Book vs. Movie: The Sword and the Stone

— by JACKIE YU —

Countless tales have been told about people going from misfortune to success. As kids, we’ve heard the stories of Cinderella with her glass slippers, and of Snow White and her seven dwarves. Among them all, one has stood as a great legend, being retold through generations in various ways. A popular rendition is T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, a classic novel from 1958. Based on this book, “The Sword in the Stone” was created in 1963. Although both are generally well executed, White’s novel is better than the movie.

There are major differences between the novel and the movie, but both stay true to the legend of Arthur’s humble beginnings.

While stumbling through the woods, Arthur, nicknamed “Wart” by Sir Ector and his son Kay, finds a wizard named Merlyn. Merlyn, knowing the future, decides to mentor him by turning him into different animals to convey different principles. The Wart faces many obstacles, both magical and not, which help prepare him for the challenging future ahead.

Though the movie was entertaining, the development of the characters was unimpressive. They were over-exaggerated, and this leads to the loss of some notable qualities. From the too-clumsy Merlyn to the oafish Kay, the movie is filled with poor characters. Perhaps the most disappointing was the development Arthur himself. Though he is not especially strong or assertive in the book, he is further weakened in the movie. As a fish, a large pike tried eating Arthur, and Merlyn’s owl had to save him. Although he did use some intelligence in his escape, he would have been eaten without help. Though entertaining, the characters of the movie pale in comparison to their novel counterparts.

In addition to these disappointing characters, the movie seemed to stray away from the true meaning of Arthur’s lessons. In the novel, Arthur turns into a variety of animals, and with each transformation learns about dangers of different types of government. One such example is during his lesson as a fish, when Arthur learns about how corrupt a monarchy can be. As a fish, he visits a pike who is king of the moat. The large pike says that only power is important in life, and then tries to eat Arthur. In the movie, he is to learn that brains beat brawn, but even this message is clouded, as Arthur does not significantly achieve anything using his mind, in fact needing to be saved from several dangerous situations by Merlyn.

The legend of King Arthur is well-known, with several different versions circulating around the world. The book The Once and Future King, and the movie “The Sword in the Stone” are two examples, both alike and different. Though they both portray the legend well, the movie was not as profound as the book.

Production Information

Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet, inspired by T.H. White (book)
Produced by: Walt Disney Productions
Voices: Rickie Sorensen, Sebastian Cabor and Karl Swenson
Release: 25 December 1963 (USA)
Runtime: 79 minutes

Editor’s Note: Jaqueline Yu’s article was chosen for publication on IJM as part of a film review project in her freshman Pre-Advanced Placement English classroom at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Wa. Skyview is part of the Vancouver Public Schools. More than 120 students submitted reviews. The three runners-up were Brinley Hadfield, Grace Chandler and Elena Mack.

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29 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Bev #

    Jackie, of course I completely agree with you. As a matter of fact, even for little kids, I found the cartoon version of King Arthur’s story ridiculous. The real myth is much more creative and entertaining. Q.

  2. Joshua Zollinger #

    Jackie I knew you would win! I am so happy for you and I think your essay is great. I along with Dr. Questad agree with your opinion of the movie. You stated it well.

  3. Donovan Cordova #

    Both a great movie and a book! I liked the book better because it went more in depth. The book is better for a younger audience though. Great essay!

  4. Kaitlin miller #

    Hey good job I love your review!:)

  5. Brendan Dahmen #

    That was Amazing!! I like the book beter as well. it realy develops the charachters and the plot. good job again

  6. May Cruz #

    Exactly how I feel! The movie was much too childish (in my opinion) but the book had much more of the story and the lessons that the Wart learned.

  7. ben spies #

    I felt that the movies was directed to younger kids so i didn’t find it fun to watch so i like the book better.

  8. Camille Craig #

    I loved your essay! The significance of the story is a very valuable lesson, and I agree with your opinion that the characters in the movie were not as developed as they were in the book. I liked the book over the movie as well. And once again, great job on the essay!

  9. Brendan Dahmen #

    Great job! I prefer the book to the movie as well. I think it a better representation of the plot of the first book and is much more in depth.Good job again.

  10. Demarcus #

    I completely agree with your point on the movie and the book. The book was so much more in depth and involving than the movie was.

  11. Max Gettles #

    I also agree with you. I believe that the book was far more beneficial than the movie. The movie was most likely directed towards a younger target audience and because off that it came off as childish. Nice job on your essay.

  12. Sidney Hutchison #

    Good job Jackie! I completely agree with your point of view. In the movie, Arthur never learned anything for himself the way he did in the book.

  13. Jacob Smith #

    Great job!!!!!!
    very eloquent writing!
    You summed up very well your insight on this topic, I agree with you on whole.
    Your right, the development of the characters was nill compared to the book.
    I still think both book and movie have shallow characters.

  14. Grace Chandler #

    Awesome job! I completely agree with your point of view on the topic. The characters were less interesting and more in the movie. And I also felt that the charecters lost their lessons in the movie. Great job!

  15. Maddie Smith #

    Great job Jackie! I agree with your essay 100%. In the movie you never got to know the characters and Arthur didn’t exactly learn the same important lessons he did in the book.

  16. 16

    That was a very excellent and well thought out review! I completely agree with your point of view because you tell the truth about it and point out the truth that I never had noticed before. As being in 1st period standard english I never got the pleasure (or not) of reading the book. Regardless of this, I still agreed with all the points made in your review. Keep up the work Jackie Yu!

  17. Aubrey Ward-El #

    Jackie Yu! This is easily one of the best essays I have ever read. When we all did this assignment I wrote mine, but from a different perspective than yours. Now that I have read your essay I totally agree with what you said. Your details and extraordinary vocabulary stand out in my mind, and made me want to keep reading more and more! Great job sista!

  18. Carli Fultz #

    Extravagant job Jackie! I agree with you completely. The way you used such strong evidence to support your contentions made it very easy to understand your point of view. I can tell you put a lot of time in to this paper and worked very hard on making it perfect. Your honor is well deserved.

  19. Donovan Cordova #

    I liked both the book and the movie. The book went more in depth and was much more interesting. The movie appeared to be geared-down towards a younger audience so it wasn’t as meaningful.

  20. Hunter Ellingson #

    Good job Jackie, this review was fantastic! Your essay was obviously the best and clearly made points as to why the movie was better. If I hadn’t already thought the movie was superior, I probably would have changed my mind after reading that. Everything you said was correct and I completely agree with you.

  21. Jocelyn Adams #

    Wow Jackie this review is amazing. After reading this, I believe I better understood how the book was so much better then the movie. How the movie didn’t show details as well as the book did. Again great job i love the review!

  22. 22

    Congradulations on the essay! It was great. I agree that the book was better then the movie because of the details that were not displayed in the movie. Although the book was tedious, I agree that it was stil the best. Great job!

  23. 23

    Jackie, you did a gret job! This is a well-written paper and your opinions are very strong. You are a great writer and I know you will go far. Great job, I love the revue!

  24. Marsella Quinones #

    Great review Jackie! I liked how you clearly stated your points in this essay. Like mostly everyone else, I agree with what you wrote. The characters in the movie were over exaggerated to make it seem comical rather than staying true to the message of this legend. The book was better than the movie.

  25. Michael Stevens #

    Great job Jackie! I agree that the book was better than the film. The characters were left as simple as possible in the film with everyone falling into a stereotype. Congratulations on winning the contest!

  26. 26

    Your review was absolutley amazing and flawless. Although i may have to disagree with your opinion, being that the book was better than the movie. Me being more of a visual learner I think that I understand it more when I can see it. But other than that fantastc job on your review and congrats on winning the spot on the website.

  27. 27

    Good review and good job getting the spot on the website. So thats a good acccomplishment.

  28. Angel Gama #

    I agree with your review. The description about king Arthur was truly not the greatest in the movie. The other characters were also over exaggerated like you said, and some of the most important details were left out in the movie. Details which would have led a viewer who was not familiar with the book, understand the movie that much more. But then again it was meant for kids rather than adults. Good job on winning the contest.

  29. Alix Reohr #

    First off I would like to congratulate you. This was a beautifully well written comparison between the book and the movie. I, as with most people, could not agree more with your statement. The book may take more time, but there are certain characteristics that make the movie obsolete. Disney did cloud the messages that White was trying to convey. You did a fantastic job.