Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

ISBN: 0582484065
ISBN 13: 9780582484061
By: Unknown Marie Borroff

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Arthurian Classic Classics Fantasy Favorites Fiction Literature Medieval Poetry To Read

About this book

A new verse translation,Composed during the fourteenth century in the English Midlands, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight describes the events that follow when a mysterious green-coloured knight rides into King Arthur’s Camelot in deep mid-winter. The mighty knight presents a challenge to the court: he will allow himself to be struck by one blow, on the condition that he will be allowed to return the strike on the following New Year’s Eve. Sir Gawain takes up the challenge, decapitating the stranger - only to see the Green Knight seize up his own severed head and ride away, leaving Gawain to seek him out and honour their pact. Blending Celtic myth and Christian faith, Gawain is among the greatest Middle English poems: a tale of magic, chivalry and seduction.

Reader's Thoughts

Nicholas Walters

I read the story “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” translated by Marie Borroff. I thought this story was really hard to understand and took me a little longer than normal to figure it out, but that was 11th century. It starts off with Sir Gawain accepting the challenge from the Green Knight for the beheading game. Sir Gawain plays in place of King Arthur because he feels thats what he needs to do. The game seems like an easy win for Sir Gawain, but the Green Knight has supernatural powers and lives even after he has been beheaded. Sir Gawain now must let him return the favor a year and a day from the time the game took place,which kept Sir Gawain in suspense.The main characters are Sir Gawain, the Green Knight, King Arthur, and the Lord of the Castle. Sir Gawain is a knight of the round table and King Arthur’s nephew. The Green Knight is the proposer of the game and seeks to test Sir Gawain’s chivalry and saw if he holds true to what the people of Camelot are about. King Arthur is the King of Camelot and the uncle of Sir Gawain. The Lord of the Castle allows Sir Gawain to stay at his place, but is actually the Green Knight.The settings are Camelot on New Year’s Day, the Lords’ Castle, and the Green Chapel. This all took place sometime in the 11th century.The message of this story is chivalrous behavior. Sir Gawain still makes the trip to what he thinks is his death. He holds still for the second axe blow from the Green Knight. He also accepts the challenge in place of his king. We all can learn that people are not going to be perfect, but we can do everything we can to be the best we can be and not step down from a challenge.I would recommend this story to high school students that are interested in the time period of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, and who want to learn a great lesson.


"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a legend depicted by many authors, with no true writer. The translator of this particular version is Marie Borroff. It begins with the knights sitting around the round table at the Castle of Camelot on New Year's Eve. A strange knight in green, strolls in on his green horse to challenge the king to a New Year's game. King Arthur can cut off the Green Knight's head this year if the Green Knight can cut off King Arthur's head one year later. Sir Gawain, being the noble knight he was, offered to take King Arthur's place in the New Year's game. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight compete in the New Year game. Sir Gawain cuts off the Green Knight's head and the Green Knight stands up and says, "See you again next year". One year later, Sir Gawain makes haste for the Green Chapel. He stopped in a castle to spend the night. The king offered to trade whatever they got for the next three days. The king's wife offered to give him her green girdle in return for a kiss. She said the girdle would protect him from harm. He kissed her but didn't trade the girdle to the king. Sir Gawain got to the Green Chapel and all he heard was the sharpening of a blade. Sir Gawain, along with the Green Knight, got to the execution area. The first attempt, Sir Gawain flinched and the Green Knight scolded him. The second attempt the Green Knight questioned why he didn't flinch. The third attempt, the Green Knight knicked. Sir Gawain's neck to finish the New Year game. The Green Knight then took off his helmet to reveal that he was actually the king. The king then explained the three attempts at execution. The first was for kissing his wife. The second was for him not turning over the girdle to the king. And the third attempt was to pay off the New Year game. After all of that, Sir Gawain just got to keep the girdle. Sir Gawain, acted noble and chivalrous when taking the place of the king. The Green Knight acted with mercy in sparing his life. The queen acted loyal to her husband by respecting his wishes. The King acted graciously by allowing him into their home and offering to trade gifts for the next three days. The story takes place during the eleventh century in The Castle of Camelot in England and the Green Chapel in Wales. The theme of the story is that not keeping your word has consequences and it's always best to be honest and forthright. Sir Gawain valued his life more that keeping the chivalrous code and being honest. I would recommend this story to adults and people who enjoy poetry and the days of King Arthur.


Perhaps my favorite Arthurian classic so far. Loved the alliterative verse and the beautiful descriptions of seasons - the conflicting ideas centered on chivalry, courtship, religion, etc. all made the reading much more intellectually stimulating. Not to mention that the ending throws in a wedge that forces one to evaluate the overall theme of the poem, or whether a unifying theme exists at all. Highly recommended for those interested in British literature and for those who want to give it a try; it's much more bearable than Beowulf, and the seduction scene is one of my favorites.


A strange green knight strides in, and proposes a challenge, a game of sorts. To complete the arrangement of the challenge, a knight must strike him and attempt to kill him, if he fails the knight will pay back in kind. A swing for a swing. At first, Arthur is prepared to accept the game, but Gawain is determined to take part in Arthur’s stead. Gawain strikes the head off of the green knight but the knight does not die and instead picks up his head and speaks to the knights of the round table. Gawain stays at a lord's castle, his actions there are paid back by the Green Knight. The Green Knight swings three times. Gawain kisses the lady of the castle, which causes the Knight to swing. Gawain does not keep his word, which causes the Knight to swing. At the end of the game, the Green Knight forgives Gawain. Gawain is a knight and has to follow the code of chivalry, but he is also human and succumbs to his wants. The Green Knight decides to teach Gawain a lesson. The lesson being that Gawain must learn from his mistakes and grow past them. The Green Knight brings a certain enlightenment moment for Gawain. The setting affects the characters. It is during the time of which knights roam and must follow a code. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" takes place in eleventh century in Camelot. This code, Chivalry is what brings to pass many aspects of the story. The Green Knight for example teaches Gawain a lesson that he should follow the code. The moral of the story is to hold true to your word. Sir Gawain's word is the code of Chivalry. The promise of holding up these rules. The Knight forgave him at the end for not holding to his word. I'd recommend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to teens and up because of how complicated the story is.


When I found out we had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a current university subject, I was a little worried. I often struggle with analysing poetry and something written in Middle English was not going to be easy. Thankfully we had to read the Brian Stone translation, which only hints at being Middle English. This is a famous 14th century Arthurian romance that is often known for the beheading game.This is a typical quest narrative; The Green Knight exposes the Knights of the Round Table as timid and cowards when he challenges them to the beheading game. The rules are simple, one knight tries to behead the Green Knight and in a year and a day he will meet them for the returning blow. The Arthurian world is governed by a well-established code of behaviour. This code is one of chivalry, a romantic notion that is deeply rooted in Christian morality, being a beacon of spiritual ideals in a fallen world.The beheading game is a plot device used as a test in the quest narrative, Sir Gawain is thrown into participating in the game and he is left with a choice, to be a man that lives by his code or not. A game that is meant to measure the inner worth of the knights and it does it in a big way, it exposes the Knights as cowards but Gawain steps up, sort of.There is a whole lot of humour in this story that often gets over looked when trying to analyse this difficult text. The idea of beheading someone and them returning for a reciprocating blow should have given that away. However the supernatural elements might have made this difficult to pick up on the comedic value. The Green Knight can be interpreted as an allusion of Christ and the strong religious overtones might lead you to think that but I saw him more as a plot device to represent life’s challenges.Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a rather beautiful and interesting exploration for me. The translation I read did make it easier to understand, I don’t think I could handle learning Middle English. I had to do an assignment on this text and the quest narrative so I feel like I’ve already said plenty about this poem before sitting down to writing this review. I hope there is plenty of information here and gives the reader an idea of what to expect when reading this poem. It isn’t hard to understand if you have the right translation and is well worth reading.This review originally appeared on my blog;

Natalie Moore Goodison

The perfect link between Beowulf and Chaucer. The alliteration is phenomenal and I think he just makes up words to sound fabulous. A green man, a challenge, King Arthur's court, a bet, a perilous situation, an alluring woman, and an embracing host with lots of magic and feasts. What more could one ask for? This translation gets right to the heart of the ME without being in ME. A wonderful translation with excellent essays in the back. If you don't feel like tackling the Middle English, but still want to embrace some medieval literature, look no further.

Arthur Graham

She gave him her girdle, did she? A little something to remember her by, hmmmm? Personally, I found it rather hard to believe that a hound dog like Gawain would pass up the opportunity, but I did ultimately enjoy this humorous tale of chivalry and self-imposed cockblockery. Green Knight rules!

Rebecca Payton

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" by Pearl Poet, was about the Green Knight coming to a New Year's celebration in Camelot. King Arthur and his knights were sitting around the round table, feasting in celebration when all of a sudden, the Green Knight shows up out of nowhere. Everybody around the table just stared in awe, wondering what to do. The Green Knight showed up wanting to play a game, but not just any old game. This game was called the beheading game, and was a very simple game to play. The beheading game was a deal made between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain has the chance to decapitate and kill the Green Knight with his sword, but if the Green Knight doesn't die, a year and day later the Green Knight will have his chance at beheading and killing Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain, not realizing all of the red flags going up all over the place, had agreed to the game. He took one swipe of his sword and cut the knight's head off, leaving it to roll on the ground. The Green Knight didn't die, and picked his head back up. A deal is a deal, and so a year and day later Sir Gawain had to go to the Green Chapel where the Green Knight lived to fulfill the beheading game. Along the way, unknowingly Sir Gawain was faced with different challenges before he was able to finish the game. These challenges were a test of his chivalry, but unfortunatley he had failed them. The Green Knight taught Sir Gawain a valuable lesson at the end of the story."Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" was taken place at Camelot, King Arthur's castle,and also the Green Chapel where the Green Knight lived. It took place during the winter around Christmas time.Sir Gawain was from Camelot, and the Green Knight lived in the Green Chapel. Some valuable themes from the story dealt a lot with chivalry; those being loyal, honest, and brave. All of these themes were being tested on Sir Gawain by the Green Knight. Toward the end of the story, the Green Knight shapeshifted into the lord of the castle, and Sir Gawain was put through three different tests unknowingly. These tests that were taken place was when I thought the themes of the poem really came through. Two of the themes occured at the beginning of the poem, when Sir Gawain had volunteered to be a part of the game instead of having King Arthur risking his life. He showed he was loyal and brave to his King. I thought this was a very creative story, and I wasn't expecting the ending to be the way it was. I thought somebody was going to die at the end, but clearly I was wrong. I enjoyed reading the poem and would recommend this to all students taking english classes, because no matter what they're going to have to read this anyways.


"Note: you have also reviewed the following editions of this book: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn ) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140440925) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0140424539) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0719055172) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (isbn 0571223281) Sir Gawain & the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 0030088801) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Paperback) (isbn 1146360738)"Oops.Anyway, I reread Simon Armitage's translation in honour of getting a signed copy (I was going to go to his talk about his new book in Leeds, but I ended up being in Cardiff due to my grandfather's death, so we phoned up and Waterstones arranged for him to sign a copy of Sir Gawain for me, which isn't as good as getting to speak to him but is still pretty good). For my money, though Simon Armitage's translation isn't the most accurate academic translation, it captures something that even Tolkien doesn't manage to grasp, despite the care he took translating the poem, and that I haven't seen anywhere else. I remember doing a course on this poem (in the Middle English), and we talked about the poem being playful, and in part mocking the court and Gawain (but with affection). I feel like Simon Armitage's translation brings out that aspect very well, without losing the sense of nobility and chivalry that the poem is so rightly known for.It also barrels along at a tremendous pace, and reads a lot more like popular literature than Tolkien or Brian Stone's translations. You might not think that a good thing, of course, but I think it suits the story.

Jenny J

An Arthurian poem in Middle English (written around 1400), accompanied by a very readable modernization by Simon Armitage. The story is simple: As King Arthur, his Queen, his knights, and their ladies are enjoying a Christmas feast, they are interrupted by the axe-wielding Green Knight, who challenges Arthur's champion, Sir Gawain (the purest and bravest and, well, you know the drill). His deal is this: Sir Gawain gets to deal him one blow with the axe, and the Green Knight won't fight back. Then, a year later, Sir G has to seek the Green Knight and receive an undefended blow in return. In between, Sir G travels the land, wrestles with temptation (guess who wins?) and is generally pure and brave.The pleasure in reading this is not really in the story. It's typical Arthurian fare, with plenty of chivalry and a nod to Morgan le Fay. Sir G's necessarily a bit holier-than-thou. But consider that this was written 600 years ago. And then read it out loud.When read out loud, this poem SINGS. The translator captures the alliteration and rhythm of the original, and it's just wonderful. The Christian allegory left me a little cold, but the language is lovely, and the nostalgic fantasy of a simpler, more violent but more honorable time, is nearly palpable. Good stuff.

Kori Looker

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" takes place in Camelot with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In King Arthur's castle on New Years, a green knight challenges them to a beheading game. A chivalrous knight, Sir Gawain, takes the place of King Arthur. Sir Gawain fails to behead the green knight. He must return to the Green Knight a year and one day later to stick his deal in the beheading game. The story's main character is Sir Gawain. The Green Knight who challenges Sir Gawain is a giant, green, red eyed knight who rides a green horse. Other characters include the lady and lord of the castle who give shelter to Sir Gawain. This story takes place in medieval times in Wales. The time period is important, because the author shows the difference in chivalry between medieval times and present day.The main theme is chivalry. Chivalry is like morals, knowing right from wrong. Most present day people are not very chivalrous. Chivalry in medieval times was considered being loyal, warrior-like virtues, and christian values. Chivalry today is considered being respectful to women, such as holding the door open or pulling out their chair. Chivalry is looked at different view points from different people, but in the end I think chivalry is just doing what is right.I would recommend this book to older adults. I feel as though older adults would take more interest in this long narrative poem. I found "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" to be weird and boring.

Mark Adderley

This is probably the greatest medieval romance ever written. Maybe that's extravagant praise--there's also Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Dante's Divine Comedy, and a few others, but I do think that if it hadn't been for Chaucer, the anonymous Gawain-poet would have been considered the greatest medieval English poet.The story is about a beheading test--the Green Knight challenges Gawain to exchange beheadings. Gawain will behead the Green Knight now, and then undergo the same thing a year hence. Sounds easy, but the Green Knight is magical, and doesn't die--he just picks up his head and rides away.The plot is intricately constructed, interweaving the beheading challenge with bedroom seduction scenes, hunting, questing, religious piety, chivalry and honour. The poet keeps you on your toes--he leads you to expect one thing, then surprises you with something else. You don't know what's going on until you've reached the last line.This text is the standard one in Middle English, and although it's tough-going, it's worth it. For a handy translation, I'd recommend either J. R. R. Tolkien's or Marie Borroff's.

Stephanie Sykes

I really enjoyed “Sir Gawin and The Green Knight” translated by Marie Borroff. We read this story as a class.This story is about about a guy named Sir Gawin, who goes in for King Arthur. Sir Gawin took the challenge of beheading the Green Knight, but the Green Knight lived and that meant the Green Knight gets to do the same to Sir Gawin in one year and a day. The main characters were: Sir Gawin, Green Knight, the lady of the castle, and King Arthur. Sir Gawin is the nephew of King Arthur and he is also a knight. The Green Knight comes on New Years Eve and offers the challenge to King Arthur. The Lady of the Castle gives Sir Gawin three gifts to give to the lord of the castle.The story took place in the 11th century. It took place at three places: Camelot, Lord’s Castle, and the Green Chapel. Camelot took place on New Years Eve. The Lord’s Castle took place in North Wales on the following Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The Green Chapel took place on New Years Eve. The themes would be:live by the sword, die by the sword, chivalry, appearance vs reality, and if something seems to good to be true it probably is. Live by the sword, die by the sword was shown when Sir Gawin went in for King Arthur. Chivalry was shown when Sir Gawin goes in King Arthur. If something seems to good to good to be true it probably is that was shown when Sir Gawin keeps the belt, because he thought it would keep him alive. I would recommend this book to high school students, because I thought it was a little difficult to read. I would recommend this book to both girls and boys, because this book doesn’t really focus on one gender. I really enjoyed this book, because it had a good lesson behind it.

Georgia Radtke

I did not enjoy the story 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. Books that are fiction do not grab my attention. When reading a book, I like to relate to what’s going on. This story is organized by a series of main events that all lead up to be giant set up. As the story continues, Sir Gawain turns out not being the honorable knight he claimed to be. Through out this story Sir Gawain has to complete certain tasks in order to finish the game he started. The game delt with beheading each other, Sir Gawain thought he finsihed it at the first swing he took at the Green Knight, he now realized he got himself into a mess because the Green Knight is supernatural. Sir Gawain experiences humiliation to the fullest at the end. He does not listen to the rules that the Lord of the castle gave him nor does he confess. During the beheading game Sir Gawain undergoes a lot of pressure in hope to return to Camelot. 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' takes place in three different locations, Camelot, the Castle, and the Green Chapel. The story in the beginning starts one year prior to the ending of the game. The time is a big deal in the story because the games time span is one year, Sir Gawain had to prepare himself for what was about to come. There are a lot of themes in the story, one important one is loyalty. In the beginning he stepped up to the plate, so that the life of their leader would not be taken. As he goes through the game, he does not stay loyal to the Lord of the Castle. In the ending the Green Knight breaks it to him that he is not a loyal soldier that anyone could trust or count on. I would not recommend this book to anyone. It drags on to get to the point of the story. While reading it, it told a lot of un necessary facts. The story is not good because it incorporates the devil and in my personal opinion, anything that focuses on the devil is not worth reading.


Reading 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' took me over 10 years. I'm not a slow reader, but it did take me time to mature enough in order to understand and appreciate it. This version of 'Sir Gawain' is a rather simple, easy-reading, flowing one. It was a fantastic read for a classic, although I have a feeling that it is not delivering the exact intention and message as the original, maybe due to its somewhat contemporary mindset. Still, it is a perfect place to start with.I go the book at an old bookstore, I was browsing the shelves of the Fantasy/Sci-Fi books, looking for something good and exciting, and there it was - this strange cover from 1970's version. I saw it was in a poem format, which I wasn't reading that much back then, and decided to give it a go - for some reason which is beyond me. Had I known that it is going to be such a wonderful read, I would have probably given it a second go much earlier, but back then it was too much for me, and I didn't appreciate the intricate and playful poetic devices, the amazingly funny and witty composition and story, and basically - I wasn't that much in to poetry reading as I am now. So, coming down to it, what you've got here is an amazing introduction to the 'Sir Gawain' world, which really is a very good place to start. But it is just a start. A good one, but a start. The introduction to this book, one of the best introductions I've read in a long while, is so fantastic that it actually manages to reveal both the complexity of translating and understanding the original poem, and the approach of the translator of this edition - which is, for my taste, one of the better approaches to a poem such as this. And still, you can clearly see that there's more than just one approach, more than just one way to read it, and that this is but one aspect in an ocean of possibilities of understanding 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'.

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