Medieval Arthurian Legend
The Turke and Sir Gawain
Early-sixteenth century, late-Medieval English. Percy Folio, British Library.
A journey into an Otherworld takes Sir Gawain across water in a boat to a land of giants – a land where everybody appears larger than you are, as though you are a small child again.
'Contained in a seventeenth century book known as the Percy Folio is a version of the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in the form of a minstrel piece believed to have been originally composed around about the year 1500 for oral recitation. Half the text of each page is missing, having been torn away in the eighteenth century to light fires with, but what remains of the tale is very interesting.'
Quintin took a sip from his coffee. 'Sir Gawain is taken to face the return stroke of an axe by an Otherworld being who is not a Green Knight but a 'Turke' – a pagan. They ride together for two days without food or drink; then the Turke – 'led Sir Gawain to a hill. The earth opened and closed again: then Gawain was frightened. Darkness has come, and the light is gone.' If this was Ireland it would be a hill of the Sidhe. He is taken first of all to the Turke’s castle. Then they find a boat and cross the sea to an island whose king is
a heathen and with him he has
a hideous rout of giants strong and stout and uglie to looke uppon.
'So here, then, we have the full sequence!' enthused Quintin. 'A journey into an Otherworld through the side of a hill, beneath the ground, a land beyond the grave, a world beyond death, which takes Sir Gawain across water in a boat to a land of giants – a land where everybody appears larger than you are, as though you are a small child again.'