6 Medieval Tales That Should Get Films Like Green Knight


Dev Patel's Gawain in The Green Knight has his head bowed and is wearing several layers of grey with a gold chain holding his cloak. Two armor clad knights stand behind him on either side.

Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) receives an uninvited quest in The Green Knight.
Image: Eric Zachanowich/A24

David Lowery’s The Green Knight has been justly acclaimed for its hanging imagery, lovely cinematography, Dev Patel’s incredible efficiency because the knight Sir Gawain, and extra. Its lack of financial success means we most likely received’t be getting any extra variations of medieval epics anytime quickly—which is a drag, as a result of there are such a lot of extra basic tales to be explored, deconstructed, and revitalized. If/when Hollywood ever takes one other probability on medieval tales, listed here are half a dozen we’d like to see on display screen.


1) Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart

Sir Lancelot crosses the sword bridge in this 1475 illustration by Evrard d’Espinques.

The most well-known of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot has made many appearances on film screens. But there’s by no means been an adaptation of the primary look of Lancelot in literature, written by Chrétien de Troyes within the late twelfth century, together with the primary point out of the knight’s affair along with his queen. The unassuming title comes from a scene the place Lancelot—on a quest to rescue Queen Guinevere from the clutches of the evil Prince Méléagnant—hesitates to experience in a cart as it is going to besmirch his honor, however in the end decides rescuing Guinevere in haste is extra necessary. While the story focuses on Lancelot defending his honor from different, extra disdainful knights and defending Guinevere’s honor in a match and eventual duel with the prince, it’s additionally about courtly love and the well-they/received’t they romance between Lancelot and Guinevere. Basically, there’s numerous motion, journey, and romance, together with a perfect-for-cinema scene the place Lancelot crosses a bridge that’s additionally a large sword.

2) The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

Probably best-known from Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, this story of doomed lovers has been tailored many, many occasions throughout many media— together with a 2006 movie by Ridley and Tony Scott. However, that movie in some way manages to take bizarre, wild liberties with a legendary story that already has had numerous totally different interpretations all through the final millennium, so the world might stand one other. In each incarnation, it’s a romance between the titular knight and the equally titular girl, whom Tristan has been chosen to deliver to Ireland to the courtroom of Cornwall, the place she’s to marry his uncle, King Mark. Sometimes there’s a love potion concerned, generally it’s simply love. Sometimes the three are in a tragic love triangle, as Mark loves Tristan like a son, however is pressured to punish them each for his or her adulterous affair for the sake of his honor. While Tristan dies in most accounts, I’m a fan of the variations the place they each die and brambles sprout from their graves whose branches intertwine with one another.

3) The Faerie Queene

Britomart meets the Redcross Knight in this illustration from The Faerie Queene by G. Allen London. From the Digital Collections of the University of Maryland.

A private favourite, The Faerie Queene isn’t one ebook however six, chronicling the adventures of quite a lot of knights in Faerie Land within the courtroom of the titular queen Gloriana (a not-at-all-subtle stand-in for Elizabeth I). Written by Edmund Spencer within the late sixteenth century, it’s all an allegory for the assorted virtues he believes make the right knight, as epitomized by varied characters: the Redcrosse Knight is the embodiment of Holiness; Sir Guyon is Temperance; Sir Arthegall is Justice; King Arthur is just about the whole lot good, holy and noble, and many others. That may sound preachy, however these knights additionally battle evil sorcerers, witches, giants, and dragons, and have numerous misunderstandings with—and carry out subsequent rescues of—their girl loves. What’s particularly cool about The Faerie Queene is that half of it’s about Britomart, a female knight who bests each male knight (however one) in each duel, rescues her personal share of honest girls, and simply principally kicks ass. Imagine if Eowyn from Lord of the Rings had a solo movie. Who wouldn’t need that?

4) The Lais of Marie de France

Despite her epithet, Marie de France wrote her Lais—a set of 12 lyric poems about chivalry, love, and infidelity—after she’d relocated to England within the late 1100s. Maybe that’s why they’d such worldwide reputation that King Haakon of Norway had them translated into Old Norse within the Thirteenth century. Or perhaps it’s as a result of the Lais have been innately fashionable as a result of they have been drawn from delusion, fables, and basic fairy tales, simply reworked into tales of knights and their girls. (Just a few of them have been additionally transcriptions of different individuals’s tales, as Marie was the primary to confess.) Not all of them might be simply introduced into fashionable sensibilities, and they’re all quick, however a few of them might make a hell of an artsy, angsty anthology film. In “Bisclavret,” there’s a lord who turns right into a wolf for half of every week, whose adulterous spouse hides his garments so he can’t rework again right into a human (in any other case he’d be nude!). In “Equitan,” a scheming lord and a seneschal’s spouse tries to trick her husband into taking a shower in boiling water, solely to finish up there as a substitute. There’s a knight who transforms right into a hawk, a swan that conveys secret messages, weasels carrying flowers that deliver individuals out of comas, and extra—largely individuals having extramarital intercourse, positive, however that’s nonetheless technically extra!

5) Njál’s Saga

Njall’s son Skarphedin kills Traain in this 1898 illustration. Don’t worry about it.

One of the best issues about The Green Knight is the best way it explores the darkish sides of honor, masculinity, and self-importance. The Thirteenth-century Icelandic epic Njál’s Saga might discover that even additional whereas dressing it up in an action-packed, Game of Thrones-esque story of struggle, particularly the egos that trigger (and extend it). It’s the story of a 50-year-long blood feud between a number of individuals and households over the course of a number of generations, largely witnessed by Njal, a sage who often tries (and fails) to maintain the peace. There are so many individuals searching for vengeance that it’s a lot an excessive amount of to enter, however suffice it to say individuals kill individuals for honor, adultery, greed, theft, a slap, dishonest throughout duels, breach of etiquette, poisonous masculinity, avenging the final one who’d been murdered, and many others. Some students suppose the unknown writer is criticizing this side of Icelandic society as a substitute of extolling it; these days, stressing the ineffective brutality of all of it is the one wise angle, until you imagine receiving a unisex cloak as a present is a sound motive for killing 20 individuals.

6) Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

While writing The Knight of the Cart, Chrétien de Troyes was concurrently composing this extra conventional and easy Arthurian poem. The knight Yvain journeys to defeat a sorcerous knight named Esclados, who killed Yvain’s cousin. Yvain defeats his foe and falls in love with Esclados’ spouse Laudine, ultimately successful her over. But when Sir Gawain convinces Yvain to return to knightly quests, Laudine forces her knight to return inside one 12 months. Yvain will get caught up within the knight factor, Laudine tells him to go to hell, Yvain goes mad with grief, will get cured, rescues a lion from a dragon; fights giants, demons, and different knights, and ultimately wins Laudine again. Okay, that wasn’t tremendous simple, however Yvain is a virtuous knight who tries to keep away from battle every time potential and treats Laudine with the utmost respect (apart from forgetting to maintain monitor of the time). Plus, the lion turns into his companion, and watching a knight and lion palling round a fantastical, medieval Europe seems like an absolute blast.


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