Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo

( 14 )

Overview

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, PEARL, and SIR ORFEO are masterpieces of a remote and exotic age—the age of chivalry and wizards, knights and holy quests. Yet it is only in the unique artistry and imagination of J.R.R. Tolken that the language, romance, and power of these great stories comes to life for modern readers, in this masterful and compelling new translation.
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Overview

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, PEARL, and SIR ORFEO are masterpieces of a remote and exotic age—the age of chivalry and wizards, knights and holy quests. Yet it is only in the unique artistry and imagination of J.R.R. Tolken that the language, romance, and power of these great stories comes to life for modern readers, in this masterful and compelling new translation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345277602
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1979
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 99,863
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien
It seems an unlikely formula for success: an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon, and a book that begins with a little man who lives in a hole in the ground. But The Hobbit, followed by The Lord of the Rings, created the modern genre of heroic fantasy and made J.R.R. Tolkien one of the most widely-read authors in the world.

Biography

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January, 1892 at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, but at the age of four he and his brother were taken back to England by their mother. After his father's death the family moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.

His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham, where Tolkien shine in his classical work. After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married Edith Bratt. He was also commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of the Somme. After the war, he obtained a post on the New English Dictionary and began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called "The Book of Lost Tales" but which eventually became known as The Silmarillion.

In 1920 Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Meanwhile Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of The Hobbit. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to The Hobbit and gradually Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971. He died on 2 September 1973 leaving The Silmarillion to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins (UK).

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 3, 1892
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (South Africa)
    1. Date of Death:
      September 2, 1973
    2. Place of Death:
      Oxford, England

Read an Excerpt

When the siege and the assault had ceased at Troy,

and the fortress fell in flame to firebrands and ashes,

the traitor who the contrivance of treason there fashioned

was tried for his treachery, the most true upon earth—

it was Æneas the noble and his renowned kindred

who then laid under them lands, and lords became

of well-nigh all the wealth in the Western Isles.

When royal Romulus to Rome his road had taken,

in great pomp and pride he peopled it first,

and named it with his own name that yet now it bears;

Tirius went to Tuscany and towns founded,

Langaberde in Lombardy uplifted halls,

and far over the French flood Felix Brutus

on many a broad bank and brae Britain established

full fair,

where strange things, strife and sadness,

at whiles in the land did fare,

and each other grief and gladness

oft fast have followed there.

2

And when fair Britain was founded by this famous lord,

bold men were bred there who in battle rejoiced,

and many a time that betid they troubles aroused.

In this domain more marvels have by men been seen

than in any other that I know of since that olden time;

but of all that here abode in Britain as kings

ever was Arthur most honoured, as I have heard men tell.

Wherefore a marvel among men I mean to recall,

a sight strange to see some men have held it,

one of the wildest adventures of the wonders of Arthur.

If you will listen to this lay but a little while now,

I will tell it at once as in town I have heard

it told,

as it is fixed and fettered

in story brave and bold,

thus linked and truly lettered,

as was loved in this land of old.

3

This king lay at Camelot at Christmas-tide

with many a lovely lord, lieges most noble,

indeed of the Table Round all those tried brethren,

amid merriment unmatched and mirth without care.

There tourneyed many a time the trusty knights,

and jousted full joyously these gentle lords;

then to the court they came at carols to play.

For there the feast was unfailing full fifteen days,

with all meats and all mirth that men could devise,

such gladness and gaiety as was glorious to hear,

din of voices by day, and dancing by night;

all happiness at the highest in halls and in bowers

had the lords and the ladies, such as they loved most dearly.

With all the bliss of this world they abode together,

the knights most renowned after the name of Christ,

and the ladies most lovely that ever life enjoyed,

and he, king most courteous, who that court possessed.

For all that folk so fair did in their first estate

abide,

Under heaven the first in fame,

their king most high in pride;

it would now be hard to name

a troop in war so tried.

4

While New Year was yet young that yestereve had arrived,

that day double dainties on the dais were served,

when the king was there come with his courtiers to the hall,

and the chanting of the choir in the chapel had ended.

With loud clamour and cries both clerks and laymen

Noel announced anew, and named it full often;

then nobles ran anon with New Year gifts,

Handsels, handsels they shouted, and handed them out,

Competed for those presents in playful debate;

ladies laughed loudly, though they lost the game,

and he that won was not woeful, as may well be believed.

All this merriment they made, till their meat was served;

then they washed, and mannerly went to their seats,

ever the highest for the worthiest, as was held to be best.

Queen Guinevere the gay was with grace in the midst

of the adorned dais set. Dearly was it arrayed:

finest sendal at her sides, a ceiling above her

of true tissue of Tolouse, and tapestries of Tharsia

that were embroidered and bound with the brightest gems

one might prove and appraise to purchase for coin

any day.

That loveliest lady there

on them glanced with eyes of grey;

that he found ever one more fair

in sooth might no man say.

5

But Arthur would not eat until all were served;

his youth made him so merry with the moods of a boy,

he liked lighthearted life, so loved he the less

either long to be lying or long to be seated:

so worked on him his young blood and wayward brain.

And another rule moreover was his reason besides

that in pride he had appointed: it pleased him not to eat

upon festival so fair, ere he first were apprised

of some strange story or stirring adventure,

or some moving marvel that he might believe in

of noble men, knighthood, or new adventures;

or a challenger should come a champion seeking

to join with him in jousting, in jeopardy to set

his life against life, each allowing the other

the favour of fortune, were she fairer to him.

This was the king’s custom, wherever his court was holden,

at each famous feast among his fair company

in hall.

So his face doth proud appear,

and he stands up stout and tall,

all young in the New Year;

much mirth he makes with all.

6

Thus there stands up straight the stern king himself,

talking before the high table of trifles courtly.

There good Gawain was set at Guinevere’s side,

with Agravain a la Dure Main on the other side seated,

both their lord’s sister-sons, loyal-hearted knights.

Bishop Baldwin had the honour of the board’s service,

and Iwain Urien’s son ate beside him.

These dined on the dais and daintily fared,

and many a loyal lord below at the long tables.

Then forth came the first course with fanfare of trumpets,

on which many bright banners bravely were hanging;

noise of drums then anew and the noble pipes,

warbling wild and keen, wakened their music,

so that many hearts rose high hearing their playing.

Then forth was brought a feast, fare of the noblest,

multitude of fresh meats on so many dishes

that free places were few in front of the people

to set the silver things full of soups on cloth

so white.

Each lord of his liking there

without lack took with delight:

twelve plates to every pair, good beer and wine all bright.

7

Now of their service I will say nothing more,

for you are all well aware that no want would there be.

Another noise that was new drew near on a sudden,

so that their lord might have leave at last to take food.

For hardly had the music but a moment ended,

and the first course in the court as was custom been served,

when there passed through the portals a perilous horseman,

the mightiest on middle-earth in measure of height,

from his gorge to his girdle so great and so square,

and his loins and his limbs so long and so huge,

that half a troll upon earth I trow that he was,

but the largest man alive at least I declare him;

and yet the seemliest for his size that could sit on a horse,

for though in back and in breast his body was grim,

both his paunch and his waist were properly slight,

and all his features followed his fashion so gay

in mode:

for at the hue men gaped aghast

in his face and form that showed;

as a fay-man fell he passed,

and green all over glowed.

8

All of green were they made, both garments and man:

a coat tight and close that clung to his sides;

a rich robe above it all arrayed within

with fur finely trimmed, shewing fair fringes

of handsome ermine gay, as his hood was also,

that was lifted from his locks and laid on his shoulders;

and trim hose tight-drawn of tincture alike

that clung to his calves; and clear spurs below

of bright gold on silk broideries banded most richly,

though unshod were his shanks, for shoeless he rode.

And verily all this vesture was of verdure clear,

both the bars on his belt, and bright stones besides

that were richly arranged in his array so fair,

set on himself and on his saddle upon silk fabrics:

it would be too hard to rehearse one half of the trifles

that were embroidered upon them, what with birds and with flies

in a gay glory of green, and ever gold in the midst.

The pendants of his poitrel, his proud crupper,

his molains, and all the metal to say more, were enamelled,

even the stirrups that he stood in were stained of the same;

and his saddlebows in suit, and their sumptuous skirts,

which ever glimmered and glinted all with green jewels;

even the horse that upheld him in hue was the same,

I tell:

a green horse great and thick,

a stallion stiff to quell,

in broidered bridle quick:

he matched his master well.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Tolkien the translator

    This is Tolkien's translation of three medieval poems: "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Pearl," and "Sir Orfeo." Of the three poems, I liked "Sir Gawain" (a tale from the Arthurian mythos) the best because the alliterative verse was very well executed and is unusual in modern poetry. I did not really care for "Pearl" (a Roman Catholic treatise on the death of a child). It did not really match the heroic/chivalric/fairytale theme of the other two poems, reading more like a dramatized chatechism. "Sir Orfeo" follows a more normal rhyme and meter and tells a good old fashioned fairytale.

    This book offers a chance to see Tolkien's skill as a scholar, translator, and lover of beautiful language. It is well worth a read for fans of Tolkien, fantasy, or medieval poetry.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    sir gawain & the green knight, pearl & sir orfeo--and tolkien!

    i must have read these as an english major at the university--and, of course the story has been a part of early literature in many different forms & places...but tolkien's translation rocks!
    i had not known that he was a scholar...all i knew waas from the hobbit--but this awareness opened a new reading direction for me--what else has he translated, etc.
    the first impression this translation left me was that tolkien relished these stories--and his enthusiasm held up to the very end!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2005

    sir gawain and the green knight

    A higly interesting tale involving the heroic exploits of one Sir Gawain. This book sheds light upon the chivalric mindset as well as on English folklore

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2003

    A Chritmas gift card with actual use!

    If I had any other wishes I would order the rest of these books along with the Triology.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2001

    Review

    Like all his other books, I think this one is very well written and very intresting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    Um, yes..okay, than

    This is a booooooook that was an enjoyable walk in the park with. I do recommend reading it, and remember to wear your reading glasses. Don't ever put this book in the washing machine.

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