By Gerald Morris, published 1998
“To forgive the unforgivable is the breath of life in this world.”
A brilliant retelling of some of the stories from Le Morte D’Arthur, author Morris begins his series of children’s books about knights with this winning tale of Sir Gawain and his squire Terence. From beginning to end, the pace never lets up, as one adventure leads to another, and another, and another. But threaded through the adventures of knights, which is appealing in itself, is the wandering in and out of the magical world of the faeries. The enchantment fills this children’s book from beginning to end, making me so sad that it ended, that I am ready to rush out and get the next in the series.
What makes the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable so timeless, and so worth reading? My own sense is that they combine the longing to do good in the world, with the realization that it’s not so easy all the time, nor is it really easy to determine what is good and what is not. Take for example, one of the stories in this book, Pelleas the Stupid. Gawain thinks he’s being helpful with Pelleas and his beloved Lady, but it turns out quite otherwise. Or, for example, the frightening appearance of the old hag, and the amazing lesson that Gawain learns about true love and freedom to let those you love make their own choices. Powerful stuff.
The writing is simple and clear in this children’s book. Modernized just enough to make jokes that a contemporary young reader will laugh at, yet true to the times it portrays, these books will appeal to both boys and girls. However, as with the other Morris books, the fact that the protagonist is a young boy makes these particularly attractive for boys between ages 9 – 12. In Waldorf Schools, the sixth graders (age 10-12) study medieval times, and have a knighting ceremony at the end of the year. This is a perfect time for the children to be reading these novels by Morris in their leisure time. Highly recommend starting with this first book, so that the characters are introduced properly.