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Extended Audio Sample Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation Audiobook, by Anonymous Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.93548387096774 out of 53.93548387096774 out of 53.93548387096774 out of 53.93548387096774 out of 53.93548387096774 out of 5 3.94 (31 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: October 2007 ISBN: 9781482974201
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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 Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 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 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 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 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? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jien | 2/1/2014

    " I really must give credit to the unknown original author for writing such amazing verses. However, Tolkien also should get tremendous credit, his translation was marvelous to read. He managed to maintain alliterative and rhyming structures despite the drastic change in languages between the original and modern english. Even the appendix was interesting to read, he described the older alliterative style (not based on first letters) which he used beautifully in this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emilio Burgos | 1/18/2014

    " A brilliant, erudite and faithful translation of this masterpiece of the Middle-ages! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Willow | 12/2/2013

    " Tolkien's translations are pretty good in my humble opinion. It would be even more exciting if this edition had line numbers, but I found my around alright. I love how affordable this edition is too! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Comis | 10/15/2013

    " Very good edition. I read a different one a couple of years ago, but it didn't have the same "rhyme and flow." Tolkien also added quite a bit of insight with his intro. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gretchen | 10/5/2013

    " once you finally get through it all, it's pretty good. But the story itself is so hard to read because the translation is more exact and true to old english, that you almost have to plow through the entire thing or meticulously read each line to be sure you understand the general idea. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annie | 10/3/2013

    " "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is one of my favorite middle English texts, and from what I've heard and read, the Tolkien translation is one of the best. The other poems interest me also, because critics say the anonymous author of "Gawain" wrote the others as well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aeryn Geil | 9/26/2013

    " Incredible translations - now you know why he rates the Chair! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bill Tillman | 9/17/2013

    " Anglo Saxon speech in the 1400's was so hard to translate that even an authority like Tolkien could not get all of it. But a tale with a 7 foot tale faerie named the Green Knight on a secret mission of a Fae Queen does make a juicy tale. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 6/17/2013

    " I absolutely love Tolkien's rendition of this King Arthur tale. He really captures the rhythms, alliteration, consonance, and feel of the original while updating the language to be accessible to (educated) modern readers. His talent for language shines in this collection. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah Ryburn | 6/8/2013

    " read it because tolkien did the translation. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 5/8/2013

    " A short poem, roughly the length of Beowulf, that tells of Sir Gawain's exploits with the mysterious Green Knight. More chivalry and ethics lessons with one of the more constant characters of medieval literature. Gawain faces fear and death and battles temptation and inconstancy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 12/15/2012

    " Sir Gawain's story was pretty interesting, as was Sir Orfeo's. Pearl was just . . . boring. And long. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colin | 4/20/2012

    " Tolkien's handy translations of some Middle English classics. I wouldn't bother with translations, except a. sometimes I'm just too busy to slog through Middle English and b. Tolkien's writing has a majesty of its own "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eli | 2/2/2012

    " Liked Sir Gawain and Sir Orfeo. I couldn't even begin with Pearl, y'all, and I've read Jude The Obscure. Some things are too depressing and maudlin to bear. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amie | 7/31/2011

    " I taught this book to my Sophomore classes. They loved it. There's lot of interesting twists and turns. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Violet | 7/3/2011

    " I only read Sir Gawain; I decided not to dig into the other two. It was pretty good. A little long-winded at times, but enjoyable. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tim | 5/21/2011

    " The plot may suffer a bit from the predictability of its time period and age, but something I found enamoring was the original Anglo-Saxon script on the opposite page; a minor detail, but something that added interest when I felt lost/bored by it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wickedshizuku | 5/21/2011

    " Hysterical old comedy. This is very meaty mental material. Very short, and it didn't take me long to finish. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kim | 4/28/2011

    " I read this in college and it was WAAAAAY beyond my ability to make meaning of. Perhaps if I tried again with a guide, I would enjoy it more! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara | 4/25/2011

    " Of the four texts I read for English 210 I think this is my favorite. Something about the chivalric code appeals to me more than the warrior code of Beowulf and The Odyssey. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Greg | 4/18/2011

    " "Very good translation. Hadn't read Sir Gawain since college, loved this edition as much if not more than the one I was required to read." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Natasha | 4/8/2011

    " I'm a sucker for epic poems, lords and ladys and knights, and Arthurian fiction so I really enjoyed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I thought this poem would be all about adventure, but it is actually a tale about temptation. The ending was a delightful twist. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 3/27/2011

    " Read this as an assignment for British Lit. class. Was surprised, but I totally enjoyed it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 3/19/2011

    " This is an excellent edition to introduce 10+ children to Arthurian tales. Great for discussion about the 7 knightly virtues and whether Sir Gawain lives up to them or not. Children also like to talk about whether these virtues still have merit in the 21st century.
    "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Theresa | 3/8/2011

    " This was a really great story. The graphic accounts of Sir Gawain and his adventure left me with these great images in my head. There were some clever and thrilling parts in this book that got me all charged up and looking to either smite something or eat meats and drink plenty! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Daniel | 1/30/2011

    " Magical and interesting to read for any lover of the Arthurian myths, but I was a little disappointed by the end. I was hoping for a climactic battle between Gawain and the green knight, but instead it all fell apart into medieval didacticism and lackluster moralizing. "

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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.