GAWAIN AND LADY GREEN by Anne Eliot Crompton


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 Crompton (the fanciful Merlin's Harp, 1995, etc.) returns with another skilled re-tooling of an Arthurian legend, here the set-to of Sir Gawain and that supernatural horror, the Green Knight. The conflict this time, and the series of remarkable events leading up to it, are filled with magic and strangeness, but the real focus of the tale is the special agony of lovers betraying and betrayed. Arthur's knight Gawain, starving and weak, lost in the North Country, stumbles upon Holy Oak village (druid-led and Goddess-worshipping) during May Day festivities. He's captured, relieved of horse and sword, but then, to his bewilderment and delight, he's crowned May King. It will be his duty to sleep with Gwyneth, the May Queen, to ensure the health of the crops. With hearty fare, good ale, and the pleasures of the May Queen's bower, Gawain loses track of time and his old self. Both are recalled to him when he makes the horrifying discovery of what happens to a May King at summer's end. He will betray his lover, as he felt he was betrayed, and Gwyneth will be left alone. Back at Arthur's Round Table at Yule, an ogre all green, ``huge and hideous,'' wreathed in smoke, rides in and offers a ``game.'' The Green Man will submit to any blow, but that blow must be returned a year later to the smiter. Gawain, having rejoined the fold, and still fighting off guilt over his abandonment of Gwyneth, accepts. He decapitates the challenger, who gallops off holding his head. A year later, Gawain will face doom, dense magical appearances, a second chance at a miraculous love, and be granted a strange kind of victory. With delicacy and narrative skill, Crompton calls forth an ancient magic--from the terror of sentient trees to a boar's head that speaks with a demon's voice--nourished by tribal and human passions. A marvelous chimney-corner tale in glittering petit point.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1997
ISBN: 1-55611-507-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997