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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Pearl; [and] Sir Orfeo Mass Market Paperback – December 12, 1979

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Pearl; [and] Sir Orfeo + Beowulf: A Verse Translation (Norton Critical Editions)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'The introduction to Gawain is a little masterpiece.' Times Higher Educational Supplement 'This magnificent Arthurian tale of love, sex, honour, social tact, personal integrity and folk-magic is one of the greatest and most approachable narrative poems in the language. Tolkien's version makes it come triumphantly alive, a moving and consoling elegy.' Birmingham Post --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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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.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (July 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345277600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345277602
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 100 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
J.R.R. Tolkien is best known as a fantasy writer. But his lesser-known profession was that of an professor and linguist, working at Oxford for over three decade. These three translated poems are excellent examples of his non-Middle-Earth work.
"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.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Kent Wittrup on April 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Between Tolkien's legendarium and scholarship fall his translations, which are by far the most regularly metrical translations in English. "Sir Gawain" includes 101 laisses or verse paragraphs of varying length, head-rhymed on the head-stave, each with an end-rhymed bob-and-wheel refrain; "Pearl" includes 101 12-line stanzas with regular (alternating) end-rhymes in addition to the head-rhymes, plus stanza-linking rhymes. Not even Professor Lehmann's Beowulf includes 101 bob-&-wheel refrains.
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.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Avant-Captain_Nemo on October 22, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight" is a great and holy work of literature and I return to it on an annual basis to breathe the air of its strong magic and to observe with awe its rutheless moral rigor. What a profound joy it is to foresake the barren land of contemporary hack literature and enter once more into a world where the colors are brighter, the language is grander, and the characters stride across the mysterious landscape like gods or faery-figures lit from within by a mystic sun. The great J.R.R. Tolkien did us all a supreme kindness when he advocated for the deep spiritual and aesthetic significance of "Beowulf" (for whom his own writings bear covert relations) and he doubled it when he translated this masterpiece of the enchanted but decidedly anonymous soul who wrote it.

Five stars are a poor return for such pleasure and wisdom offered.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Matthew K. Minerd on August 10, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
These three texts from the translating pen of J.R.R. Tolkien coprise an uplifiting trio that give the reader a glimpse of times when literature was aimed at both beauty and the edification of proper values. This is particularly true in the first two texts.

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.
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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Pearl; [and] Sir Orfeo
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