Extended Audio Sample

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by Anonymous, Simon Armitage Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,673 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Anonymous, Simon Armitage Narrator: Bill Wallis Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The famous Middle English poem by an anonymous English poet is beautifully translated by fellow poet Simon Armitage in this edition. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight narrates in crystalline verse the strange tale of a green knight who rudely interrupts the Round Table festivities one Yuletide, casting a pall of unease over the company and challenging one of their number to a wager. The virtuous Gawain accepts and decapitates the intruder with his own ax. Gushing blood, the knight reclaims his head, orders Gawain to seek him out a year hence, and departs. Next Yuletide Gawain dutifully sets forth. His quest for the Green Knight involves a winter journey, a seduction scene in a dream-like castle, a dire challenge answered, and a drama of enigmatic reward disguised as psychic undoing. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Compulsively readable…Simon Armitage has given us an energetic, free-flowing, high-spirited version.”

    New York Times Book Review, front-page review

  • “[Armitage’s] Gawain is fresh and startling, as though it had been written yesterday; it is rough-knuckled and yet it sings”

    New York Sun

  • “[Armitage’s] version inventively recreates the original’s gnarled, hypnotic music…but also has a free-flowing, colloquial twang that allows the poem to partake of the energies of contemporary speech.”

    Financial Times

  • “This is a translation to be savored for its own linguistic merits: Armitage has pored over and polished every word. In the introduction, he writes that his ambition was to produce an independent, living piece of ‘poetry.’ He has certainly done that.”

    New Statesman

  • “Armitage, one of England’s most popular poets, brings an attractive contemporary fluency to the Gawain poet’s accentual, alliterative verse: We hear the knights of Round Table chatting away charmingly, exchanging views. This is a compelling new version of a classic.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Armitage’s animated translation is to be welcomed for helping to liberate Gawain from academia, as Seamus Heaney did in 1999 for Beowulf.”

    Sunday Telegraph (London)

  • “It’s not surprising that, as a northerner, Armitage feels a strong affinity with the poem. He has written pleasingly in this paper about the poem’s vivid contrasts— standard and colloquial English, order and disorder, ‘exchanges of courtly love contrasting with none-too-subtle sexual innuendo…polite, indoor society contrasting with the untamed, unpredictable outdoors.’ And what he has done is to adopt and greatly extend this contrast in the language of his translation…I enjoyed it greatly for its kick and music, its high spirits, its many memorable passages. I enjoyed it because, like the Gawain poet, Armitage is some storyteller.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “The story is rich, eerie, and intoxicating as it follows Gawain from Camelot to his likely doom among the forests and crags and icy streams of the mysterious north…Armitage never lacks for boldness. His enjoyment of the original’s thickly consonantal four-stress alliterative line drives the narrative on at great pace. Nor does he neglect the poem’s concern with pattern, color, and bejeweled decoration of castles, ladies’ costumes, and knightly equipment, seen flashing and glowing amid the inhospitable winter landscapes that dominate the poem…[Armitage] honors the original and will win it readers.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “Joining translators such as J. R. R. Tolkien and Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage has taken on one of the earliest stories in English literature…He meets this poetic challenge courageously, staying faithful to the story’s structure and style but filling the Middle English rhythms with his trademark sound…In the story of Gawain, Armitage has found a language capable of change. By insisting on that change, he had found a new poetry, a method of survival. Six hundred years away, Gawain is closer than he has ever been.”

    Observer (London)

  • “Many may feel, listening to Armitage’s excellent introduction, that they are understanding the dynamics and aesthetics of alliteration for the first time. Bill Wallis’ masterful reading of Armitage’s contemporary alliterative lines is preparation and tutorial for listening to his even more masterful reading of the Middle English original, on the final three discs. This dual experience is, compared to following the same lines on the page, akin to experiencing a film subtitled and one dubbed. For the audiophile, as much as for the student or scholar, these back-to-back renditions are a matchless pleasure, a revelation, and an expansion of the mind and ear. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • One of the 2008 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Reviews

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Review by Josiah | 2/20/2014

    " It was hard to read, but well rewarding. An excellent example of Arthurian literature. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Review by Adam Gutschenritter | 2/16/2014

    " I read this at the advise of a friend. I found myself loving Sir Orfeo the most of the stories. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Review by Lisa | 2/14/2014

    " I love these medieval chivalric stories, especially Orfeo, but the language was very archaic. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Review by Antoine | 2/3/2014

    " Though I yield to none as a Tolkien fan, and (as he also did with Beowulf) Tolkien "wrote the book" on the Gawain Poet, I find that this translation is not a clear lens through which to view the original poem. It seems almost as if Tolkien was unwilling to drag the poem all the way into modern English, or was trying to preserve some elements of the distinctive midlands dialect in which it was written. Either the way, the results are difficult and challenging; one feels it might almost be better to simply assault the original armed with a good glossary... maybe Tolkien's, in fact. Otherwise... might I suggest the Penguin translation? "

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About the Narrator

Bill Wallis has performed in over two hundred radio series and plays, while among his numerous productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company are The Alchemist, The Master Builder, and Twelfth Night. He is also a prolific film and television actor, having made numerous appearances in such productions as Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Midsomer Murders, Bad Girls, Doctors, Poirot, and as Dr. Nick MacKenzie in Dangerfield.