Written during a primeval time before the evils of copyright laws overextended themselves, T.H. White’s classic The Sword in the Stone has had its fair share of covers.
I have just finished a Let’s Read series concerning this book. Now that said series is done, I thought it would be fun to look back at the assorted covers I used for the posts’ cover images. Because some of the cover images were blurred due to sizing difficulties, now is the perfect time for readers to get an idea of each cover along with my thoughts on said cover.
So, without further lumping around, let’s begin!
I like the cover on the right more than the one on the left. Why should be obvious; because whereas the right-hand cover shows detail, with the young Wart encountering Merlin, likely for the first time surrounded by a variety of intriguing instruments, the left-hand cover is merely a generic sword in the stone with a generic castle as a backdrop. Boring. I guess such genericity gets the message across but it doesn’t say much about the book and doesn’t get a young reader excited. SKIP!
The reserve this time around! Now it is the left-hand side which is more interesting, even if the right-hand side is, I think, more accurate to the book (if I remember correctly, the sword that Wart pulls was stuck in an anvil, or partly stuck). But, the left-hand book cover is simply more interesting. Though the various animal crests don’t have much to do with the actual book– though some of them might– it is more visually engaging than another generic weapon stuck in something, even if minimalism has its pluses.
Each of these covers is modern, one can tell because they retain the essential aesthetic of the previous generation of book covers while injecting some oomph into the art. The left cover remains a simple sword-in-stone proxy but the magical shine emanating from the anvil makes the image less boring. Easily, though, the cover on the right tops it; not only does it have a magical sheen but it features a young Wart pulling said sword while an animal companion is in the foreground. The visuals alone tell a story and with such dynamism, one easily can tell that this is a cover that was commissioned to sell to a new generation.
With the exception of the middle cover, all of these are intriguing in their own way. The left cover, for example, uses an artistic style for Merlin that I have not seen before on book covers. Reminds me of… Picasso? The dynamic shapes and eclectic angles really bring a different flair to the cover. Meanwhile, the cover on the right, we see the typical moment of the sword getting pulled, but this time we see a large crowd in the background as the sword is being pulled by a young, albeit bulky, Wart. It is simple but hammers the plot across in a short space. The middle, meanwhile, I don’t know what is even happening; it is Merlin, clearly, but the cover looks like it did some LSD, with all the colors being more saturated with disconcerting hues than a teenager’s first nudie magazine. Bleh.
I don’t have much of an opinion on either of these covers. I like the middle one the best. I supposed because the art style is less… I dunno… 80s and the lighter colors give the cover a better storybook quality; in that sense, I feel the cover better reflects the actual content. The harder colors on the left make the narrative a bit more serious than it actually is while the lad pulling the sword appears older than Wart; the middle is perfectly balanced with bright colors and an appropriately aged protagonist yanking the phallic-weapon. Let’s not say anything about the right-hand cover; I have banished it.
WHOA! What the hell happened to Merlin? Did he whip up some meth? Jexus! He looks like a swamp puppet from Labyrinth. Scary stuff. Oh… the other covers… discount publishers sure made for ugly books, didn’t they? *shudders*
Both of these are covers to audiobooks. It turns out that there are very few audiobook covers, so I figured I would include them. Each cover is simple but has its own strengths. The right-hand cover, for example, has spread; the castle stands in the foreground as fields, villages, and rolling hills spread out in the background and this makes for a majestic sight. Admittedly, it, like its counterpart, doesn’t say much, but it at least has spectacle. The left cover has depth. That is neat. The sword in the anvil asserts itself within the foreground as the background is blurred, giving the natural environment of its locale some exotic flair. A seldom used style these days so I can appreciate it.
Our final cover, this is clearly a cheaply produced cover to act as a promotional tie-in to the Disney film which is based on the book. What can I say about it? It has the boy, the wizard, and they are colorfully animated. Honestly, I never liked these promotional covers in any book. Seeing a glossy sheen of some characters superimposed on to literature always seemed to cheapen the experience for me. Like the rendition of the film was somehow vulgarizing the book by some reverse process of bastardization. Weird.