Sir Gawain and the Green Knight : With Pearl and Sir Orfeo, Paperback

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight : With Pearl and Sir Orfeo Paperback

4 out of 5 (4 ratings)


A collection of three medieval English poems, translated by Tolkien for the modern-day reader and containing romance, tragedy, love, sex and honour.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl are two poems by an unknown author written in about 1400.

Sir Gawain is a romance, a fairy-tale for adults, full of life and colour; but it is also much more than this, being at the same time a powerful moral tale which examines religious and social values.

Pearl is apparently an elegy on the death of a child, a poem pervaded with a sense of great personal loss: but, like Gawain it is also a sophisticated and moving debate on much less tangible matters.

Sir Orfeo is a slighter romance, belonging to an earlier and different tradition.

It was a special favourite of Tolkien's. The three translations represent the complete rhyme and alliterative schemes of the originals.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Poetry by individual poets
  • ISBN: 9780261102590



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Quite good translations of difficult medieval poetic metres and rhyme schemes. I wholly enjoyed Gawain, found Pearl a bit tedious (probably due to topic rather than language), and liked Sir Orfeo well enough. Would have preferred glosses to be provided at the foot of the page rather than at the back, but that's a minor quibble.

Review by

Sir Gawain is a weird story, but Sir Orfeo is a cool story (the Middle English version of the myth of Orpheus), and Pearl is really good too.

Review by

Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight comes with two more translations, one probably by the Gawain-poet, Pearl, and one by another anonymous poet, Sir Orfeo. I've said a lot about Sir Gawain in my reviews of other translations, so I'll keep my comments on this translation short. It's lovely and lyrical, as magical as one would expect, but it's less accessible than it could be. Tolkien didn't fully bring it into modern language. If that's your thing, then it's no barrier to enjoying the story -- but if you just want to enjoy the story, without worrying about language, Simon Armitage's translation might be more your thing.<br/><br/>I didn't like Pearl all that much. The language is lovely, and some of the imagery, but the subject matter isn't really my thing.<br/><br/>Sir Orfeo, however, filled me with glee. I'd never really heard/read about it before -- or I hadn't remembered, if I had. It's essentially a medieval version of Orpheus and Eurydice, transplanted from Thrace to Winchester. Tolkien's translation is readable and interesting, and while the poem isn't on the scale of Sir Gawain, it's enjoyable.

Review by

The first two poems in this book are by an unknown author written around 1400.I liked Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The translation had a great narrative and the quality of the original poetry was clear. I found Pearl incomprehensible in places and was put off by the amount of religious dialogue and dogma.Sir Orfeo is an earlier poem but like Sir Gawain it has a clear and compelling narrative.The rhyming nature of the poem is quite charming,as is the fairytale theme.