Gr 3-5-The gigantic Green Knight storms into Camelot challenging Arthur's knights to chop off his head. If he survives, he expects his beheader to seek him out in a year and a day and have his own head chopped off. Gawain accepts the challenge, and the giant survives. He leaves with his bloody head, reminding the young man to keep his word. Questing for him, the young knight stops at a castle where he is wined, dined, given a soft bed, and tempted by his stunning hostess to exchange the sash given to him by his beloved for her magic one, which she says will save his neck-literally. This archetypal story dates back 1,000 years in Celtic lore as a Cuchulain tale, and Gawain emerged as the hero in an anonymous 14th-century epic. The theme has always been honor for its own sake and the importance of keeping one's word. Earlier illustrated versions, notably Selina Hastings's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Lothrop, 1981) and Constance Bartlett Hieatt's book of the same title (Crowell, 1967; o.p.), are truer to the original. This simpler abridgement only infers the attempted seduction, invents Gawain's love interest back home, and depicts him refusing the sash not for courage or honor, but for love. The writing is strong, except when Gawain says ``Oh my goodness'' when the Green Knight's head rolls. Dark, richly textured art with Rembrandt lighting suits the violent tale. The full-and double-page paintings flow from one to another and exhibit great attention to detail. The artist obviously researched time and setting. Flaws aside, this is an early taste of a magnificent adventure. The Shannons are worth watching.-Helen Gregory, Grosse Pointe Public Library, MI
This version of the old Celtic story plays down the violent action and makes the quest, literally, an inner struggle. Gawain is the youngest and most inexperienced of King Arthur's knights, but inspired by the love of the lady Caryn, he proves his courage and virtue in an encounter with the monstrous Green Knight. The monster is more odd than scary, and Gawain succeeds because he is honest and true to his love. The famous terrifying scene when Gawain expects to be beheaded by the Green Knight's mighty ax is telescoped here into one sentence. The effect is peaceful but almost anticlimactic as everything is transformed into laughter and light. The glowing, sophisticated paintings, however, do express the demonic drama of the story. The monster is huge and shadowy, his darkness lit only by the glow of his eyes, like red coals in his snarling face. Also red is the sash of the beautiful lady who tries to seduce Gawain. The painting in which Gawain holds her crimson silk sash in his hands and is tempted to betray his true love is the core of this story. The conflict is in the mysteries of the human heart.