Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo

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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  6,904 ratings  ·  184 reviews
SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, PEARL, and SIR ORFEO are masterpieces of a remote and exotic age--the age of chivalry and wizards, knights and holy quests. Yet it is only in the unique artistry and imagination of J.R.R. Tolken that the language, romance, and power of these great stories comes to life for modern readers, in this masterful and compelling new translation.
Paperback, First Ballantine Books edition, 214 pages
Published January 1980 by Del Rey Books (first published 1400)
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Meghan
Sir Gawain was one of the books I studied in college that only received the perfunctory attention of desperate, late-night skimming before the class in which it was to be covered. Once I actually sat down to read it, I enjoyed it as the best chivalric romance I have yet to read. Sir Gawain's uncomplicated approach to his knightly duty, and his calm preparations for his certain death - green girdle aside - is beautiful. The translated poetry is pretty, and the adventure part is fun. The poem is a...more
Laurele
Such a lovely collection of fourteenth century gems! Sir Gawain is a delight, of course, as is this version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, but it is Pearl that has swept me away.

I've heard about the Pearl Poet since high school, but for some strange reason had never read the Pearl Poet's Pearl. I'm reading it as a father's (or mother's) consolatory thoughts after losing a toddler daughter to death. The narrator runs his mind through the Scriptures, starting in Matthew and then going back to G...more
Megan Larson
I was so excited to learn that I could study the Middle Ages and read Tolkien at the same time! It really is amazing how so many different works of literature are tied together somehow. I had been studying Arthur and his knights, and had read Tolkien's biography separately, to prepare myself to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In that biography I learned about Tolkien's interest in Middle-English as one of his favorite languages, and also of his enduring commitment to the Catholic faith and a...more
Alexis Kloehn
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” plot was filled with adventure. The Green Knight challenged King Arthur to a beheading game. The game’s main purpose was to test strength and chivalry. King Arthur had one strike with the Green Knight’s axe to kill him. He could keep the axe if he succeeded, but if not the Green Knight would get the same opportunity in a year and one day.
The main characters were all very unique. The Green Knight was also the king of the green chapel, he transforms between the tw...more
Mariah Hansen
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a tale about chivalry and the meaning of loyalty. This book takes place in the 11th century. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” really made me open my eyes about chivalry and how it has died out in recent centuries. I really liked this book even though it was a hard read.

Sir Gawain, the main character, is faced with many challenges in this book. The Green Knight mocks Sir Gawain and the king. Sir Gawain stands up and agrees to fight the Green Knight instead of...more
Nick Klagge
I am a Tolkien fan and acquired this book years ago. I picked it up recently while casting about for something short to read. I was very pleasantly surprised by it. For something originally written in the Middle Ages, "Gawain" is an engaging read--I would say much more so than Tolkien's translation of another Middle-Ages epic, "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun." I think a lot of the difference was just in the fact that "Gawain" comes from a culture that is recognizably "mine." Even if the setting...more
Hannah Haertl
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a narrative poem. When the Green Knight enters Camelot, he goes around asking who’s in charge. When King Arthur answers the Green Knight, he agrees to his game. Right as King Arthur is about to accept the challenge, Sir Gawain steps up to the plate and had to explain to the King that it would be better for him to accept it than King Arthur. Once excepting the role for King Arthur, Sir Gawain is put to the task of the beheading game and realizes after his blow t...more
Nicolas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karl Steel
Nearly done teaching it. Borroff's translation is, I guess, tied for the best available, but--and I hate to be a snob about it--there's really no substitute for the original. I doubt Borroff would disagree with me.

which isn't to say that the translation can't be improved* in places: for example, a nice short piece by R. J. Dingley in Explicator some years back suggested that the "gyn" of Patience 146 ("Hit wat3 a ioyles gyn þat Jonas wat3 inne") be glossed as "craft," while Borroff does it as......more
Antoine
Jan 29, 2008 Antoine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rabid Tolkien fans, who have already read the Penguin translation
Though I yield to none as a Tolkien fan, and (as he also did with Beowulf) Tolkien "wrote the book" on the Gawain Poet, I find that this translation is not a clear lens through which to view the original poem. It seems almost as if Tolkien was unwilling to drag the poem all the way into modern English, or was trying to preserve some elements of the distinctive midlands dialect in which it was written. Either the way, the results are difficult and challenging; one feels it might almost be better...more
Abby Moreland
Tolkien, obviously, has a way with words, and the way he kept the alliteration and the beautiful word dynamic in these translated texts was superb.
Erik Graff
Aug 04, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mediaeval literature fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
In order to affordably obtain The Oxford English Dictionary, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the history series by Will and Ariel Durant, I joined The Book of the Month Club on three occasions during my years in Manhattan. Although subscriptions ostensibly required the purchase of four books, the Club actually would allow discontinuance after three. Thus I must have purchased at least nine books from the Club in addition to the three come-on offers. This book was one such purchase.

The decisio...more
Abby
One of the wonderful things about Medieval literature is that its tools and templates are quite strict and often familiar, and I still don't know how it's going to end. I was pulled through this poem on the basis of sheer anticipation. The ending still threw me for a loop.

Lately I want books about heroes: people who do the hard thing even when they don't have to, who suffer discomfort without complaint, who rely on their wits and strength and "curteisye" toward others. I don't really want to be...more
Violet
I only read Sir Gawain; I decided not to dig into the other two. It was pretty good. A little long-winded at times, but enjoyable.
Alexander Rolfe
It's fun to be in the Arthurian world with no hint of its downfall for a change. (The kids know all the songs to Camelot, so it seems like we're always hastening to its demise.)

The Pearl, about the loss of a young daughter, is really good. Stanza 7 is too long to repeat, but it's really fun to say aloud. I think the pearl was the poet's own child, because it left marks on his theology. Most of the poem is a dialogue with her at the edge of heaven, wherein we learn some interesting things:
1. Reas...more
Bridget
I found this narrative poem rather boring. The main character is Sir Gawain, he is arrogant and a liar. On New Year's Eve the Green Knight shows up at Camelot and challenges King Arthur to a beheading game. Before the king can accept Sir Gawain offers to take his place and the king accepts. The Green Knight gives Sir Gawain the ax and says that if he lives, Gawain must come and find him in a years time and have his head chopped off.


The main character is Sir Gawain, he is a knight of the round ta...more
Max Maxwell
Mar 16, 2009 Max Maxwell rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the heritage of English literature
Recommended to Max by: My mother; my Teaching English prof, Michael Amey
Some time in the first half of the first Anno Domini millennium, English appeared on the scene as a distinct language, descended from the Germanic family of Indo-European languages, and still bearing striking resemblance to its parent (cf. words like "rice" for kingdom, traced back to the German "reich" for the same, as in "the Third Reich"). Since then it has gone through four distinct phases. Old English (O.E.), lasting from the language's inception until the Norman invasion of 1066, was the l...more
Scott
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a wonderful and (to modern ears) strange tale. It can be called an Arthurian adventure/romance, since it begins and ends in the court of Arthur, and centers on a tale of Sir Gawain, a knight of the round table, but this tale is more than that - it represents (and in some sense critiques) both the chivalric code of honor as well as the rules about courtly love, which come into conflict here. The story is poetic in genre, but it is unlike most poetry you will rea...more
Jacob Aitken
This book was an amazing retelling of the Gawain tradition. Earlier legends--the Vulgate Grail and Le Morte D'Arthur--portray Gawain as a sensate, reprobate man. He is concerned only with vainglory and possibly women. The author of this poem, however, portrays Gawain as a Christian knight who is concerned for Chivalric purity and the honor of his king.

The poem itself represents some of the best of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The author captures the hypnotic power of "bardic" poetry. Tolkien is sensitiv...more
Lydia
For a connoisseur of English literature, it was profitable. For a disciple of chivalry, it was disappointing. While I was able to make allowances for the primitive caliber of story-telling, the idea that a beautiful woman trying to seduce the hero, Sir Gawain, was still virtuous, gracious, and courteous, turned my stomach. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more but for that.

Sir Gawain is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, but we are still informed that he is "virtuous, like refine...more
Sandra
In this book we can find Tolkien's translations for 3 older poems: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo.

Storywise, my favourite of the three was without a doubt the story of Sir Gawain. This story is one of my favourites in the Arthurian Legend. It was just a shame that the translation occasionally seemed a little.. wonky. The sentence structure was off, and the metrum was just all over the place! Pearl & Sir Orfeo were a much better translation in that aspect, especially Pea...more
Althea Ann
This slim volume, put together by Christopher Tolkien, collects three translations done by J.R.R. of 14th-century British poems, together with writings by Tolkien Sr. on the poetry.

'Gawain and the Green Knight' is the classic, and not surprisingly, the best. Originally written in an alliterative style, Tolkien reflects that style in his translation, but the verse-form is such that it is not distracting to the story - it's very readable.
The story is, of course, that of one of Arthur's knights who...more
David Sarkies
This middle English poem is said by some to be the greatest poem of the Middle English literature, however it does have to compete with The Canterbury Tales for that title, something that I am not going to go into since I have not have the chance to read Chaucer's work at this stage. However, this poem, while the earliest copy exists on a manuscript dating back to 1400 AD, probably has its origins much earlier than that. The actual author of this poem is unknown (and my suspicions is that it is...more
Joseph Finley
In the introduction to his translation of this fourteenth century poem, Tolkien calls it “a fairy tale for adults, full of life and colour.” The poem is written as an “alliterative romance,” but it reads a bit more like a modern day story than the Old English prose Tolkien employed for The Fall of Arthur. Speaking of Arthur, he’s but a minor character in this tale, a king whose “youth made him so merry with the moods of a boy, he liked a lighthearted life ....” Sir Gawain is young too – the youn...more
Richard
An interesting book that we'll be using this coming semester in school. Tolkien's translation of copies three poems by unknown author, the copies dating from around 1400. The three poems being Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. The bulk of the book is taken up with the translation of Sir Gawain, which is always a great story for those of you familiar with it in other forms. This poem is interesting in both style, original language and form predates that used by Chaucer. There...more
Nathan Miller
The book is actually three poems written in the late Middle Ages and translated from Middle English by Tolkien.

The first follows Sir Gawain, one of the knights of Arthur's Round Table, as he undertakes a quest to find the home of the Green Knight. As one might expect, there's quite a bit about valor, honor, chivalry, and moral fiber.

The second concerns a vision by a man who's recently buried his young daughter, whom we're meant to understand was maybe two years old when she died. He's mourning a...more
Nick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
Sir Gawain only
I finished this some time ago and forgot to write a review, so out of necessity I'll focus on what sticks in the mind after reading this poem. The most interesting thing about the poem, and the reason I like it so much, is what a nuanced character Gawain while remaining an ideal knight. He's very brave and honorable, yet he's also afraid. I really like the moment after he gets nicked by the axe at the end and immediately leaps back, slams down his helmet, and gets ready to fight,...more
Jesse Whitehead
Tolkien has become synonymous with fantasy literature in the last twenty years. His fame and reputation in that regard are well deserved. His fantasy work has been badly copied and misinterpreted by authors and artists and game designers nearly since its inception.

For many years before he wrote The Hobbit and the subsequent works of fantasy Tolkien was one of the foremost scholars on medieval literature and philology. Philology is the study of the structure, historical development and relationsh...more
Sakura87
Non lasciatevi ingannare dal nome di Tolkien in copertina, scritto in caratteri cubitali:
la raccolta si compone di tre racconti, il cui primo è, per l’appunto, Sir Gawain e il cavaliere verde, ma non sono di Tolkien, bensì di un autore inglese anonimo probabilmente contemporaneo a Geoffrey Chaucer, che li scrisse in un dialetto delle Midlands.
Tolkien si è limitato a tradurli in inglese moderno, o forse faremmo meglio a dire a volgere, in quanto, come chiaramente spiegato nell’introduzione di Cri...more
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  • The Monsters and the Critics and other essays
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  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Road Goes Ever on
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
  • The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
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Beowulf: A New Verse Translation Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Cleanness, Patience The Mabinogion The Nibelungenlied Beowulf

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'Tis most of love they sing indeed.”
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