Friday, February 11, 2011

Romantic Valentine's day books

Literary Blog HopThe question:  Can literary books be funny?  The answer:  Of course.  The best, most biting, driest and brilliant wit there is exists in classical literature.  Hope you enjoy my post.  It's not funny but it is classical.  Thanks for visiting.  I'll visit back!
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm All-New Third Edition

In honor of Valentine's day I am reviewing one of my favorite genre of literature: Arthurian romances. There are many out there but here's a few that I've read or am reading.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain represents the ideal knight in Arthurian romance. He is one to keep his vows regardless of danger or possible death. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Arthur and his knights are celebrating Yule at the round table. Suddenly, they are interrupted by the festivities by an intruder. They hear steps echoing down the hall, getting nearer and nearer until at the entrance way to the room stands a giant green knight. This knight challenges all the men present to take their best shot at cutting his head off. If they don't succeed then he gets to take a swing at their head. All the knights look at each other. Finally, the youngest and yet untried knight, Sir Gawain stands and accepts the challenge. One might wonder what this has to do with Valentine's day. Well, of course Sir Gawain has a lady love (doesn't every knight) and his challenge with the Green Knight takes him on a perilous journey that requires him to prove himself not only as a worthy knight but also as a faithful lover.

JRR Tolkien's translation is the best, in my opinion, but the version by Selina Hastings and Juan Wijngaard is also nice because of its beautiful medieval style illustrations.

Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady

This is one of my favorite stories about Sir Gawain. King Arthur is traveling through the woods when he is accosted by a black knight. This knight challenges him to a duel but Arthur has left his sword Ex Caliber back in Camelot. Immediately he finds an evil spell cast on him and his strength gone. Since fighting an unarmed person is no sport, the knight then tells the king he must answer a question in three day's time or then they will surely duel and Arthur will die. During the three days' time King Arthur comes across a woman sitting by the side of the road. In the words of the book:

She was the ugliest living thing he had ever set eyes on, a freak, a monster, a truly Loathly lady.

Her nose was like a pig's snout; from a misshapen mouth stuck out two yellowing rows of horse's teeth; her cheeks were covered in sores; she had only one eye, the rueumy and red-rimmed, and from a naked scalp hung a few lank stands of hair....

This “Loathly lady” knows the answer to the question but she gives it with a condition. King Arthur must marry her to one of his knights. As you may have guessed, Sir Gawain agrees to marry her. You'll have to read the book to find out what all transpires. Hastings and Wijngaard have a beautifully illustrated edition of this book as well.

Arthurian Romances

Chretien De Troyes is credited with being one of the earliest writers of Arthurian legend (ca. 12th century). In this collection from Penguin Classics he includes stories of Erec and Enide (I've written a more thorough review on them in an earlier post), Sir Lancelot, Yvain (also known as Gawain) and Sir Percival. I confess this book is on my TBR pile so I cannot give an actual review but here is what the back cover says:

An idyllically happy marriage in which a husband is so involved that he neglects his duties as a knight; love endangered by a husband who is more interested in athletic chivalry than in his wife; timorous young love.. together these stories offer the most complete expression we possess from a single author of the ideals of French chivalry and of courtly love.

I'm shortly going to read this book after I finish Thomas Bullfinch's Age of Chivalry and will soon write a review of both books but I thought it was a nice addition to my “romantic Valentine's Day post.

The top photo is the back cover illustration of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm ( Jack Zipes). Hmmmm..... It might be time to do some folk tales reviews...

Weekend Bloggy ReadingBook Blogger Hop

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  1. Thanks for stopping by today - I had no idea that Tolkien had translated Sir Gawain. I'm definitely going to need to check that out!

  2. Hi Sharon! Just stopped by from the Friday hop and have signed up to be your latest follower. I'm a big reader so I always enjoy reading reviews but I screeched to a halt here as I studied Gawain and The Green Knight for part of my English Literature degree - medieval section. I've thoroughly enjoyed your review and am about to scour your site to see what else you have written about. Lovely to 'meet you'.
    Please do drop by and maybe follow my blog if you fancy a laugh. You'd be very welcome.

  3. Hi-thanks for stopping by my blog-I am happy to return your very much appreciated follow of my blog and look forward to reading your future posts

  4. Hi Julie and mel u! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoy the posts and I look forward to reading more of yours. Take care.

  5. Hi Carol. Thanks for visiting. I will definitely stop by your blog!

  6. The Post Is:

    This week I reviewed a work of suspense fiction that is such a wide departure from the thriller genre that I feel everyone – fans and foes of the genre alike – really should investigate.

    Hop on over to my blog and see for yourself –

    Howard A. Sherman, Implementor
    Get Inside a Story

  7. Hi Im a new follower , :)

  8. Scooted by again to say thank you very much indeed for your lovely comment you left me and for following my blog. I've got to write up a couple of posts today so not much time for hopping but I'll be by again in the week :)

  9. Hi Sharon. I just stopped by to thank you for visiting Wrestling With Retirment. I can see this is the place to visit if I want to find a good book to read!

  10. A great literary list! "Courtly Tradition in Medieval Literature" was one of the courses I took in college for my English degree. I still have "The Romances of Chretien de Troyes" on my bookshelf! :)

    Thanks for joining my Weekend Bloggy Reading party! Have fun finding some new reads, and I hope you'll visit Serenity Now again soon. :)

  11. Interesting choices. I always enjoyed Gawain. I also like the new Armitage translation.

    See my hop here:

  12. Nice post, but I must disagree with you: Literature is not funny. Sorry to contradict you, but I've spoken to One Who Knows.

    Here's my post for this week's Literary Blog Hop:

  13. Thanks for visiting. I'll by hopping back.

  14. The previous response was to LBC. I don't know why my blog won't let me respond after every post.
    To Deb Nance: What!? What happens when I fall out of my chair laughing at Shakespeare's comedy or errors? ;) Thanks for visiting will be visiting back.

  15. Am in total agreement that literature can And is funny. But this- By the way, to be "gently mad" means to have such a passion for books that you buy way, way, more than you need, this is a concept that I don't understand, for example how do you define need?

  16. Well, by "need" I mean spend money while staying financially responsible. My TBR pile is ever growing and realistically, in keeping with good financial stewardship, I need to diminish that pile (by reading the books) before buying any more new ones. I haven't actually practised that good concept, yet. But I know I SHOULD. That's a start, right?
    Thanks for visiting. I'm coming to visit you!

  17. Love the gently mad idea! I always say that my kids' college funds are going toward...books. And I mean it.

    Found you on Book Blogs--so happy you're a part!

  18. Loved the post. So interesting. I am a new GFC follower. I would love it if you had a moment to hop over to my blog for a visit and follow. Look forward to exploring more of your blog. Donna

  19. Thanks for visiting. You've got a great blog as well. Love your humor.

  20. The previous comment was for Donna. This one is for jennymilch: Thanks for visiting. I know what you mean about college funds being sacrificed on the altar of buying books.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.