So, I’ve stumbled across a Writing Theme or Meme or whatever you want to call it. It’s called “30 Days of Books”. I’m hoping to write a post (each with its own prompt) every day for the month of June. Here’s the first one – “The Best Book You Read Last Year”.
All right, so it isn’t really a book per say, but the best thing I read last year was the poem, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. I call it “The Best” because I enjoyed it immensely AND there were many fun themes and symbols to discuss – so it stimulated my brain on multiple levels! Win!
The story itself is awesome! A completely green Faerie knight rides into King Arthur’s court and challenges the knights to a game. Whoever chooses to play gets to chop his head off now, and in return, he gets to chop the player’s head off in a year. The knight then goads the court until Sir Gawain steps up and beheads him. The Green Knight picks up his head, thanks Gawain, and tells him to meet him at the Green Chapel in a one year.
The Court mourns the brave knight, give him a holy shield, and send him on his way. He has adventures until he comes to a castle within a week of the deadline. The host, Sir Bertilak, and his wife welcome Gawain and propose a game – Bertilak will give Gawain everything he finds during his hunts in the woods and Gawain will give him everything he finds in the castle. Gawain agrees and the festivities begin.
The next morning, the host’s wife tries to seduce him and gives him a kiss, which he dutifully gives to his host that evening. The next day goes the same. The third day, along with the kiss, the wife gives Gawain a girdle that will keep him from dying though he be mortally wounded. That evening, when he gives his host the kiss, he holds back the girdle.
The nest day, he rides to the Green Chapel and faces the Green Knight who feints two blows and cuts Gawain on the third. The knight reveals himself as Bertilak and chastises Gawain for loving his life more than his honor. Gawain repents of the flaw and returns home where he is welcomed as a hero.
So many themes are present in the story – strength vs. weakness, physical power vs. moral fiber, courage and cowardice, and what makes a man a great hero. I enjoyed that confronting his mistakes made Gawain stronger and that in the end, it’s character that makes a hero, not physical prowess.
Other fun symbols include the pentangle on Gawain’s shield, the dance of Court manners that Gawain has with Bertilak’s wife, and the trading game played at the castle.
Anyways, this story was amazing, but hard to read (it is in archaic English after all). If you want an easier-to-read adaptation, I highly recommend “The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady” by Gerald Morris. It’s written for a younger age set, probably 10–16 year-olds, but the writing is sprightly and witty and the adventure is fun. Also, reading that makes the original so much more understandable, because you now have a thorough grasp of what’s going on.