owl, wild goose and a badger.

Another instance where Arthur is seen to receive some knowledge is when he is taught a life lesson by a wise badger. This is different when Kay is brought on board. Instead of receiving education, Kay is presented by White as the one who spends most of his life preparing to become a knight.  Kay is arrogant and aggressive. That is evident when he spends much of his time trying to train to fight with weapons which he is not capable of using. He even challenges a lot of fighters in the region, but is terribly defeated in the wars. Though his ability to challenge many fighters may be viewed as a character of boldness, it is, however, not. It is motivated by the fact that he is determined to rise to power and that is why he keeps fighting each and every one who seems to challenge him. Thus, he is overconfident and greedy for power.

Moreover, Kay’s level of arrogance is depicted when he thinks that he will win the tournament by removing the sword which is stuck in the stone. Apart from being a bully, he is also too bossy. After realizing that he forgot his sword when in the tournament, he orders his brother Wart to go home and fetch the sword for him: “He orders the Wart to return to their inn and retrieve the sword (White 33).” White presents Kay to be bossy is trying to show how Kay’s laziness.

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Furthermore, Wart was his squire, but not his slave. White emphasizes Kay’s childishness at the end of the novel, when Kay arrives to London in an attempt to pull the sword from the stone. Generally, Kay seems to think that he will easily do so. This is when he reasons “anybody who does not go for a tournament like this will be proving that he has no noble blood in his veins (White 41).”  On his part, Arthur is wise and lovable. Because of his character sir Ector adopts him as his son and chooses to make him receive education. White has clearly brought to light his obedience when he goes back home to get his brother Kay a sword after he ordered him to do so. That is also a clear demonstration of humility on the part of Wart.

In addition, when White tells the reader that Arthur was convincing Merlyn to change his brother into an animal too, he is trying to show that Arthur is compassionate and at the same time quite caring. Instead of embracing the new title as a King he is seen breaking into tears and wishing that he should not have removed the sword from the stone. Here, White compares Arthur to his brother Kay by showing that he has no greed for power. Therefore, we see how White presented the varying characters of the two brothers, Kay and Arthur, throughout the novel.

Kay’s Character as Foil to Wart

Kay’s characters has for a long time been a hindrance to Arthur’s success. He is indeed too jealous about Arthur’s progress. That is evidenced after his father sir Ector recommended a tutor to Arthur, and Kay was not happy about that decision: “Kay, the Wart’s older brother became jealous over the Wart’s fortune” (White 47).  This affects Arthur emotionally after learning that his brother was not happy about his father’s move. Out of compassion he asks his tutor, Merlyn, whether he can also transform his brother Kay to an animal. (White 51)  However, Merlyn turns down that request claiming that “I cannot do that because that is not what Merlyn was sent for (White 52).” The idea here is to evaluate how Arthur being compassionate and caring about his brother slows down or deflects his focus towards achieving what he is destined for.

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Kay’s aggressiveness as well as boldness makes him look more of a leader than Arthur. Though he loses most of challenges in the fights, this ability is a clear indication that he is bold enough to be a leader. As a result of being so courageous, Kay is able to kill a weird creature called griffin in the foresta creature with an eagle’s head and wings and a lion body” (White 62). On his part, Arthur has rarely demonstrated instances where he is that courageous. Therefore, analyzed both characters’ boldness, even Arthur himself feels that he is not bold enough to challenge his brother Kay. This might be the reason as to why Arthur has been fond of being too admissive to his brother.

Moreover, while Kay lied about being the one to have removed the sword from the stone, he intended to assume the kingship instead of his brother Arthur. Though he is able to give up his lies after a rebuke from his father, it is true that he could have risen to power which was not meant for him. His character of being too bossy, authoritative, and arrogant can also be regarded as an obstacle preventing Arthur from rising to power. As already evident, Arthur is too submissive, humble, and compassionate. By being arrogant he ensured that Arthur would never be a challenge to him.  In simple terms, Kay’s aggressiveness over his brother can be seen as the main reason for him to be a foil for Wart.


As  it was covered in this paper, there is no doubt that both Kay and Wart were destined to become leaders. This is evident from the fact that after a long run Kay became a Knight while Wart rose to become a King. They have a lot of characteristics in common that make them undertake the same course in their lives. However, there are great differences defining their characters. Kay is aggressive, arrogant, bold, and greedier for power than his brother Wart. Because of this Kay acts as a hindrance to Wart’s success. White depicted a lot of similarities and differences between the two characters, as well as demonstrated some of the obstacles that Kay posed on the way towards the success of his brother, Wart.

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