« Back to National Winners

Letters About Literature National Winners 2011

National Honor Winner, Level 3: Neal Digre, SD

Dear T. H. White,

Your stories of King Arthur have impacted my life a great deal. While reading The Once and Future King, I realized that the young boy Wart and glorious King Arthur have always been in my life. I noticed the striking similarities between Wart and me. We both had loving guardians that took care of us. We also shared a brotherly figure that shadowed over us. The Kays of our lives made us feel insignificant and inferior compared to them. To escape, we became hawks, flying away from the troubles of a young mind. Swords in hand, we battled a plethora of dangerous monsters: griffins, dragons, and our mother’s bushes. Our lives were carefree. We enjoyed the many adventures the world had to offer our young minds. Amidst our freedom and happiness we were forced to grow up too soon.

Whilst Wart pulled the sword form the stone, a sword was thrust into my quixotic life. I believed that the world was a near perfect place and there was no evil that could not be vanquished. I had loving parents who would always be there to abet me in my assault against the world’s malevolence. I was mistaken. When Arthur found time to get away from the bickering of his courts and lords, he comforted me as I sat listening to my parents shouting at each other. There were no more fantastic adventures to be had. I grew up. Instead of slaying monsters in the backyard, I withdrew to my room, filling my free time with video games, homework, and reading.

Around this time, King Arthur left in search of the Holy Grail. He knew Guinevere was having an affair with Lancelot. Arthur left them behind in search of the artifact that represented the pureness still within Arthur’s heart. This quest for clarity could not prevent Lancelot from betraying him. I sought to leave the quarreling of my parents behind and find my Holy Grail in video games or books. I knew what was going on around me, but I wanted to omit it from my life.

After a time, King Arthur and I returned to our lives, fully aware of the horrors life holds. Instead of submitting to the tragedy of life, I accept the evil around me. Despite the darkness in the world, I comfort myself in that I believe the human race has good intentions as a whole. I believe that if a single person has untainted intentions, the kindness will spread.
Even now, when my parents are divorced, King Arthur still sits beside me. King Arthur has been betrayed by his wife and best friend. I have been forced to live half the life I should due to the differences between my parents. We no longer live in the pristine worlds we enjoyed as children, but we still hold true to our chivalrous ideals that human nature is good. We accept the misfortunes of the world and hope to create a better future for those that will come after us.

A gentle breeze rustles my hair as I walk through the encampment of tents. I look up and see the extensive rolling thunderheads in the distance. A storm approaches. A small unlit candle sits in the palm of my hand. I turn left onto the main grassy thoroughfare. I enter the tent of King Arthur. He sits on a simple wooden stool in the corner, examining the flickering light of the candle on the table in front of him. He looks up and I look into his eyes. I see the sorrow within them. I see the years we shared in utter bliss . . . lost. Those same ideal – those same parents – that made us happy rent our lives into a whirlwind of anguish. But I also see the hope within his eyes. We do not speak to one another. He merely nods at me and lifts his candle stub towards me. I hold out the candle in my hand and allow the venerable king to light it. King Arthur blows out his own candle, and walks form the tent into the blustery storm.

Neal Digre