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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" 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.
While it was written at the same time as Chaucer's CANTERBURY TALES, which is difficult but of which the modern reader can usually get the gist, SIR GAWAIN is written in a dialect of rural England which seems more impenetrable nowadays. Under this archaic facade, however, lies a magical tale ostensibly of Arthurian myth, but which is really an adaptation of an older, indigenous legend. The framing of the tale attempts to claim a noble heritage for England from Troy like the Roman poet Vergil had done for Rome with his AENEID.
I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a decent introduction. Barrow provides only a brief explanation of how the text was typeset and minor alterations in spelling, but I would have preferred coverage of the history of the story, the role of Arthurian myth in the popular literature of the writer's region, and a brief mention of the other contents of the manuscript on which the work was found.
If you are a student of English literature, or simply a lover of archaic English texts, the Penguin edition of SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT is a great choice.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading this book made me feel like I had been let in on the secret known to every little boy.Published 1 month ago by LiteraryDiva
Ordered used and it came it great condition with no tears or dents. Interesting novel, a tad difficult to understand, but still enjoyable.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Had to read this for school. It is s***ty but if you are really into the whole knight in shinning glory thing then maybe this is for you. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Erica Keane