Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Helen Cooper (ed.); Keith Harrison (trans.)
Review by Ella R (English)
When I decided to study English Literature, I realised that most of what I had read was written recently and only from the past century or so. I wanted to broaden the range of stuff I was reading, so I went to my local library and picked up a copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I might have chosen it out of the other books there because it looked the shortest, but I was really surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it! It’s a poem which chronicles the quest of Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, who has accepted the challenge of the “Green Knight” (basically called that because the knight is completely green). The Green Knight storms into King Arthur’s Christmas banquet, scaring the living daylights out of everyone (because he’s completely green), challenging any knight to strike him with an axe on the condition that he will deliver the same blow the following year. Things only get really really odd when Gawain decides to take up the offer and chops the Green Knight’s head clean off…
Don’t hesitate to read it because it was written a long time ago: I read the Keith Harrison translation, but I’m pretty sure the Simon Armitage version is just as good and accessible. After I read it, I was ready to immerse myself in other longer, more difficult pieces of medieval literature such as Le Morte d’Arthur and Tristan and Iseult. I really recommend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a starting point for people of any age (unless you’re scared of completely green knights) interested in English Literature who want to try something different from what they normally read.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight edited by Helen Cooper; Keith Harrison (trans.)