Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  29,710 ratings  ·  773 reviews
Written by an anonymous 14th-century poet, this epic poem is recognized as an equal of Chaucer's masterworks and of the great Old English poems, including "Beowulf." This edition includes a Preface by Raffel and a new Introduction. Revised reissue.
Mass Market Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 2001 by Signet Classics (first published 1390)
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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Best Arthurian Fiction
7th out of 326 books — 1,135 voters
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerBeowulf by UnknownA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Middle Ages Books
8th out of 751 books — 940 voters

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Community Reviews

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Tanja (Tanychy) St. Delphi
I didn't know where to post this so I think this is a good place!
It remains me of my Literature professor, in a good way of course! :)
Jason Koivu
Contains the greatest "OH FUCK" moment in medieval literature!

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - listed here as written by Unknown, though I believe it may have been penned by that prolific Greek author Anonymous - is a classic tale from Arthurian legend in which the code of honor attributed to chivalry is heavily ensconced.

There are many interpretations of the poem's meaning, and historically speaking it's often dependent on the reader's bias. For instance, Christians latched on to the sex aspe...more
One of the best of the 'classic' Arthurian tales. Gawain is presented a bit differently here from many of the other ones. Usually he's a bit of a braggart and kind of a jerk, especially to women, but here he is presented as the perfect exemplar of courtoisie. He's also a bit young and still untried, so maybe that explains it for those who want to be able to have a grand unified theory of Arthuriana.

Anyway, you probably all know the story: Arthur is about to have a New Year's feast, but accordin...more
Eddie Watkins
Jun 22, 2010 Eddie Watkins rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: youthful mediaevelists
I'd been attracted to this poem for years and years, but somehow never read it; tiptoeing 'round it like a gentleman too dignified to display his blood-gorged book lust. The title itself attracted me - the name Gawain and the idea of a Green Knight evoked plenty of mental imagery: greenery and silver clashings in fecund fairy tale landscapes. I also like the way Tolkien's name looks and sounds (evocative of tangled teeming forests clearly delineated) so I dipped into his version a while ago, but...more
Mark Adderley
It’s always puzzling to know what to do with a book subtitled “A New Verse Translation.” It’s all very well for the moment, of course, but what about in a few years? When the translation is no longer new, will it need a new title? I have similar reservations about terms like “postmodern.” What comes after it? Post-postmodern? And is modernism now called pre-postmodernism?

All of which doesn’t seem strictly relevant, except that I can’t help feeling that there’s something slightly self-conscious a...more
Perhaps my favorite Arthurian classic so far. Loved the alliterative verse and the beautiful descriptions of seasons - the conflicting ideas centered on chivalry, courtship, religion, etc. all made the reading much more intellectually stimulating. Not to mention that the ending throws in a wedge that forces one to evaluate the overall theme of the poem, or whether a unifying theme exists at all. Highly recommended for those interested in British literature and for those who want to give it a try...more
An enjoyable translation:
Yes, he dozes in a daze, dreams and mutters
like a mournful man with his mind on dark matters-
how destiny might deal him a death-blow on the day
when he grapples with the giant in the green chapel;
of how the strike of the axe must be suffered without struggle.
But sensing her presence there he surfaces from sleep,
drags himself out of his dreams to address her.
Laughing warmly she walks towards him
and finds his face with the friendliest kiss.
In a worthy style he welcomes the
Erik Simon
In no way was I prepared to enjoy this as much as I did. Auden once said something to the effect that the difference between poetry and prose is that prose can be translated. Whether or not this new translation is "good" I'm hardly smart enough to declare, but Seamus Heaney liked it, as did John Ashberry, and they ought to know. I guess I picked up the book because it was one I thought I should read. I'd read a prose translation of it years ago, in high school, and I've decided prose translation...more
When I found out we had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a current university subject, I was a little worried. I often struggle with analysing poetry and something written in Middle English was not going to be easy. Thankfully we had to read the Brian Stone translation, which only hints at being Middle English. This is a famous 14th century Arthurian romance that is often known for the beheading game.

This is a typical quest narrative; The Green Knight exposes the Knights of the Round...more
Arthur Graham
She gave him her girdle, did she? A little something to remember her by, hmmmm? Personally, I found it rather hard to believe that a hound dog like Gawain would pass up the opportunity, but I did ultimately enjoy this humorous tale of chivalry and self-imposed cockblockery. Green Knight rules!
"Note: you have also reviewed the following editions of this book:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn )
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140440925)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140424539)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0719055172)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0571223281)
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0030088801)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 1146360738)"


Anyway, I reread Simon Arm...more
Natalie Moore Goodison
The perfect link between Beowulf and Chaucer. The alliteration is phenomenal and I think he just makes up words to sound fabulous. A green man, a challenge, King Arthur's court, a bet, a perilous situation, an alluring woman, and an embracing host with lots of magic and feasts. What more could one ask for?

This translation gets right to the heart of the ME without being in ME. A wonderful translation with excellent essays in the back. If you don't feel like tackling the Middle English, but still...more
An excellent translation of a favorite work. Like Heaney's Beowolf, the original text is set facing the translation.

What I particularly loved about Armitage's work is his devotion to alliteration throughout the work. As he explains in his preface, the Gawain poet was writing in a form that hearkens back to Anglo-Saxon poetry, where alliteration within the line instead of rhyming at the end is key to the music of the poem. Really, his introductory musings on poetry is a big part of why I enjoyed...more
Adam Floridia
Good gravy, the great Gawain and that gigantic Green Knight gave this guy an alliteration glut. (How could I have forgotten about the Alliterative Revival?)

And still,
one other technique is
this whole poetic deal
that the writer uses--
it's called the bob and wheel.

Although a cynical, jaded 2012 reader will likely find some of this a bit pietistic (or corny), it's nice to harken back to the days of chivalry, of chaste knights adamantly defending their beds from lascivious ladies, and of giant green...more
I read “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” translated by Burton Raffel. This narrative poem is about the Green Knight who travels to Camelot to challenge King Arthur to a game.

The main characters of this narrative poem are Sir Gawain, a knight that serves for his king. King Arthur, the king of Camelot. The Green Knight, who chooses to travel all the way to Camelot to test the chivalry of the king.

In this book, The Green Knight travels to Camelot to play a beheading game. At first, he challenges Ki...more
Georgia Radtke
I did not enjoy the story 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. Books that are fiction do not grab my attention. When reading a book, I like to relate to what’s going on. This story is organized by a series of main events that all lead up to be giant set up. As the story continues, Sir Gawain turns out not being the honorable knight he claimed to be.

Through out this story Sir Gawain has to complete certain tasks in order to finish the game he started. The game delt with beheading each other, Sir...more
A strange green knight strides in, and proposes a challenge, a game of sorts. To complete the arrangement of the challenge, a knight must strike him and attempt to kill him, if he fails the knight will pay back in kind. A swing for a swing. At first, Arthur is prepared to accept the game, but Gawain is determined to take part in Arthur’s stead. Gawain strikes the head off of the green knight but the knight does not die and instead picks up his head and speaks to the knights of the round table. G...more
Alas the language is beyond me - maybe if I knew some Norse or Danish I would find it easier. But this edition does have a fine cover illustration which takes you to the heart of the matter.

I can recommend the Simon Armitage translation to the curious reader.
Morgan Wilson
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was a narrative poem that had many elements of chivalry, love, loyalty, and destruction. This poem is a story of how a mysterious Green Knight rides into King Arthur's court and challenges any knight brave enough to a dual. This consists of one knight beheading the green knight. If the green knight lives, he will come back a year and a day later to do the same to that knight. Sir Gawain steps up and accepts this challenge in place of King Arthur. Sir Gawain soon...more

I read “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” translated by Marie Borroff. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a romantic poem that was composed sometime in the 14th century depicting an event in the time of the 7th century during King Arthur’s reign. A New Years festival in Arthur’s Kingdom is interrupted by a large green Knight who is sitting on a green steed. He first asks where the host of the party is and then proceeds to make a proposition of a New Year’s beheading game. When no one steps up...more
Dan Tews

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, is a Medieval Romance, that is based on chivalry. The story starts off in a kingdom called Camelot. The king and his knights were celebrating the New Year by feasting and other festivities, when a Giant Green Knight barged into the hall ordering to see the king. The Green Knight proposed a beheading game to the king and embarrassed the king in front of his knights. The Green Knight would give the king or any challenger his axe and they would have one strike to...more
Kori Looker
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" takes place in Camelot with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In King Arthur's castle on New Years, a green knight challenges them to a beheading game. A chivalrous knight, Sir Gawain, takes the place of King Arthur. Sir Gawain fails to behead the green knight. He must return to the Green Knight a year and one day later to stick his deal in the beheading game.

The story's main character is Sir Gawain. The Green Knight who challenges Sir Gawain is a...more
Jan 15, 2014 Aaron_ebert rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs, people who like poetry
Recommended to Aaron_ebert by: Mrs. Rice
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a legend depicted by many authors, with no true writer. The translator of this particular version is Marie Borroff.

It begins with the knights sitting around the round table at the Castle of Camelot on New Year's Eve. A strange knight in green, strolls in on his green horse to challenge the king to a New Year's game. King Arthur can cut off the Green Knight's head this year if the Green Knight can cut off King Arthur's head one year later. Sir Gawain, being...more
Chloe Dehler
“Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” was an interesting story. In the beginning of the book I didn’t really understand it. Once the action happened in the book it was much easier to understand. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is translated by Marie Borroff.

The stories' main characters are the green knight and Sir Gawain. The green knight is very large and all green on a green horse. Sir Gawain is one of King Arthur’s knights and his nephew. The story of "Sir Gawain and The Green Knight" is a med...more
Logan Erdmann
I found this story to be a little confusing at times but I think it represents the time period well. It starts off with Sir Gawain accepting the challenge from the Green Knight for the beheading game. Sir Gawain plays in place of King Arthur. The game seems like an easy win for Sir Gawain but the Green Knight has supernatural powers and lives even after he has been beheaded. Sir Gawain now must let him return the favor a year and a day from the time the game took place.

The main characters are S...more
Chelsea K.
I can't believe I haven't read this before now! This poem is wonderful. It's structured in so many different ways -- almost too structured at first glance, but it all serves to highlight this extreme tension between nature and wildness and culture and chivalry. Two castles, two kings, four fitts, three hunts, three temptations.

I won't even get into all the Green Knight symbolism brilliance here because I'm sure people have written books on it. Highly recommend. So entertaining. Almost funny too...more
Read this for uni and remember loving it.
Nicholas Walters

I read the story “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” translated by Marie Borroff. I thought this story was really hard to understand and took me a little longer than normal to figure it out, but that was 11th century. It starts off with Sir Gawain accepting the challenge from the Green Knight for the beheading game. Sir Gawain plays in place of King Arthur because he feels thats what he needs to do. The game seems like an easy win for Sir Gawain, but the Green Knight has supernatural powers and li...more
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The "Pearl Poet", or the "Gawain Poet", is the name given to the author of Pearl, an alliterative poem written in 14th-century Middle English. Its author appears also to have written the poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, and Cleanness; some scholars suggest the author may also have composed Saint Erkenwald. Save for the last (found in BL-MS Harley 2250), all these works are known fr...more
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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“And wonder, dread and war
have lingered in that land
where loss and love in turn
have held the upper hand.”
“Yet though I must lose my life, fear shall never make me change colour.” 4 likes
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