Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Simon Armitage

The translator’s introduction is invaluable for getting across the exact point of what this version is all about. The medieval version of this poem is alliterated, and rather than directly translate the words to modern English for the sake of the story, liberties have been taken to recreate the poetry of the alliteration and verse meter while. The story is therefore a more liberal translation, but serves quite well on that point for those seeking poetry over linguistics.

There are a number of versions of this tale told throughout the ages, and much like with any legend from the Arthurian lineup, I find myself seeking out multiple versions to compare and contrast how they’ve evolved. As I am not well-versed in medieval English, I find this translation to be welcome for it’s preservation of the poetic form. I’ve read a number of prose translations over the years, and much like with The Iliad and The Odyssey, I feel like I’ve come closer to appreciating the poet’s original intent when presented with a version such as this where the poetry itself takes center stage. It’s made that much more so when the translator, via the narrator, connects this story backwards from Arthur’s Briton to the fall of Troy.

The narration offers a quiet dignity to the tale itself, calling the listener back to the original poet, perhaps reciting his work around a campfire to a cadre of soldiers. All in all, a superb rendition, one that any medievalist or Arthurian enthusiast should seek out.

4 stars