I first started reading this a couple years ago, but I never got past the first canto–not because I was bored or didn’t like the story, but simply because I had been reading it on the side and I forgot to keep up with it. I remember not being terribly impressed with it, considering I wasn’t very fond of Gawain’s love, Elfinhart, or even Gawain himself. However, when I picked it up again and just read it straight through in one sitting (and aloud), I just fell in love with it. It’s so lilting and beautifully written, and while I know every Arthurian writer has a habit of calling every knight the “most virtuous” or pure or whatever, you really do start to believe it of this version of Gawain. I really can’t think of anything I disliked about it, except maybe that poetry isn’t usually my genre of choice.
What I Liked:
- Okay, I’ll admit, when I first started reading this, I thought Elfinhart, Gawain’s love, was kind of shallow and stupid. I mean, she actually seems to flirt with the green knight, and basically tells Gawain to kill himself in a year because she wants him to be brave now. And I thought Gawain was an idiot for actually taking on the knight’s challenge to impress someone as vapid as Elfinhart. However, in the second canto you learn about Elfinhart’s past and how she was raised by the fey—and the challenge they said they would bestow on the man who Elfinhart loved to make sure he was worthy of her love. Honestly, the romantic in me couldn’t help but find it all so heartbreakingly beautiful. I fell in love with Gawain and Elfinhart. It pulled me into the rest of the story and I was able to enjoy everything much more.
- The translator of the edition I read is Charlton Miner Lewis—and I have to say, I think his translation was brilliant. The writing was funny and engaging, and although I usually dislike narrator inserts, I think the original writer put himself in the story very subtly. Most of the time, I was able to laugh, and the rhymes really worked for this poem. It was genuinely fun to read, and I find myself put off by poems like these because they are often boring, but I didn’t find any of that here. I really think anyone would be able to enjoy this story because of the carefree and engaging way it was written.
What I Didn’t Like:
- As I said before, there’s not really anything specific about this that I didn’t like. Poetry just isn’t really my genre of choice, and while it was written well here, I think I would have enjoyed a novel about Gawain and his green knight far more than this poem. However, that’s really all I have to say for this section—I just loved it!
Overall: I would definitely recommend this to just about anybody—especially fans of Arthurian tales, like me. I don’t know if I prefer this version of Gawain over the one in The Once and Future King, but I think this was a great introduction to his character, for readers just beginning their Arthurian journeys. It was interesting and well written and all-around a great read. A definite favorite!