Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke

Rules for a KnightRules for a Knight

by Ethan Hawke

Hardcover, 169 pg.
Knopf, 2015

Read: November 30, 2015

So the story goes, Ethan Hawke is a descendant of a knight who died at the Battle of Slaughter Bridge in 1483. The night before the battle, this knight, Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke penned a lengthy letter to his young children so that they’d have something to remember him by, and hopefully learn something from him. Ethan Hawke came into possession of this letter, and after a scholar translated it for him, modernized the language so that he could pass these lessons on to his kids. Given the fact that the “Hawke” surname was once “Hawker”, there’s an ornithological flavor to all of this.

The letter, or manifesto, consists of short lessons on a variety of virtues or characteristics that Sir Thomas wanted to pass along to his son and daughters (which are awfully feminist for the 15th Century): justice, solitude, generosity, discipline, love, humility, and so on. Virtues and ideals that are shared by many Western and Eastern cultures — something akin to what C. S. Lewis would call the Tao. The lessons combine personal vignettes from Sir Thomas’ life and training with fable-like stories (many of which are old and common — like the two dogs/wolves inside each of us fighting for control, you ought to feed the one you want to win).

Hawke’s wife, Ryan, provided the illustrations for this book. I wouldn’t say they’re dazzling, but they’re nice — and fit the material well.

This is a nice book, one that serves its purposes well. Short chapters, well (if somewhat heavy-handed) written. It’s not a must-read, but it’d be a good use of anyone’s time — particularly something for dads to read to young children.


3 Stars


3 thoughts on “Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke

  1. Lots of life lessons that should be taught to children at an early age, at the age of 16, this book made me re-assess my life a little.


  2. I am a grandfather of eight, and very moved by the presentation of Sir Thomas’ letter to his children before he died, as he rather expected, in battle as a knight. The virtues, as discussed, indeed inspire me. In fact, though I am now 75 and facing growing still older without the fear of death in an imminent battle, I am pondering writing down some experiences of my own to add to those presented, doing so out of the best of motives. I still am learning each day from these Rules for a Knight. I think I would enjoy expanding upon the stories regarding the listed virtues, hopefully in a way that complements those of Sir Thomas, for my own grown children and grandchildren. Thanks to Ethan Hawke for bringing this wonderful letter to my/our attention.
    Thomas Robert Moore in Tallahassee, Florida.


    • Thanks for dropping by, Mr. Moore. I definitely didn’t read the book from that perspective, I think it’d make it more compelling (and that it’d inspire you to write your experiences down — do it!)


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