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Publisher's Summary

The famous Middle English poem by an anonymous Northern England poet is beautifully translated by fellow poet Simon Armitage. This audiobook features a brilliant reading of the translation by Bill Wallis; as a bonus, Wallis also masterfully tackles the poem in its original Middle English text.

"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

Critic Reviews

"'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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Bridgewater, NJ, United States
  • 04-30-08

great original, translation, and reader

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.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Stephen
  • Port Ludlow, WA, USA
  • 03-24-10

English to the core

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dale
  • Palmer Lake, CO, USA
  • 09-24-09

Enjoyable old time chivalry

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Arthurian Romance

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anton
  • Brimfield, MA, USA
  • 01-15-09

Unbelievable Beauty!!!

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!!!!!!!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

I wish I could give this a ten star rating

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

What a treat!

Simon Armitage's lyrical translation of this 600-year-old medieval English poem begs to be read aloud. Bill Wallis was an inspired choice; his gruff but warm reading perfectly suits both the soaring alliteration and the more rustic, colloquial moments of the story. (His northern accent lent a special authenticity to the performance; the poem was composed in a Northwest Midlands dialect.)

Armitage's rendering of the poem sacrifices literal translation for the sake of preserving alliteration and rhyme. The result is a musical cascade that carries the reader effortlessly through the tale. The story itself is almost a satire of chivalric ideals; how can a mere man, however noble and well-intentioned, aspire to perfection? Not to mention the impossibility, as Gawain's seductress shows him, of remaining both chaste and perfectly courteous? (Suitably, Gawain, the would-be perfect knight, is far harder on himself when confronted with his failings than anyone else, including his adversary.)

As an added bonus, Wallis reads the original Middle English poem as well. It is fascinating to listen to; some lines are perfectly understandable, while others sound like some weird, lost Germanic language.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Leila
  • South Lancaster, MA, United States
  • 02-23-11


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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Old Fable in a Superb, Refreshing New Translation

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • d
  • 03-21-15

Worth the $

I you are at all interested in "ancient" language, word art or poems, this is a must have.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful