Retold in Modern Prose by Jessie L. Weston
I think that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the deepest and finest stories in all of English literature — the sort of story that you can return to again and again in your mind, and always come away with a new bit of insight about life, and groups and the nature of love and honor.
The story begins when a gigantic stranger clad in green bursts in on King Arthur’s New Year’s feast to issue a fearsome challenge to the knights of the Round Table: Any of the assembled knights may strike off the stranger’s head – but that knight must be willing to receive a similar blow from teh Green Knight in one year’s time. Only the gallant Gawain volunteers to uphold the dignity of Camelot. Sir Gawain the the Green Knight recounts Gawain’s adventures as he seeks to fulfill his pledge to the Green Knight
The tale dates from the 14th Century or earlier and blends older pre-Christian symbols and understandings with Christian ethics and the Divine Feminine, celebrating the virtue of forgiveness. It also raises some fascinating questions about the role of human imperfection within a group, implying within the story that there can be no real acceptance by a group without such imperfection becoming visible. This is an amazing story!
This modern prose version of the Middle English poem makes it accessible, whether you are a teacher or parent wishing to learn the story to tell to 6th graders, or would like to have your high school or college students read it themselves. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying a copy just to enjoy yourself, too.