"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" narrates in crystalline verse the strange tale of a green knight who rudely interrupts the Round Table festivities one Yuletide, casting a pall of unease over the company and challenging one of their number to a wager. The virtuous Gawain accepts and then decapitates the intruder with his own axe. Gushing blood, the knight reclaims his head, orders Gawain to seek him out a year hence, and departs. Next Yuletide, Gawain dutifully sets forth. His quest for the Green Knight involves a winter journey, a seduction scene in a dream-like castle, a dire challenge answered, and a drama of enigmatic reward disguised as psychic undoing.
©2007 Simon Armitage; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America
"'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' is one of the eerie, exuberant joys of Middle English poetry....Simon Armitage has given us an energetic, free-flowing, high-spirited version. He reminds us that 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' still wields an uncanny power after 600 years." (The New York Times Book Review)
I loved this in Middle English, in grad school, and it was a huge treat to encounter a skilled reader, a very good new translation AND the original as well, competently read.
The story is really good, and the poetry remains to a fair extent in the translation. The reader is outstanding.
I especially appreciated the scholarly lecture at the beginning telling me about what I was about to hear and why it was so special.
A truly epic poem that kept my interest until the very end.
The untranslated version after the modern english version was interesting as well.
Wonderful to hear the gritty reading, with an appropriate but understandable northern accent, which to me (born long ago in Northern England) brings a great sense of reality to the performance. A great change from the upper class accents that so often accompany English readings.
I can easily say that the alliterative translation, and it's reading by Simon Armitage, is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard in my life. Unable to get enough, I am now listening to the second half of the book, which is the poem in Old English. BRAVO at a magnificent accomplishment!!!!!!!
The poem was easy to understand, much like The Lady of Shalott, or The Highwayman. And any one that loves a good Arthurian tale will surely love this. Another added bonus was the translator Simon Armitage's introduction. And at the end of the story Bill Wallis, who by the way does a fantastic job, re-reads the poem but this time in Middle English, wow it was a real treat to hear it the way it sounded 600 years ago.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
The translator's introduction is invaluable for getting across the exact point of what this version is all about. The medieval version of this poem is alliterated, and rather than directly translate the words to modern English for the sake of the story, liberties have been taken to recreate the poetry of the alliteration and verse meter while. The story is therefore a more liberal translation, but serves quite well on that point for those seeking poetry over linguistics.
There are a number of versions of this tale told throughout the ages, and much like with any legend from the Arthurian lineup, I find myself seeking out multiple versions to compare and contrast how they've evolved. As I am not well-versed in medieval English, I find this translation to be welcome for it's preservation of the poetic form. I've read a number of prose translations over the years, and much like with The Iliad and The Odyssey, I feel like I've come closer to appreciating the poet's original intent when presented with a version such as this where the poetry itself takes center stage. It's made that much more so when the translator, via the narrator, connects this story backwards from Arthur's Briton to the fall of Troy.
The narrator reminds of me of a historian you might see on PBS. He sounds scholarly enough to get the point across that he's the surrogate for the translator, but at the same time he offers a quiet dignity to the tale itself, calling the listener back to the original poet, perhaps reciting his work around a campfire to a cadre of soldiers. All in all, a superb rendition, one that any medievalist or Arthurian enthusiast should seek out.
A poem should be heard. This recording is excellent -- the reader understands what he's reading and is exciting to listen to. His reading reveals a superior grasp of the characters and the story.
I studied Old English in college and thus, was exposed to the language of Medieval English, which is an odd, but beautiful, combination of German and English. I have loved to read and to hear Old English read ever since. Don't misunderstand - the modern translation comes first in recognizable English, so if you don't have the Old English background, don't worry. The Old English version comes after the modern version, so consider the length of the actual tale to be half the length of the audiobook.
This is a masterpiece of English literature that was made into a spectacular listen by Bill Wallis, who is now my favorite narrator. Everyone says they could listen to their favorite narrator read the phonebook, but I could listen to Bill Wallis read algebraic equations. Think of a more suave version of James Earl Jones with a gentler tone and more resonance and you have Bill Wallis.
The tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian legend about honor, chivalry, and loyalty. It has a wonderful message and it's a short, fun read. The only caveat is that the seduction scene, while certainly not X-rated, gets rather intense, so keep it away from little ears.
This would be a great listen for anyone who enjoys the Arthurian tales, anyone interested in English literature, and anyone who would enjoy hearing one of the best narrators in the business read a great legend.
I didn't fully appreciate this when I read it 25 years ago, at least as I can recall. This new translation is refreshing and easily comprehensible without watering down the tale's mysticism or sacrificing its bite.
Very good performance by the narrator.
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