Book Reviews · Classic Literature · Fantasy · Poetry · POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2021 Update: Week Twenty-Eight

Good morning, everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful week so far, and that you are continuing to stay healthy!

Unsurprisingly, it’s been yet another week of ridiculously hot temperatures and rainy days. I can’t complain about the weather too much though, because it’s been a great reason to stay indoors and read. I ended up reading a tremendous number of books this week, most of which were young adult titles that I borrowed from the library. (See, I am still working on Reading Goal #6!)

This week for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, I decided to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. While the author of this epic poem is unknown, the version I read was translated by J.R.R. Tolkien.

A book that was published anonymously…

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, a knight of the Round Table, who is also the nephew of King Arthur.

The poem begins just after Christmas-time, at the start of the New Year, when King Arthur and his court are having a feast. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the Green Knight, a strongly-built warrior, who has come to Arthur’s court to offer a challenge. He will allow one of the knights to deal him a blow with his axe, on the condition that they allow him to deal a blow in return after “a year and a day go by” (Tolkien 34).

Sir Gawain decides to take up the challenge, and removes the Green Knight’s head with a single blow. To everyone’s surprise, however, the knight does not fall. Instead, he picks up his head and reminds Gawain of his agreement to take a blow in return the following year, telling him that he will be found at the Green Chapel.

The rest of the poem describes Gawain’s journey to the Green Chapel, and his promised encounter with the Green Knight.

In addition to the title poem, this book also includes two other poems, Pearl and Sir Orfeo, which I also decided to read. According to Tolkien’s introduction, it is believed that the unknown author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight also wrote Pearl, but Sir Orfeo was written by another unknown poet.

Pearl is an elegy, one which focuses on the death of a child. The poem’s grieving speaker, whose daughter died when she was only two years old, has a dream in which he has the opportunity to see and speak with her again in paradise.

Sir Orfeo, on the other hand, tells the story of a king named Orfeo. When his wife is stolen away by the king of Faërie, Orfeo decides to leave behind his kingdom to live in the woods by himself, with only his harp for company…until a chance meeting gives him hope of reuniting with his wife.

This was actually my second time reading this collection of poems (the first was while I was still a high school student), and I found that I enjoyed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight just as much as I did the first time. The poem tells a fantastic story, and I really enjoyed the way in which the poet chose to present not only the action of the narrative, but also the settings and characters. The poem is very descriptive, which really helps the reader visualize the events that take place.

After having re-read the poem, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the upcoming movie adaptation, The Green Knight, compares to the original when it is released later this month (July 30th).

While Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is undoubtedly my favorite poem in this collection, I found that I also really enjoyed reading Pearl and Sir Orfeo, and that I had a much greater appreciation for both of these poems the second time around. I especially liked the symbolism the poet chose to include in Pearl, and thought that the narrative of Sir Orfeo was clever.

Whether you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, or you’re interested in reading more poetry, I highly recommend taking the time to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (along with Pearl and Sir Orfeo). I really enjoyed all three of these poems, and greatly appreciated both the quality and readability of Tolkien’s translations. If you do have the chance to read this collection for yourself, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Next week’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update will be posted on Saturday, July 17th. In the meantime, I hope you will join me here on The Unapologetic Bookworm on Wednesday for my review of T. Kingfisher’s The Seventh Bride.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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