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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: with Pearl and Sir Orfeo [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Terry Jones , J. R. R. Tolkien
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2007

A collection of three medieval English poems, translated by Tolkien for the modern-day reader and containing romance, tragedy, love, sex and honour.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl are two poems by an unknown author written in about 1400. Sir Gawain is a romance, a fairy-tale for adults, full of life and colour; but it is also much more than this, being at the same time a powerful moral tale which examines religious and social values.

Pearl is apparently an elegy on the death of a child, a poem pervaded with a sense of great personal loss: but, like Gawain it is also a sophisticated and moving debate on much less tangible matters.

Sir Orfeo is a slighter romance, belonging to an earlier and different tradition. It was a special favourite of Tolkien’s.

The three translations represent the complete rhyme and alliterative schemes of the originals.


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Unabridged edition edition (1 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007223617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007223619
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 12.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘The introduction to Gawain is a little masterpiece.’
Times Higher Educational Supplement

‘This magnificent Arthurian tale of love, sex, honour, social tact, personal integrity and folk-magic is one of the greatest and most approachable narrative poems in the language. Tolkien’s version makes it come triumphantly alive, a moving and consoling elegy.’
Birmingham Post

From the Back Cover

A collection of three medieval English poems, translated by Tolkien for the modern-day reader and containing romance, tragedy, love, sex and honour.


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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl are both contained in the same unique manuscript, which is now in the British Museum. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Versions of Sir Gawain 12 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had previously spent rather a lot of money on a splendid Folio Society edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in a translation by Simon Armitage. It is a very fine edition, a beautiful artifact, but the translation is a bit too folksy and demotic. Armitage is a man of his time, and his modern vernacular style jars with ancient poem. The Tolkien version, which I ordered on the recommendation of my friend and colleague Dan Hannan, and which I am reviewing, is as different as chalk from cheese. Physically, it's no more than an ordinary little paperback. But unlike Armitage, Tolkien is by no means a man of his time. He is a man of a very different time, and his glorious language suits the period and the ambience of the poem. It gives a real feeling, a real insight into the mediaeval text. Nothing jars, nothing feels out of place. Toklein's rendering is a triumph and a delight, and while I shall value the Folio edition as an object, I shall prefer the Tolkien as literature.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Gawain and theThis is an acad Green Knight 31 Aug 2009
By Bogaman
Format:Paperback
This is a well balanced and very readable account of three Romances, 'translated' from the Middle English. Although I would have liked to have had the original verses for comparison, that is not the purpose of the book and their absence does not detract from its nature or purpose. I found the glossary of particular interest, and the Appendix illustrating verse forms useful in emphasising the continued use of alliteration, a legacy perhaps from old English verse. Altogether a most satisfying read from the Tolkien stable, and excellent value.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Faithful Translations 22 Nov 2004
Format:Paperback
I must clarify that "A Reader" is incorrect in stating that King Orfeo's daughter is kidnapped, rather it was his wife. "Sir Orfeo" is based on the classical myth of Orpheus and Euridice, where the characters are renamed by the anonymous poet as Orfeo and Heurodis. This Breton Lay has a decidedly happier ending than the classic version. This lay is heavily Christianized, but the Celtic elements also present render it a complex and sophisticated poem, difficult to pin down in a single interpretation. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is perhaps the best Middle English work, but "Sir Orfeo" is a close second. I am pleased with Tolkein's translation, which is faithful to the Auchinleck Manuscript (as far as I can tell, it doesn't say in my copy of the book which MS it is based on).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien isn't as good as they say he is 9 Aug 2013
By Paul T
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read the reviews for this translation I really expected something quite good, but was sadly disappointed. Tolkien's translations are stilted in the extreme and hardly do any justice to these truly great works of art. The pretentious pomposity of Tolkien's "poetry" mars the beauty and vitality of the original. There is no musicality or lyricism with Tolkien's translation. All the atmosphere, momentum and vividness of the original are lost and consigned to oblivion. Take my advice and forego getting this book. Instead get hold of Brian Stone's translation of Sir Gawain or Donoghue's, or preferably both because they really are good ones. Stone keeps the alliteration and though this can sound a bit awkward at times you have to admire him for his fidelity and the fact that you really get a sense of the rhythms that dwell which he has tried to preserve. What's more the story in his hands moves along at a good pace because of his sense of structuring. He conveys a great deal of the atmosphere and the subtle overtones of the original. Donoghue in his translation aims more for the lyrical though this is far from glib. The essence and vividness of the original are skilfully understood and evoked. It's a pity these translators didn't translate the other stories too, so that all could be bound into one big book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best 8 Jun 2003
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
J.R.R. Tolkien is best known as a fantasy writer. But his lesser-known profession was that of an professor and linguist, working at Oxford for over three decade. These three translated poems are excellent examples of his non-Middle-Earth work.
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a relatively little-known Arthurian legend, in which the knight Sir Gawain must forfeit his life to a knight who allowed Gawain to behead him -- then picked up his head and rode out. "Pearl" is a beautifully written, though somewhat more difficult to read, poem that chronicles the death of a child (possibly allegorical). "Sir Orfeo" is a version of the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Tolkien's method for these works is unusually readable -- most translators sacrifice either readability or meaning; as far as I can tell, Tolkien sacrificed neither. "Sir Gawain" is probably the easiest translation I have come across; "Pearl" is haunting, laced with religious references, and very beautifully written; "Orfeo" is not so substantial as the first two, but still entertaining. It's a bit like a medieval ballad.
This book is not so much for fans of Middle-Earth, as for fans of all Tolkien's works. Beautifully written, highly recommended.
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Metrical Translations in English 17 April 2002
By Kent Wittrup - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Between Tolkien's legendarium and scholarship fall his translations, which are by far the most regularly metrical translations in English. "Sir Gawain" includes 101 laisses or verse paragraphs of varying length, head-rhymed on the head-stave, each with an end-rhymed bob-and-wheel refrain; "Pearl" includes 101 12-line stanzas with regular (alternating) end-rhymes in addition to the head-rhymes, plus stanza-linking rhymes. Not even Professor Lehmann's Beowulf includes 101 bob-&-wheel refrains.
Tolkien's international reputation as a scholar began with his revival of "Sir Gawain" in the early `20s, and he developed these translations over the course of some 50 years. Scholarly consensus has held that "Sir Gawain" and "Pearl," the masterworks of the 14th-century Middle English alliterative-stave revival (standing in relation to Chaucer as Marlowe to Shakespeare), were composed by a West Midlands author whose name has not survived, the authentically bereaved father of the "Pearl" herself. Tolkien's "Gawain" lecture (published in The Monsters and the Critics) enlarges very helpfully on the early-`50s radio preface included in this volume.
"Sir Orfeo" is a mere frippery by comparison, in stichic ballad couplets, but probably originated as a single-author work as well. Admittedly there are more authoritative sources on the Classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice than "Sir Orfeo," but that's part of the point: the Classical elements in these translations are real-life analogues of elvish/dwarvish influence in hobbit poetry.
Another translation of "Sir Gawain" had been added to the Oxford Anthology of English Literature by the time Tolkien's became the first posthumous edition released by his youngest son, and Tolkien's will probably replace the current translation at some point during the 21st century. Tolkien has been taken to task for failing to complete a proof that "Sir Gawain" is a single-author work (which he might conceivably have done, considering his 1934 achievement with Chaucer's "Reeve"), but his translation answers eminence with eloquence even so.
These works reflect a vibrant tradition of storytelling and minstrelsy, and the best way to read them would be to read each canto/stanza/couplet twice, once silently and once aloud; to which approach the prose paragraphs would recommend themselves as well. Tolkien's translations are associable with his other scholarly hobbies, including calligraphy, drawings and theatrical performances as well as prose fiction. Admirers of the verses in The Lord of the Rings will most likely find these translations well worth the substantially larger effort.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Magic 23 Oct 2005
By Avant-Captain_Nemo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight" is a great and holy work of literature and I return to it on an annual basis to breathe the air of its strong magic and to observe with awe its rutheless moral rigor. What a profound joy it is to foresake the barren land of contemporary hack literature and enter once more into a world where the colors are brighter, the language is grander, and the characters stride across the mysterious landscape like gods or faery-figures lit from within by a mystic sun. The great J.R.R. Tolkien did us all a supreme kindness when he advocated for the deep spiritual and aesthetic significance of "Beowulf" (for whom his own writings bear covert relations) and he doubled it when he translated this masterpiece of the enchanted but decidedly anonymous soul who wrote it.

Five stars are a poor return for such pleasure and wisdom offered.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter into late-Medieval Adventure and Piety 10 Aug 2006
By Matthew K. Minerd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
These three texts from the translating pen of J.R.R. Tolkien coprise an uplifiting trio that give the reader a glimpse of times when literature was aimed at both beauty and the edification of proper values. This is particularly true in the first two texts.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents a late Arthurian legend which was penned in a relatively obscure West-Midland dialect of early Middle English. The text, as translated by Tolkien, still maintains the auditory alliteration used to drive the poem itself. This in itself is a blessed treasure to the reader, as it is a rarely used method of poetry. The story is a gem in that it presents a fallible human, Gawain, who strives by the Grace of God to fulfill his oaths made. It is an exposition of piety, casting the Arthurian knight into a wholly Christian light.

Pearl, written in a dialectic style of poetic meter, is a moving poem of grief and understanding in the face of the death of a two-year-old child. The imagery used in it is absolutely breathtaking, drawing heavily on the Apocalypse of John for its material. The discourse is a journey of enlightenment and eventual peace, marked with profound trust in God. I found this poem to be absolutely stunning in itself. Pearl, along with Gawain, exposes the existence of a great deal of Marian piety at the time of the writing. This presents an intriguing scenario which reminds Christians of the ongoing understanding of Mary's role in the Christian faith.

Sir Orfeo, related in many ways to Classical myth, is a much more light-hearted adventure. It is a quick read that presents the reader with the brave quest of King Orfeo for his lost wife,Heurodis. The sybols used are mixed from Classical as well as English/Celtic sources. While the story is not wholly inventive, it is a fun read and has been presented very well by professor Tolkien.

I suggest this set of texts to everybody, for they present the reader with poetry which is not only grounded in romance/adventure but also in morality (particulary I and II) and faith.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of Literature 23 May 2001
By "mearwhen" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book gets five stars because it contains "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" - not because Tolkien translated it (although that probably helps)
"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is one of the masterpieces of the English language, one of those books we are asked to read in school over and over again (I personally read in in 12th grade AP English, my freshman year Arthurian legends class and Introduction to British Lit. my sophomore year). At first it is hard to read and you wonder why it is a legend.
Then I read it out loud, the words sounded better than they read. I also began looking into the mythology behind the story (why Troy is important in the first lines for instance). In the end, I have come to love this poem. To be honest, although I like this edition quite a bit, I haven't gotten around to reading the other two poems. I mean to though, any time now.
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