I first met this middle English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when I was studying the History of the English Language and Medieval Literature in college. Soon after, I studied the medieval Welsh tales, The Mabinogi, and I was struck by the similarity of themes and motifs in the first part of the First Branch, Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfyd with some that appeared in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The lord of the Otherworld/the Green Man, the Beheading Game, the Hunt, the intelligence of nature … images and snippets of tales from these two pieces wove themselves into my soul or found resonance in it. The original version of my children’s fantasy novel, Because of the Red Fox, was closely sourced from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In working on that first version, I longed to walk the terrain of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, specific as it is in the poem, and discover for myself the Green Chapel (though I was not keen to meet up with the Green Knight and face a potential beheading!).
Decades later, poet Simon Armitage — who created a masterful poetic translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight — created a documentary about seeking the landscape of the poem. As I watch the last section, in which he enters the Green Chapel, I’m stunned to discover how the landscape closely resembles what I’d imagined for my original tale.
About the documentary:
“Poet Simon Armitage goes on the trail of one of the jewels in the crown of British poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written about 600 years ago by an unknown author. The poem has got just about everything – it is an action-packed adventure, a ghost story, a steamy romance, a morality tale and the world’s first eco-poem. Armitage follows in the footsteps of the poem’s hero, Gawain, through some of Britain’s most beautiful and mystical landscapes and reveals why an absurd tale of a knight beheading a green giant is as relevant and compelling today as when it was written.”
… and here is a snippet of Deb Knodel’s and my Forest show, which begins with a meeting with the Green Man.
Just thought you’d enjoy a ramble into the mystery of the turning of the year and the greenwood!