Growing up, I was never the big kid in the school yard. I was never on sports teams in high school and spent most of my younger years solidly at the “geek” level of the public school hierarchy. As such, The Sword in the Stone was always one of my favourite films since Disney, it seemed, empathized with my position.
The Sword in the Stone, after all, is more than a morality tale. It’s about how to grow up well and be a good person. It’s about recognizing those powers that are greater than you, and those which are not. Merlin, the greatest wizard on the planet, turns young Arthur into three animals to demonstrate these lessons. The second lesson, which he spends as a squirrel scampering about the trees, teaches him that love is a power greater than anyone can control. “[Love], I’d say it’s the greatest force on Earth,” Merlin says at the end of the lesson.
The other two, spent as a fish and a bird, result in the exact same lesson: brains will always triumph over pure muscle. At the conclusion of the bird lesson:
Arthur: You were really great, Merlin. But you could have been killed.
Merlin: It was worth it, lad, if you learned something from it.
Arthur: Knowledge and wisdom are the real power.
Merlin: Right you are, Wart. So stick to your schooling, boy.
Arthur: Oh, don’t worry, I will, sir. I will. I really will.
And while being chased by a giant fish in the first lesson, Merlin asks the boy “But did you get the point?” and Arthur replies “Yes, yes! Brain over brawn!”
To a kid busy editing the student newspaper and running the A/V club, I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw this film.