Sunday, December 16, 2007


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a fourteenth century alliterative poem of unknown authorship. English has evolved to such an extent that translation is necessary for anyone other than a dedicated scholar to read and appreciate the work. This review is of the Brian Stone translation. The poem is a combination of Arthurian legend and regional folklore, most notably the Irish tale of Cuchullain, and features a prominently Christian theme.

Gawain is traditionally viewed as the most virtuous of knights (and as the most powerful in some traditions, before that position was usurped by Lancelot), and a great deal of the novel deals with his various temptations, particularly by the lady (shades of Morgan le Fay). The action and the story are good, although the author does get a little carried away in the middle with all the hunting.

Stone does a lovely job of translating, keeping the tone and theme unified while maintaining alliterative lines. I am generally not a fan of poetry, but this held my attention. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an engaging read for fans of medieval or Arthurian literature.