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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Pearl; [and] Sir Orfeo Mass Market Paperback – December 12, 1979
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Audio, Cassette, Audiobook, Large Print, Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a relatively little-known Arthurian legend, in which the knight Sir Gawain must forfeit his life to a knight who allowed Gawain to behead him -- then picked up his head and rode out. "Pearl" is a beautifully written, though somewhat more difficult to read, poem that chronicles the death of a child (possibly allegorical). "Sir Orfeo" is a version of the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Tolkien's method for these works is unusually readable -- most translators sacrifice either readability or meaning; as far as I can tell, Tolkien sacrificed neither. "Sir Gawain" is probably the easiest translation I have come across; "Pearl" is haunting, laced with religious references, and very beautifully written; "Orfeo" is not so substantial as the first two, but still entertaining. It's a bit like a medieval ballad.
This book is not so much for fans of Middle-Earth, as for fans of all Tolkien's works. Beautifully written, highly recommended.
Tolkien's international reputation as a scholar began with his revival of "Sir Gawain" in the early `20s, and he developed these translations over the course of some 50 years. Scholarly consensus has held that "Sir Gawain" and "Pearl," the masterworks of the 14th-century Middle English alliterative-stave revival (standing in relation to Chaucer as Marlowe to Shakespeare), were composed by a West Midlands author whose name has not survived, the authentically bereaved father of the "Pearl" herself. Tolkien's "Gawain" lecture (published in The Monsters and the Critics) enlarges very helpfully on the early-`50s radio preface included in this volume.
"Sir Orfeo" is a mere frippery by comparison, in stichic ballad couplets, but probably originated as a single-author work as well. Admittedly there are more authoritative sources on the Classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice than "Sir Orfeo," but that's part of the point: the Classical elements in these translations are real-life analogues of elvish/dwarvish influence in hobbit poetry.Read more ›
Five stars are a poor return for such pleasure and wisdom offered.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents a late Arthurian legend which was penned in a relatively obscure West-Midland dialect of early Middle English. The text, as translated by Tolkien, still maintains the auditory alliteration used to drive the poem itself. This in itself is a blessed treasure to the reader, as it is a rarely used method of poetry. The story is a gem in that it presents a fallible human, Gawain, who strives by the Grace of God to fulfill his oaths made. It is an exposition of piety, casting the Arthurian knight into a wholly Christian light.
Pearl, written in a dialectic style of poetic meter, is a moving poem of grief and understanding in the face of the death of a two-year-old child. The imagery used in it is absolutely breathtaking, drawing heavily on the Apocalypse of John for its material. The discourse is a journey of enlightenment and eventual peace, marked with profound trust in God. I found this poem to be absolutely stunning in itself. Pearl, along with Gawain, exposes the existence of a great deal of Marian piety at the time of the writing. This presents an intriguing scenario which reminds Christians of the ongoing understanding of Mary's role in the Christian faith.
Sir Orfeo, related in many ways to Classical myth, is a much more light-hearted adventure. It is a quick read that presents the reader with the brave quest of King Orfeo for his lost wife,Heurodis. The sybols used are mixed from Classical as well as English/Celtic sources.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great addition to a JRR Tolkien fanatic, however it is not a novel but more of a remake of old poem. Is hard to understand at times but overal a great collection of work.Published 10 months ago by N man
The Tolkien translation of these poems seems wonderful to me. I am not a medieval literature scholar, but well-educated in literature. Read morePublished 15 months ago by jack harter
These translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo are wonderful reads of three major lyric verses of the middle ages. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jason G