Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
A Christmas Tale from Long Ago

by Margaret Isaac
illustrations by Barbara Crow

Apecs Press 2000
hb 0 9537267 4 6 £6.95

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an entertaining story which captivates the audience with its unexpected twists and turns of plot, its humour, excitement and compassion. It was intended to be read aloud as an entertainment at Christmastime.

In this story of illusion, nothing is as it seems, from the beheading of the Green Knight within the first few pages of the story to the meeting at the mysterious green chapel at the end.

Gawain defeats monsters, battles against cold and hunger and finally faces death itself at the hands of the Green Knight. But in this story of illusion, such dangers are easy to recognise. The temptations inside the castle are more dangerous because the hero is off his guard and unaware of the peril he is facing.

At the Green Chapel, Gawain comes face to face with death itself, and, as in all the best tales, good overcomes evil.

The Green Knight is menacing, pagan, uncivil, robust, strong, and courageous. He also possesses supernatural powers which appear to give him the upper hand in the confrontation between himself and Gawain.

In playing a game with Gawain, the Green Knight often seems to be enjoying a joke at Gawain's expense. But the game is deadly serious. The Green Knight is challenging the way of life symbolised by the court of King Arthur, a way of life which is civil and Christian, and represents goodness and life.

So the illusion is maintained to the last page. The story teller gives many clues and the end is full of surprises, yet it is not unexpected to the alert reader. Perhaps it is Gawain who has the last laugh!