Vickie's Reviews > Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown
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Mar 24, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: first-year-university

"When the mysterious Green Knight arrives unbidden at the Round Table one Christmas, only Gawain is brave enough to take up his challenge...

This story, first told in the late fourteenth century, is one of the most enthralling, enigmatic and beloved poems in the English language. Simon Armitage's new version is meticulously responsive to the tact, sophistication and dramatic intensity of the original. It is as if, six hundred years apart, two northern poets set out on a journey through the same mesmeric landscape - physical, allegorical and acoustic - in the course of which the Gawain poet has finally found his true tranlator."

"Rich, eerie and intoxicating...Armitage honours the original and it will win its readers." - Sean O-Brien, Sunday Times.

"I enjoyed it for its kick and music, its high spirits, its many memorable passages. I enjoyed it because, like the Gawain poet, Armitage is some storyteller." - Kevin Crossley-Holland, Guardian.

"Compelling and dramatic, made all the more vigorous by the manner of its telling." - Michael Glover, Independent.

I've got to be honest. I have ALWAYS been something of a sucker for tales about knights (it explains why "The Sword in the Stone" is probably one of my favourite Disney films) - which has definitely been excaberated by the BBC TV series "Merlin" (yes - I know that it doesn't stick completely to the legend, but I love it). So when I came across the name "Gawain" I got extremely excited - as it seemed familiar, because he was already shaping up to be one of my favourite characters in "Merlin". On top of this, at GCSE, Simon Armitage was probably my favourite of the poets we studied, especially as I loved his readings of his own poems.

So, it is easy to understand why I was already leaning favourably to this epic poem. However, this is not just a bit of an adventure romp, this is full of court politics and intrigue, magic and deception. It's a LOT of fun to read: I was reading it on the train and couldn't help but read some of the lines aloud because of the extensive alliteration. I stopped after I attracted a few strange looks, but I was OK with it. I had fallen in love with this poem. It doesn't take long to read, the rhythym is quick, the tone quite light-hearted (although you can make it darker if you wish) - so before you know it you've unfortunately reached the end.
A top-notch epic poem.
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