“The Knight’s Tale”

December 16th, 2006

Speaking of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, that poetic tale of a Arthurian Christmas wonders — and the British Library —  here’s this from the UK Guardian:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the finest surviving examples of Middle English poetry, but little is known about the author – except hints that he came from the north of England. How could fellow poet and Northerner Simon Armitage resist the challenge of translating this grisly story for a modern audience?

The article explains very well why Vaquero and I have read this poem aloud to each other over the course of the Nights Before and After Christmas during most of the years we’ve been married.

[The poem is also a ghost story, a thriller, a romance, an adventure story and a morality tale. For want of a better word, it is also a myth, and like all great myths of the past its meanings seem to have adapted and evolved, proving itself eerily relevant 600 years later. As one example, certain aspects of Gawain’s situation seem oddly redolent of a more contemporary predicament, namely our complex and delicate relationship with the natural world. The Gawain poet had never heard of climate change and was not a prophet anticipating the onset of global warming. But medieval society lived hand in hand with nature, and nature was as much an enemy as a friend. It is not just for decoration that the poem includes passages relating to the turning of the seasons, or detailed accounts of the landscape, or graphic descriptions of our dealings with the animal kingdom. The knight who throws down the challenge at Camelot is both ghostly and real. Supernatural, yes, but also flesh and blood. He is something in the likeness of ourselves, and he is not purple or orange or blue with yellow stripes. Gawain must negotiate a deal with a man who wears the colours of the leaves and the fields. He must strike an honest bargain with this manifestation of nature, and his future depends on it.]

Love, C.

7 Responses to ““The Knight’s Tale””

  1. LauraJMixonon 16 Dec 2006 at 7:46 pm

    I have to say, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favorite Arthurian legends.

  2. Constance Ashon 16 Dec 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Laura — Don’t you think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight could make one of the best of big holiday movies? If approached right?


    Love, C.

  3. LauraJMixonon 16 Dec 2006 at 11:49 pm

    Oh, yeah. It’s a powerful story. I could totally dig it.

  4. Donnaon 16 Dec 2006 at 11:52 pm

    Hi C,

    It’s beyond me how anyone doesn’t love Arthurian fantasy! I wish I could spend my time reading and writing–but then if I didn’t experience life how would I feed my imagination?


  5. LauraJMixonon 17 Dec 2006 at 9:40 am

    Here is a great post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden that inspired me to go back and reread Sir Gawain and the Green Knight after many years.

  6. Constance Ashon 17 Dec 2006 at 1:33 pm

    The comments on TNH’s are also worth reading, despite the predicatable back-and-forth on ‘magical realism’. I tell ya, if you actually read South American literature, from whence this concept supposedly sprung, you have a whole other perspective on this purely U.S. classification.

    Love, C.

  7. kateelliotton 17 Dec 2006 at 2:50 pm

    I think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is about the only piece of Arthuriana I like (that and Monty Python and the Holy Grail). For some odd reason the Matter of Britain leaves me cold.

    We recently saw the film King Arthur – well, as much of it as I could stand to watch, which wasn’t all that much as it happened. Too bad, because they get the late Roman Britain setting right; it was the idiot plot that did me in.

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