Friday, 13 January 2017

The Green Knight Wants To Fuck Gawain

I said somewhere that I would write about what Gawain means to me, so here we are. This will be the last one I promise.

So I got very depressed and didn’t work on anything for a long time and spent a lot of evenings drinking and mainlining animated series on DVD (Clone Wars is a mixed bag with some very good elements, Avatar the Last Airbender is excellent).

As part of some research for another thing I re-read parts of Gawain and translated a bit of it.

Translating it was the only work I was capable of doing that didn't feel like I was grinding broken glass into my own face. I'm curious as to why that is. Perhaps its because my mind had something to look at that wasn't itself. (Inventing stuff sometimes feels very much like your mind looking at itself.) It’s poetry, which does often calm me down, I’m not sure why that is.

So I would go to work each day, (my phone tracks my movements like a stalker and thinks the library is 'work' because I go there during work hours), and translate a bit of Gawain.

It's set where I'm from. Not exactly, it spends a lot of time in Yorkshire and Lancashire, but the paths of my life and of Gawain’s journey cross quite a bit. I have family in the Wales he wandered around, I went to university in the Lancashire he travelled through and, most of all, I was writing in the Wirral he found such a grim place, at almost exactly the same period of the year that he was in it. The weather has not changed.

And the weather and the descriptions of it are some of the best parts of the poem, the ones almost all the translators seem to think are really good, especially considering the frequency with which they are translated.

(Poets are just good with wind I think.)

Yet all the travelling of Gawain takes place in a few pages and its barely relevant to the dramatic action of the story. It's mainly a courtly story about high status people having parties in rooms, or, essentially, about Gawain not having sex with a hot girl.

There is a lot going in in Gawain, let’s look into some of it.


TO GAY OR NOT TO GAY

Working out how gay Gawain and the Green Knight is, is a complex endeavour. The word 'gay' and the concept probably, don't exist for the poet. Medieval literature rarely (as far as I know) talks about, or names, non-hetro sexual practices, but sex does show up, in stuff like Chaucer certainly and almost everyone grew up in a hovel & probably heard/saw their parents having sex under the sheets, which was considered relatively normal I think. Sex and sexual desire is a key element in Gawain, which is quite a fancy upper-class courtly story.

So this certainly isn't a modern culture story, but it’s also not a Victorian or early-modern culture, which is what we first think of when we contrast a sexual culture to "us". It's not repressed in the same way. Doesn't have quite the same sharp duality. Although Certain Things aren't mentioned, it doesn't have the same feelings of denial. And like almost anything from before the modern era, there is a lot of sensual male contact that is just considered part of normal male behaviour, from guys being super-glad to see each other, even crying from happiness, to a lot of kissing, touching, grabbing or "laching", and a lot of frank appreciation for each other.

Guys in this era are just well up in each others business socially in a way not common to our own time.

So any modern reader feels a familiar internal monologue which goes something like this:

A - Wow some of these male behaviours seem pretty gay.

B - Probably you're just reading a sexual element into a behaviour that had no sexual element when it was performed as you have been perved-up by modern knowledge.

A - But surely some men did gay stuff in this period?

B - It's likely, but without any generally accepted and widely known awareness of homosexuality, a lot of quasi-sexual feelings are going to be absorbed by and expressed in general, warm homosocial contact.

A - Then surely that warm homosocial contact could itself be interpreted as being a bit gay...

B - NO! Stop trying to gay up history and see gay stuff everywhere!

A – Well it sounds like you’re in denial to me. Anyway, who says there wasn't any widely known awareness of homosexuality, or at least, guys getting busy with each other. I mean there was that king in Shakespeare..

B - They almost never talk about it.

A - But that doesn't mean it wasn't happening.

B - Even if it was happening that doesn't mean that all the stuff in Medieval texts that seems a bit gay is actually a secret signifier for gayness the way it might be in a modern or early modern text.

and so on and so on and so on.

So, with this in mind, reasons I interpret the behaviour of Bertilak/The Green Knight towards Gawain as more homosexual than homosocial are -

One - The Green Knight/ Bertilak remarks on their happiness at seeing Gawain and their desire to be in contact with Gawain a LOT. In Arthurs hall as the Knight, in his own hall in numerous ways, and again at the end as the Knight, he still just wants Gawain around him.

Two - Bertilk laughs and giggles when Gawain agrees to stay at his house, he acts as if he doesn't know what he's doing. This is from the guy defined in the text as being super tough and the most masculine guy ever, the guy who always seems to be in a dominant position and always knows what’s going on. Yes, in some translations its Gawain that giggles and loses control of himself, but I have re-checked my facing text and I think that it a bullshit interpretation.

“The lorde let for luf lotegh so myry,
As wygh that wolde of his wyte, ne wyst quat he might.”

Three - The sex game. "Ok Gawain, you stay here and I'll go hunting. Whatever I win out there I will give to you and whatever you win in here you give to me." Bertilak goes off & catches symbolic animals while his wife stays home and try’s to fuck Gawain. Then Gawain gives Bertilak his own wife’s kisses later in the day. Which Bertilak is quite pleased about.

So two things. If Gawain had fucked Bertilak’s wife, what would he have had to give Bertilak that night? And secondly, knowing this, what was going through his head when she flirted with him the second and third times? What does he think Bertilak thinks is going on? I mean, that’s a highly specific bet right? Is Gawain just super-innocent, or is he quite jaded and courtly and ‘cool’ and has a good idea of what is going in and just deals with it?

I refuse to accept that my interpretation of this as being a bonkers sex game is a modern interpolation of an 'innocent' medieval text. I believe that at least a fraction of the audience reading or, more likely, hearing this read out, knew exactly what was going on with this. I think most of them did.

Four - Gawain is feminised and Bertilak masculinised, a LOT. Gawain’s beauty is gone on about quite a bit, when he arrives in Bertilaks hall he is dressed in skirts and described (I think) as like a flower. Bertilak and the Green Knight are both described as super-masculine with specifically well-shaped limbs (especially thighs), narrow waists and muscular trunks. He's always called 'stiff' staunch' and strong. His beard is off the hook. He physically does things 'on camera' in ways Gawain does not. Gawain has some generalised adventures and battles on his way to the Green Chapel but they are never described action-by-action. Bertilak does a lot of stuff, he hunts, attacks, skins, fights and, most crucially, grabs. Gawains main heroic qualities in the poem as shown by action are him *not* doing things.

And Five - Bertilak grabs and 'lacches' Gawain a lot in his castle. Whenever he wants Gawain somewhere he 'lacches' the guy and basically moves him where he wants him to be.

I state this as a cornerstone of my theses, and its fucking ridiculous that no-one has said this directly before: The Green Knight Wants to Fuck Gawain.



RELIGIOUS YET WITTY VS WITTY YET RELIGIOUS

Tolkien described the poet as (I'm paraphrasing) a man of religious conviction and some humour. I tend to see him the other way round, as a funny man with strong religious feelings. That may just be the natural difference between Tolkien and I.

By the time we get to the poems end, it is very much a religious work, the finish is anguished and serious and very Christian.

But the rest of the poem, is, not exactly light, or humorous, but lively, witty and wry.

It's hard to describe how the Gawain poet is funny, there are very few 'jokes' and not many hard distinguishable moments where you can point at it and say "look, this is meant to be funny". Nevertheless, the image we get in our minds of the poet is someone with a wry, somewhat ironic, compassionate and rather rueful view on the world. The mild doubling of meanings, the understatements and the kinds of situations created: Arthurs court describing what they think Arthur should have done, Lady Bertilak duelling with Gawain, Bertilaks comments after some of the kisses, the nameless doomsayer telling him blankly to run, show someone who is aware of, and enjoying, the multiple intersecting levels of awareness, and wants you to be aware of them too.

There's a few medieval texts I think, where we see the warmth of the human lifeworld duelling with the totalising and annihilating power of the world of faith, with varying results. The Morte is a lot like this, with the faithworld stuff coming in hard during the grail quest and with Galahad. Both worlds are good at different themes and good in different ways. I tend to favour the human lifeworld, (as, I suspect, most modern readers), but even when the story is deeply concerned with human things, the faithworld is still there wrapped in in everything.

I doubt the poet saw them in conflict in any meaningful way, to the creator, I believe, it’s all one story with all of the elements making a neat whole (except maybe for the bit with Morgana's plot).




THE SWEARING

No-one in the poem ever says 'fuck' or anything close to it but I put the word in a few times. Even though I did a lot of specific stuff with the translation, this is the one that is going to stick out and if anyone notices it they are going to call it the "Fuck Gawain". So my excuses/reasons are;

One - It's a natural part of my internal repertoire. I say fuck in my head like its punctuation and my translation goes back and forth a lot between a very archaic representation and some very modern interpretations, depending on how I felt each part should come through.

This means my translation doesn't have a unified tone, at least according to the way an English teacher would describe it. But it does really because that is my tone and the pattern of my thought, it is natural to me, no matter what anyone else thinks of it and therefore is a reasonable pattern of translation.

In most cases I put in a fuck where I felt *that Character* might say it according to my own internal sense and what they were up to at that moment. There are only three parts where it comes in.

One - Arthurs Hall. I read this much like a Scorsese scene. (This probably isn't entirely accurate to the nature of the scene in its original context, but no translation could be). This is the moment when one masculine guy in a masculine culture jokethreatens another masculine guy in front of his male friends.

Many of you will remember this situation from school. The aggressor says something that could be a a joke or a threat. If you respond as if it’s a joke then you might be judged as if you were afraid to respond to the threat, showing lack of courage, so you lose face. But if you respond as if it is a threat, and the aggressor plays it off as a joke, then you look as if you ovverreacted, showing fear and internal weakness, so you lase face anyway. There is no good response to this. I read it pretty much as a Scorsese gangster scene and I thought the Green Knight might way say 'motherfucker' and it fit the sonic structure of that line so I put it in.

Two - The Nameless Doomsayer. This is the fuck I feel most fine about. This character is a churl who exists purely to lighten the mood of the last part of the poem before the scary bit and, as a churl, he is meant to show what a super-knightly guy Gawain is. He is the character most likely to say fuck and use low language and I had no problem putting one in.

Three – Gawain’s rebuke. This is the least likely. Right at the end, as Gawain realises he is alive after the axe comes down and leaps away drawing his sword, he rebukes the Green Knight and tells him quite forcefully that this is it, the thing is done, he is not going back under the axe. Gawain never uses low language of any kind, or even comes close, the worst you get from him is a bit of cold sarcasm at the end. But I felt the emotion of the moment and the extremity of the incident might allow it and I was a bit fuck-happy at that point so I gave Gawain a small fuck of his own. He had earnt it.




WHAT IS THE GREEN KNIGHT?

Well, this motherfucker is about twenty things. Let’s see if we can count them.

He's Nature - Well, he’s green. Plus he's covered in leaves and things. Plus he's literally carrying a branch. Plus many of the things that threaten Gawain on his way to the Green Chapel are nature incarnate, bears and bulls and wolves and woodwose. Plus at the end his chapel is in the wildest most barren place ever. Plus it’s called the Green Chapel. Wildness is not good in the medieval mind I think because they haven't yet invented Wordsworth and Shelly to tell them it’s ok.

Arthurs court is the epitome of civilisation. Nature BURSTS its way in to civilisation to say "Ha Ha! You thought you could forget me mankind, well here I am to challenge your weak assertions that you are something other than nature. How about that chivalric code you made up, reckon you can stick to it?"


He's Violence - He's carrying an axe. His contest is a murder. The axe is his prize. When we meet him again he has another axe and is sharpening it. As Bertilak he hunts and kills a LOT of stuff and this is described in the most detailed and gory fashion.

"Knights! You think you are pretty great hey? We have you noticed that all of you are KILLERS? And that all of your knightlyness is based on MURDER? You like killing so much, why don't you kill me tough guys? Hmmmm? Then I’ll kill you. Afraid to muderdie murderers?"


He's The Outside/Elves/Elvishness - He's clearly magic as fuck. Described as 'an elvish man' in the text. Exhibits magical regeneration, seems to change location near-magically, changes size and appearance magically. He's just very magic, he's a magic man. This is probably more real to the original audience than us. From a modern perspective we can add “He’s the Unconscious” to this one – see below.


He's Death And Winter - Turns up in one winter, meets Gawain in another. Carries holly which is strongest in green when the boughs are bare. Leading us to;


He's Rebirth And Summer/ The Unity Of Opposites - The Green Knight loves being opposite things. A super green guy in a dead white winter land. Carries a holly branch as symbol of peace and an axe at the same time as a symbol of warishness. Fucks with everyone but is a stickler for knightly conduct and oaths and fine legalisms of behaviour. Is the green-bearded Green Knight and the Red(ish) bearded Bertilak. Wants to fuck Gawain and tries to trick Gawain into sexdeath. Works to destroy Arthurs court but ends up giving them the green girdle that becomes a symbol of a knightly order. Schemes and lies to corrupt Gawain and forgives and reassures Gawain. Dies but lives. Likes dogs AND cats! And yes, sex and death. OPPOSITES. COMBINNNNEEDDDD.


He's Cycles - You have to wait a year to meet him the second time. He dies and lives again. Pluss see all summer/winter stuff above.


He's A Gay Dude/The Fear Of Being A Bit Gay - Wants to bone Gawain. You never know how fully Gawain notices this and exactly what his response to it is. Until he finds out Bertilak and the Green Knight are the same, he seems to be really fond of Bertilak, but also kind of glad to get away? We leave the story with one certainty: Gawain is definitely not gay, even a bit.


He's The Best Dude Ever - It's pretty great to be strong and manly with great legs and an amazing beard and your own castle. Wouldn’t you want to be that guy? or at least to hang out with him. Bertilak confirms, manliness, beards and roaring fires are the best. If the situation was reversed, Bertilak would definitely have fucked Gawains wife, and possibly everyone else in the castle as well, but Gawain does not do this. So, are you manly enough to not act manly? You enough of a real man to not be ruled by your virility? Another Gawain paradox.


He's A Threat To His Own Kingdom Somehow - This is an odd one that not many people bring up. On the way to the Green Chapel the nameless doomsayer tells Gawain that the Green Knight is super-dangerous and just kills the fuck out of people for no reason and has been haunting this area for ages. But the Green Knight is Bertilak, and this is not far from Bertilaks castle.

Possibly this is some black ops mission impossible shit where Bertilak gets this guy to talk up the danger of the place to see if Gawain will flinch. But if it isn't, then Bertilak is the monster haunting his own kingdom. He is the lord in the castle but also the terrible violent thing from the outside that kills at a whim. Which leads us to;


He's The Things That Are Inside Us That We Would Rather Were Both Outside Us And Very Far Away - See above, being gay, being violent, being a crazy ass murderer. Also possibly magic.


He's Mercy - Gawain is set an impossible moral challenge that leads directly from his desire to be the best possible knight and it inevitably leads to his destruction, but he isn't destroyed because he's willing to go through with it. So this is a Book of Job story maybe? Which is easy to crap on in a Stuart Lee or Ted Chiang way, because Job gets his 'stuff' back, so it seems like a fake moral message - pretend to go through with this apparently self-destructive moral code and I will reprieve you at the last minute. If you look like you are willing to die, you won't really have to.

It's kind of easy to make fun of from a modern perspective but I'm not sure that that’s what the original creators of those stories meant, or that we are fully understanding them. If you look at it from a detached, ironic, material perspective then it looks like a trick, if you look at it in the spirit and nature of its time, what is it then?


He's Kind Of Like God Maybe? - See above. I will add that in the last scene with the Green Knight, Gawain confesses his mild indiscretion when he had previously lied about it and the Knight says he is now "clean" as if he had been confessed by a priest, from the perspective of the story-world, it’s not clear where the fuck he thinks he is getting the moral authority to do this from. His words and his general air of moral assumption are not those of a trickster but a tolerant moral superior who is congratulating a student for finally seeing through a knotty problem and reaching a new level of awareness and understanding. He forgives like he's god, which makes the next bit even odder;


He's A Pawn Of Morgana La Fay - At the same time as he is forgiving Gawain the Green Knight gives him the backstory to what is going on, which to a modern reader (me) seems ridiculously thematically and dramatically disconnected from the rest of the text. Ok so it was a womanfight between Morgana and Guinevere. Was she orchestrating the sex game thing? You seemed super in charge before, and super in charge now, but in reality you weren't/aren't? Does she turn you into a giant green guy regularly? If she can do that, why not just send you to take out Arthur? Ok some of these are nerdboy questions, but still.

This also meshes with the poems turn towards misogyny in the last part. There seems to be some kind of divide between the poem and the poet on the subject of Lady Bertilak. From the poems point of view she's hot and funny, active, intelligent and has a lot of positive qualities. When the poet wakes up to what his heart is writing he has to remind us that she is sleazy and corrupt and kind of evil even though she doesn't seem it. Then he has the Green Knight effectively say that the whole thing was the fault of women and Gawain confirm it. To us reading, this is Gawain at his worst. I do wonder what the original audience would have thought of the whole thing. I do think, even from a Medieval perspective, it’s at least partly Gawain’s fault, yes you were assailed by magic giants and sexy girls, but it all interlaced with your own honour code and your own image of yourself, this isn't just me being 21stC, the poem seems to take a similar view, in its opening parts at least. And at the end the Green Knight wants to take Gawain back and reconcile him with his wife, his ‘opponent’ as if they were players in a game that is now over.

Would the original audience think it was good that Gawain didn’t back, bad? He’s refusing to go back into the sex/death house, but also refusing to be reconciled with a women/women in general.



VERY CHRISTIAN-SEEMING PARADOXES, THE NECESSARY IMPERFECTION

Finally we come to the end and Gawain crying and crushed because he failed, even though to us, to his opponent and to his friends, he scored 90% in a moral battle against a witch, a magic giant and a hot girl.

And Gawain never really cheers up, not in the narrative at least. We end on him sad, filled with a sense of his own failure. And we don't really know what to think of this. To Arthurs court it’s a failure that is not a failure. To Gawain it’s a success that is not a success. To the court the green girdle is a trophy. To Gawain a mark of shame.

We come back again to the unity of opposites, the necessity of imperfection in the search for perfection. Gawain’s failure is more humanising, and in a way, more noble than clear and direct success would have been. (Also a better drama.) Gawain’s super-brave and almost self-destructive honour code that first seemed bold, then dumb, then impossibly complex to maintain, then simple again just before the end, is now a weight for him.

What does it mean to hold yourself to an impossibly high standard? What does it mean to oppose death, nature, sex, the possibility of being a bit bisexual, hyper-masculinity, violence and a pawn of Morgana La Fay, and to fail, and yet to be forgiven? To be forgiven by all those same things?

………………………………..

I doubt I’ve got any close to “an answer”. I doubt there is one and if there is its probably obscure and theological.


I’m glad I got to meet the poet through the text. Gawain poet, I’m glad you wrote this. You can’t go straight from sad to being happy but you can go from sad to calm and your words helped me do that. And, if you’re also the ‘Pearl’ poet then I’m sorry about your kid.

24 comments:

  1. I remember some girdle-as-virginity symbolism from other texts, which could imply Gawain is long-term heartbroken he didn't sleep with the Green guy. Or maybe not, it's late, the metaphors are slipping through my fingers

    Thank you for the "Fuck Gawain" translation!

    ReplyDelete
  2. To me Green Knight was somewhat of the werewolf (were-enchanted-knight?): Bertilak at some point, Green Knight at another (created, allied or compelled by Morgana maybe), or maybe Batman and Bruce Waine situation. Not really Jekyll and Hyde because both Bertilak and Green Knight are not that terribly away from each other really.

    Thank you for this translation. If was a pleasure to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you see The Green Knight as being a famous local murderer and danger to the kingdom like the nameless doomsayer said?

      Delete
    2. Famous local murderer yes, danger to the kingdom not really. To uphold Bertilak side of him, he couldn't travel too far to search and kill other knights across the country.

      Delete
    3. I'd like to see your version of Bertilak/The Green Knight roaming around occasionally murdering people and his Marvel Comics angst about his dual identity.

      Delete
    4. Actually, if you were writing an adventure involving Bertilak, how would you write it?

      Delete
    5. He is obviously a creature of border between what considered to be normal (Bertilak, a lord of the castle with all proper lordly things) and enchanted/chtonic realm (Green Knight). It would highly depends if Morgana's part (him being enchanted or obligated by her) is a real thing or just an excuse he gives to Gawain.
      - If first is true: I would write him as some kind of sheriff/en executioner of the border between what considered to be normal world and enchanted world, which might be not separate dimensions as much as separate part of the actual world. If he is to be a protagonist of the adventure, he would be dealing with this a lot, and I'd ask the story if he is able to even remain human or even if he wants too.
      - if the second is true, I would write him as a man who is mentor-like Batman to Gawain's naive and proper Superman, the man who is ears deep in some mighty strange stuff (which could be his own murderous impulses, the lay of cycles, the will of wilderness - depends on how the magic much the magic/chtonic aspect is important - or all of it together) but who uses his own dark deeds to forge some better world maybe knowing quite well there is no place for him in such world if it ever going to come to life as idealistically as he imagines it; in more modern world it probably would be a buddy cop drama. The question here, if he is to be a protagonist, would be if he wants to personally sacrifice so much for future that may not even come or has no place for him, and was it really necessary. He killed a lot of people, after all, the only fault of which was to fail his expectations.

      But I am not adept in making adventures, so it is probably all wrong anyway, sorry.

      Delete
    6. The first one is the seed of an adventure, the second one is more of a story than a setting (it sounds like a cool story, more like a series really), allthough the idea of Gawain and the Green Knight/Bertilak teaming up to deal with monsters or whatever, and having an odd-couple relationship, is thrilling.

      But the first one, having a Knight who is a kind of Marcher Lord* of the supernatural and who could be both ally or enemy depending on your situation with him, and who could be both ally AND enemy depending on which version of him you meet, is a cool idea for an adventure.

      And of course then you have an actual physical area you could explore and lots of things to interact with, the standard difficulties i.e. bears, bulls, wolves, woodwose, other knights, winter, churls etc on one side, and the really freaky stuff on the other side or in the other place.

      Plus the fact that the only place you are absolutely safe from outside threats is Bertilaks castle, except there you have Morgana la Fay doing schemes, Lady Bertilak probably doing some wierd sex thing and Bertilk himself up to god knows what.

      Bertilak, Lady Bertilak, Morgana and the Green Knight could all give you different missions and provide different rewards, and all could oppose the missions of each other in varuous ways.


      (*these were Norman lords given land on the border between England and Wales with the allowance that they could do pretty much what they wanted so long as they kept the Welsh suppressed)

      Delete
    7. The Marcher Lord idea is approximately what I had in mind but it can be played in several different ways, starting from the question: which world Bertilak/Green Knight is supposed to tame? It might be obvious that it is enchanted world, but at the end, Green Knight won against Gawain-of-normal-world, so I am not so sure anymore.

      I like the idea that Bertilak's Castle initially appears as being the only safe place and later, as it turns out, not being so safe anyway. This can create a great amount of instability and wariness.

      It is a big temptation to write Lady Betrilak as some enchanted creature-succubus, but I think it would be more interesting if she is a plain human with her own ambitions, goals and habits. I believe that she either should know that Bertilak is Green Knight or strongly suspects this. Using superhero metaphor, she is a sidekick - maybe an Alfred to Bertilak's Batman.

      Another thought I have is about the whole Guinevere versus Morgana idea, because just as Gawain came to be a poster boy for the knightly ideas, Guinevere is a queen of 'normal' world, while Morgana by her very own name is of enchanted/chtonic world of magic. The way Green Knight mentions their struggle was to me almost like a hook for further adventures, or maybe a warning to Gawain that Guinevere is not what she seems, not entirely. It is also interesting to me that Bertilak appears to belong to the Guinevere's world as a lord of a castle but Green Knight works for the enchanted world: it is an uncanny symmetry to me that Bertilak-of-normal-world gives such a strong sense of strangeness while his Green-side-of-enchanted-world carrying the title of _knight_, almost like yin-yang, as if each world seeps through the man onto his opposite identity.

      In exploration of the land I wonder if there are places where Gawain could have "fallen through" on the other side, into that really freaky world and had to travel to the next safe exit. What if certain things/places exist only in one world, but not another?

      Side note: from what I know about Arthrian tale, in Guinevere vs. Morgana struggle both seem to fail at the end: Guinevere through her love to Lancelot and Morgana through Mordreth maybe being more reluctant to kill Arthur that she wished.

      Delete
    8. I think to write it as an adventure, some things has to be established (i.e. what are relations between Green Knight and Morgana, who is really Lady Bertilak, what is really enchanted realms and why it seeps through Green Knight into 'normal' world, what is going on between Guinevere and Morgana) but there are so many variables right now I am uncertain where should it all go. If it was up to me, I would lead the adventure to the point there Gawain and Green Knight had to maybe team up not entirely voluntarely to solve existential crisis in the realm. But again, I don't really know how to make adventures.

      Delete
    9. I think you are right about Lady Bertilak. She's much more interesting when she has a complex relationship with those around her. She must be a reasonable potent character to even hold her own with Morgana La Fay and Bertilak/TGK and the range and intensity of our desires tends to increase with power. She could simultaneously be occasional seducer/loyal wife to Lord Bertilak, friend/frenemy to Morgana, both victim of and influencer of The Green Knight (She's perhaps trapped in the castle by her husbands other self, but her Husband is both Lord of the land and agent of the Supernatural, which gives her certain specific kinds of influence.)

      Regarding the interrelationship with the Otherworld and the "Real" world, my friend David did a series of posts about it on his blog Monsters and Manuals, let me see if I can find them..

      Ah ha, here we go https://goo.gl/6F5Unp

      Delete
    10. The main thing in creating an adventure from a tale is to turn time into space. Instead of there being a line of things that are going to happen and that relate to each other, there is a web of places, people and objects that can be interacted with and which *can* interact with each other.

      It also helps if feelings or aesthetics, which in a narrative would be presented to be observed, become objects, people and specific environments which are interacted with in a particular way.

      The castle is the easiest thing to port right into an adventure because you have three (possibly four?) powerful and interesting people for players to interact with, who might all want different things and who all have interesting and specific ways they can help or hinder the PC's.

      Then you have the lands of the Otherworld and the lands of the 'real' world, these are pretty simple because you can turn them into geography, having a map, or more likely, two maps, with different factions, events, monsters etc., and with specific ways of getting between the maps.

      The biggest issue is what kind of game it’s for.

      Delete
    11. The most obvious is something like Pendragon, a game where everyone knows ahead of time that they will be playing knights in a very knightly world and there are lots of rules set up for them to do exactly that, then its relatively easy to create a motivation for them to wander around doing stuff, (Have Guinevere or Arthur or Merlin ask them to go do something), and where, because you have a lot of buy-in and support for the in-game culture, you don't need to persuade anyone that breaking their word, or not being knightly, or boning someone’s wife, is a bad or consequential idea (they will lose points or something because of it and they chose to play knights to begin with).

      In Pendragon its likely the players might *encounter* Gawain at some point and might help him along with his adventure, or hinder him, but they probably wouldn't *play* Gawain.

      If you really want someone to *be* Gawain, then your best bet is a story game of some kind. I can imagine a specific, focused storygame built around being Gawain or someone like him and having to both team up with, and sometimes oppose, the Green Knight. There would be an elaborate series of tradeoffs like, exchanging virtue for advantage or visa versa, or swapping real world values for otherworld values. A lot of storygames like being built around that kind of anguished exchange. This is the game most likely to have its own beheading contest, or something like that, at the end, where a player has to count up all the compromises they have made and use some special dice mechanic to find out if they really do get beheaded or whatever.

      With the standard OSR method of adventure creation, the one I am most familiar with, you really do have to put all of the feel into the environment, objects and NPC's and provide a strong sense of possible material advantage, (treasure, magic, favours, power) for PC's as you have no real control over who or what they will be. It’s rare that anyone in an OSR game acts in a consistently 'knightly' fashion and usually only the most strong willed players will persistently try to do that.

      In many cases they will end up acting a lot like the Nameless Doomsayer, or just like churls.

      In this case, the main reason for them going to the castle probably wouldn't be some grand mission or moral drive, but just because they didn't want to freeze to death in the sleeting rain and snow, and the main reason they would go back out again would be to get some treasure, access some fairy magic, because they were promised something by a castle resident or just to explore and get into trouble.

      ...........

      But the idea of the Green Knight (for some reason) needing mortal help to deal with some existential crisis could probably be ported across all versions.

      .............

      What I'm most interested in is what you would put in your Fairy or Otherworld realm? That is relevant to all versions of the possible adventure. What kinds of creatures, environments and situations would you put there?

      Delete
    12. The Otherworld would be like an skin of the world peeling free in some places, as if the world is a serpent shredding skin for the newer one (Arthurian, 'normal' world without magic).

      The Otherworld and its dwellers (intentionally or not) try to anchor themselves to people, such as The Green Knight, and in various locations (their citadels, fey rings, twin trees twisted into arches, enchanted woods) to prevent this separation into entirely separate dimension which would be a Bad Thing for them. Some places of Otherworld would be still in real world as they were before, and some (such as a Tower of Silvered Tree, the Hollow Hills kingdom) would be in this separate dimension, peeled off already. You can walk from real world into another one, but if you are not human it is harder to return back.

      This is not the first time such shredding of reality would happen - world changes itself from time to time and the while nothing physically changes much (the sun is still here, the grass is still here) whole reality subtly becomes obsolete. The first people of the land were Fhoi Myore, the simple and sincere dwellers who were the sun, the grass, the wind, the land; they were forests and streams, mountains and bird songs, they were very simple Truth about what the world was back then. But Children of Illusions came later, bringing tales, and dreams, and lies with them, glamour and enchantment, and Children were victorious over Fhoi Myore and drove them away from the land, and forbade them under mighty geas to step on the land without invitation. Only small islands (such as the Isle of Man or Skye) are still available to the defeated Fhoi Myore, who now dwell in underwater palaces, slowly fading away and forgetting who they were. The world of past peeled Fhoi Myore and their simplicity away to replace it with the bright and glamorous world of Children, world of unbridled tales and wild hunts, and incredible feats that we now see as magic. Children of Illusions created mighty poetry that redefined to the world the very nature of Fhoi Myore as monsters, changing the way the world sees them. To each other, Fhoi Myore - as they know their own Truth - look like noble people, but to everybody else they are grotesque and alien, and only rare few are humanoid enough. Fhoi Myore are noble, straighforward and utterly honest, but bitter. Most of them gave up their struggle and went into the deep sea - only some still valiantly try to keep their dying, fading people alive by forging ties of sacrifices with people of the land, mostly newcomer humans who are now pushing away their old enemies, Children. Fhoi Myore are ruthless but their ruthlessness is honest and is a necessity to them to survive. They offer riches of the sea for princess's hand, to strengthen their ties with their previous homeland.

      Delete
    13. Children of Illusions (they are what can considered to be Fair Folk) only now are starting to feel the same fate, as new, human-centric world slowly replaces their own just as their own world eons earlier replaces the world of Fhoi Myore. Human world already redefined Children somewhat - previously full of self-centred named heroes, Children now have courts and kings, and hierarchies when previously there were none and wild spirits run wild with winds and told tales as they wished. Children are slowly losing their world, with Arthur and Guinevere being the main symbols of the change. This is why Children create changelings (such as Merlin and Morgana) and give them powers to use magic and to be their rulers. Some Children fight against humans, trying to scare them from the land - those are Winter Courts under banners of vengeance, of pride, of sorrows; even to Morgana those are dangerous allies. Some - Summer courts - try to make ties with humans, enchant them with tales of seasons, ballads of heroism and courage, so they will live in memory of the land and avoid Fhoi Myore's fate of turning into monsters.

      * * *
      So the Otherworld would be in places are superimposed onto real world and in some places flowing into a separate dimension - sort of like a fey forest that starts as forest in regular world but spills into fairy wood. There probably will be a lot of tension between different factions (Winter courts and Summer courts, Morgana who is changeling that stayed with Children and Merlin, who betrayed them for Arthur, between all Children and Fhoi Myore who is their old defeated and very bitter enemies, made almost helpless, between Fhoi Myore who just want to stay in this world and fight, however possible, for future, and Fhoi Myore who are so dejected that they want the whole nation just to finally cease to exist and not prolong the torture). Under world of Children, on outskirts of the land lie tiny pocket realms of Fhoi Myore, mostly underwater kingdoms. Fhoi Myore look grotesque and there is always something very wrong about each of them, even most human-like. Children are majority of dwellers in Otherworld - some of them are yet blind to the change but many are already wary. I know little of England fair folk (even Fhoi Myore are from Celtic folklore, and Children are closer to Tuatha Dé Danann) but in creatures of Winter courts I would certainly use wargs - sentient, cruel wolves, and I would create creatures based upon the concept of thorn, song and dream. Most of Children would have at least two appearances but it is becoming difficult for them to do magic (i.e. lie/tell tales to the world) because in metaphorical sense the world is waking up to Arthur's 'normal' world and becomes more rigid as time goes.

      Fhoi Myore are made to wear masks, - their own image in the eyes of the world is so screwed up that they look incredibly ugly to anybody who isn't Fhoi Myore. I would use some chtonian/demonic creatures (the weirder the better, such as knight who bleeds sea water and grows seashells where he passes) with change of character for honesty.

      Delete
    14. Maybe humans as representatives of 'new world', could be valuable allies in Otherworld, as their very support gives more 'reality' to whatever they support.

      Delete
    15. My apologies - in previous post by "So the Otherworld would be in places are superimposed onto real world" I meant that "Otherworld would be in places a part of real world and in some places superimposed on it".

      Delete
    16. This is great but if you want it to be an adventure you need more specifics like the knight who bleeds sea water and leaves shells in his footsteps. And the masks of the Fhoi Myore, what do they look like and what happens if you get your hands on one?

      I'm interested because I've been kind of half-tricking you into writing an adventure in the comments but do you think you will actually write it? I would be interested to see what you come up with.

      Delete
    17. Fhoi Myore are able to go without their masks and those masks don't usually possess any kind of special power but for a lot of Fhoi Myore this mask is representation of their true face, from days before they were defeated and if they will make them anew, a bit of their memory about who they were (which isn't much at present time) will be blurred and lost. So they treasure their masks the way humans treasure keepsakes from soulmates and will offer a great reward or reasonable service for their return. Those masks are made from bits of essence which were previously a part of Fhoi Myore's Truth - grass for Fhoi Myore of grass, condensed light and gold for Fhoi Myore of sun, etc. Some Fhoi Myore reject their previous faces and build their masks (in a visage their see themselves currently or intimidating forms, although it is more rare) from materials in their current disposal (pearls, seashells, seagull feather). They sort of wear their goals, attitude and ideology on a sleeve (in this case in their mask), being very honest even when they have to hide their true faces.

      Delete
    18. I.. I don't even know how to start such thing. So many things are vague, and I don't know how to decide them properly. Should I assume that players will be knights or have more contemporary kill-and-loot tendencies or be travellers from current times, more cynical and yet maybe not entirely so? Is The Green Knight working on Morgana willingly because he shares her goals, or because she allows him to be enchanted great warrior, or he is subtly undermines her at every possible opportunity because he is geased into this state or something else? What are goals of Lady Bertilak? Why there is a struggle between Morgana and Guinevere but not Morgana and Arthur and not Morgana and Merlin (or maybe there is)? Should I use more authentic Britain fair folk or keep using the Celtic-inspired one despite it being not from this particular land? Should I stick to the original story as much as possible, including its morale, or use it only marginally for setup? Should I use mechanics of Pendragon, or LotFP, or try to combine those two? Are there going to be mages in the party and if yes, what are they able to do?

      I don't know answers to any of those questions... and I am afraid that even if I would, the result will be very predictable and boring. So if you wish to write adventure yourself, please go ahead, I am sure it will be much better.

      Delete
    19. I mean, I can try if you wish to see it and I am very grateful for your belief in me and how you taught me, but I just wish to warn that it probably will be very boring/disappointing (and it might be so slow that it will be ready by next Christmas).

      Delete
    20. I am thinking about this. Just posting here to let you know that I am quiet becasue I am thinking and not becasue I forgot about you.

      Delete
    21. Thank you for letting me know and take as much time as you wish.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.