Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

This 14th Century poem is one of the earliest known works in English.  Its provenance is a mystery because literally nothing is known of the poet.  It is written in a unique dialect of Middle English and is pretty much unread in the original.   This verse translation by Burton Raffel is terrific and does much to elevate the work to the level of Beowulf & Chaucer.

At Christmas time, a Green Knight enters Camelot and challenges any Knight of the Roundtable to smite him with one blow of a battle axe.  The only catch is that one year hence the smiter must receive a similar blow from the Green Knight.  Sir Gawain volunteers for this strange duty.  He beheads the Green Knight who thereupon picks up his laughing head and reminds Gawain of his obligation & tells him to find him in exactly one year to receive the blow.

The enchanting adventure leading up to and inculding their subsequent confrontation is beautifully rendered by Raffel. The poem is  exciting, humorous & deals with great themes: courage, honor, etc.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

(4 books reviewed)
Book-related and General Links:

-ESSAY: The Riddles of the Green Man and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Jessica Hines, 1/13/23, Ploughshares)
    -ESSAY : C.J. Cherryh's Fiction (Burton Raffel, Literary Review, Spring, 2001)
    -Translation by JRR Tolkein The Middle English Collection at the Electronic Text Center, UVa
    -ONLINE STUDYGUIDE: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight  by Anonymous. (SparkNote by Rebecca Gaines)


-FILMOGRAPHY: The Green Knight (MetaCritic)
-INTERVIEW: Dev Patel Conquers 'The Green Knight' And Embraces Every Role As A Journey (NPR: All things Considered, July 30, 2021)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight: The Green Knight Unmakes a Classic—to Unsettling and Glorious Effect: And yes, Dev Patel slaps (Emily Temple, LitHub)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Daily Beast)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Laura Miller, Slate)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Alissa Wilkinson, Vox)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (david Lowery, Inside Hook)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Alan Zilberman, Spectrum Culture)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Christopher Reed, Hammer and Nail)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Sonny Bunch, The Bulwark)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Justin Chang, NPR: Fresh Air)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight (Wired)
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight ()
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight ()
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight ()
    -FILM REVIEW: Green Knight ()