There are a series of stories that I consider classics, both because I grew up adoring the characters and because they are, well, classic. Stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers, etc. draw me in no matter what format they are presented in, whether it’s a Smurfs version or the extended versions by authors like T.H. White or Sir Thomas Mallory. This week finds several of Walt Disney’s classic versions releasing in Blu-ray for the very first time, and two of those classic stories are included.
The first, The Sword in the Stone (1963), finds the son of Uther Pendragon living out his miserable existence in anonymity as the secondhand apprentice of a middling knight, known better as “Newt” than as the next king of Britain. But as fate would have it, a misstep in hunting finds young Arthur stumbling into Merlin’s forest hut, and their lives are forever changed. Sure, Merlin has been waiting for a moment like this, as he forecasts the ways that Arthur will change the world, but Arthur has no idea that this is about to happen.
Through a series of tests, culminating in the ability Arthur has to draw Excalibur from a stone, performing a task that no one else can, the once and future king proves that his is the divine right. There’s a mixture of old magic and new science, comedy and drama, irony and satire, that all blends into a wonderful mix of epic Disney proportions. It’s one of the most entertaining, rewatchable flicks that the Mouse has delivered to us, capturing a truly old story (Le Morte D’Arthur) and telling it in a new, and sometimes zany, way.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Karl Swenson’s Merlin is the real star of the show, putting Arthur through his paces and challenging him to be the young king/knight/magician that Merlin knows he can be. In fact, Merlin sees something in Arthur that Arthur cannot see in himself; Merlin recognizes bloodlines, potential, promise, power, and heart in a young man who has been cast off by society because of his hidden lineage. Having just studied the story of Gideon (Judges 6-7), I’m reminded of the ways that God saw, and continues to see, potential in each of us that we cannot see for ourselves. Sometimes, we have mentors who “make it happen”; sometimes, it’s through prayer and discernment that we discover what we’re called to do. Maybe we won’t rule a kingdom, or dominate a jousting tournament, but we may have more in store for us than we could ever imagine.
Ultimately, Arthur comes of age, delivering on the promise of Merlin’s prophecy, but I’m left wondering, are we delivering on our potential? Are we all that God wants us to be? Are we everything God has planned? Seems like we better step up to the stone anvil of our lives and be prepared to pull out the sword that only we can remove. The world is waiting…