The Once and Future King/The Sword in the Stone/Chapter 17< The Once and Future King | The Sword in the Stone
The chapter begins a few months after the boar-hunt. King Pellinore gives the Questing Beast, now healthy, a two-hour headstart in the chase. Merlyn, Archimedes, and the Wart discuss the birds, a subject that has arisen due to spring's arrival. The Wart asks to become a bird again, because the last time he didn't get a chance to fly; Archimedes plans to go with him at night. The Wart then mentions his favorite bird is the rook, because rooks fly just for pleasure, not necessarily with a purpose. Archimedes mentions rooks are one of few birds with a legal and social system, and in response to Merlyn says his favorite are pigeons. Then Merlyn says he prefers the chaffinch, and continues that bird calls arise out of imitation of their prey or their environment. Finally Kay enters, ironically saying that he was shooting birds.
Anachronisms - Merlyn mentions both Gilbert White and Carolus Linnaeus, and Archimedes compares pigeons to Quakers. All came much later. Animals as forms of government - Archimedes mentions that the rooks have "parliaments...and a social system;" (a play upon the collective noun for rooks being a "parliament") they make "laws about the defense of the rookery, and marriage, and so forth"