Phelps, Ethel Johnston. "Gawain and the Lady Ragnell" in Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World. New York: Henry Holt, 1981.
English (Arthurian Legends are Celtic)
- The appearance of Ragnell in the forest (when she offers her assistance to Arthur)
- Arthur telling Sir Gromer what women really want
- Ragnell responding to Gawain after he says she can choose her own form.
- King Arthur
- Gawain ( bravest, wisest, courteous, etc Knight, and King Arthur’s nephew)
- Sir Gromer (a chieftain from the North-a bad guy)
- Lady Ragnell (the ugliest and the most beautiful woman, depending on the time in the story)
- A deep forest, mysterious feeling, a bit foggy perhaps…
- The King’s chambers in the castle.
- The kingdom in general, during the year devoted to query.
- An oak grove, tall, straight trees growing at the edge of a field/moor/heath
- The deep forest again (to meet Sir Gromer again)
- The banquet hall in the castle
- The chambers of Gawain and Ragnell, newlyweds.
- Arthur is out riding/hunting he sees a stag.
- Suddenly a powerful, dark man appears (Sir Gromer) and challenges Arthur to answer one question within a year or pay with his life. The question was "What is it that women most desire, above all else?"
- For twelve months Arthur et al, search the kingdom, questioning women as to what they truly want. As the anniversary drew near Arthur felt that though he had a plethora of answers none of them was the correct one.
- Arthur rides out alone to think and there, at an oak grove meets Lady Ragnell, Sir Gromer’s stepsister. She is disgusting looking, smelling, etc. She addresses him, telling him that she knows the answer that he is seeking and she will give it to him on one condition. She will not take his gold, land or jewelry. Her condition is that Gawain becomes her husband. Ragnell tells Arthur the answer to the riddle.
- Arthur returns to the castle, relates his most recent adventure of Gawain who immediately agrees to marry Ragnell in order to save his King’s life. On the appointed day, Arthur rides out to meet Sir Gromer, he offers a few answers to the question, all of them wrong and then answers: "What a woman desires above all else is the power of sovereignty-the right to exercise her own will."
- Sir Gromer immediately knows that Ragnell has given Arthur the answer, however Arthur has answered the riddle so he is allowed to leave.
- Back at the castle the wedding of Ragnell and Gawain takes place that night, there is not much of a mood of festivity. Gawain acts the perfect gentleman, meanwhile Ragnell is not much of a dinner guest (rips meat with her bare hands, drools, etc).
- The newlyweds retire to their chambers and Ragnell asks for a kiss. Gawain kisses her and she turns into a beautiful young woman. Ragnell explains that Sir Gromer turned her into a grotesque creature because she refused to do Sir Gromer biddings The spell could only be broken if the most valiant knight in the kingdom willing wed her.
- Ragnell then asks Gawain if he would prefer her to have her attractive shape during the day and her grotesque shape at night, or vice versa. Gawain responds that this is a choice that only Ragnell can make as it concerns her only.
- Gawain’s statement breaks the final part of the spell and Ragnell is changed completely back into her youthful, attractive self and they live happily ever after.
- "Once long ago, and a long time it was."
- Arthur smiled, for he thought he knew the answer. Most men do think they know the answer.
- "Equal pay for equal work"
- " could it be…. the one thing a woman wants most…could it be…. Her own sovereignty, her own free will…."
- "And they lived in great happiness until they died"
12-14 year olds. At this age kids are beginning (or well into…) ideas/experiences of relationships and sexuality (Huck). There is a large emphasis on looks and self-presentation; often times being ‘different’ is difficult. This is the liminal time between child and adulthood, identities are becoming formed along with understandings of one’s place in society (Erickson) this story shows that honesty, perseverance and self-determination are essential.
Verse: These sources offered the verse version of the tale, and I did not find it captivating, perhaps I am not accustomed to the language. I was looking for a tellable story and the language did not sweep me up and away.
- The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell. Quoted in The Romance of Arthur: an Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation.. Ed. James J. Wilhelm. New, expanded edition. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities; vol. 1267. (New York : Garland Publishing, 1994).pp468-469.
- The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell. Laura Sumner (ed) Northampton, MA: Smith College, 1927.
Different Ending: "She gives him the option to choose whether she shall be beautiful during the day (her preference) or at night (his preference). He chooses beauty in the day, and because she is given her preference she is beautiful all the time." This was not at all the story line that captivated me originally and I did not use anything from this source. I was interested in a story about a strong woman, an interesting individual.
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends. Ronan Coghlan. (ed) New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.
- Arthurian Myth and Legends. Mike Dixon-Kennedy. London: Blandford, 1995
- New Arthurian Encyclopedia.. Norris J. Lacy. (ed) New York: Garland,1996.
- "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.". James J. Wilhelm.(ed) In The Romance of Arthur: New and Expanded Edition. New York: Garland, 1994.
History/Background: I looked in a number of books on King Arthur, British folk tale collections, and a number of web pages and for the most part this story is not included in most collections. I was not only looking for variants and history but also for phrases/flavor that I could use in my telling.
- The Boy’s King Arthur: Sir Thomas Mallory’s History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. Lanier, Sydney (ed). New York: Scribner, 1950.
- The Search for King Arthur. Hibbert, Christoper. New York: American Heritage, 1969.
- British Folk Tales. Crossley-Holland, Kevin. New York: Orchard Press, 1987.
- Alan Garner’s Book of British Fairy Tales. London: Collins, 1984.
- Stories from the English and Scottish Ballads. Manning-Sanders, Ruth. New York: Dutton, 1968.
- English Fairy Tales. Jacobs, Joseph (collected by) New York: Putnam, [?].)
The Versions I really liked and used: I liked all of these because they stressed the fact that free will and self-rule are important determinants for personal happiness and respect. They all also were flowing and tellable. They varied in small details such as when Ragnell tells Arthur that she wants to wed Gawain (before or after the challenge is won); the reason for the anger of Gomer (past wrong, Arthur hunting on his lands, etc); what happens to Gomer after Arthur answers (he breaks into a thousand pieces, he curses Ragnell, he runs away).
- "The Tale of Dame Ragnell" told by Heather Forest. In More Best-Loved Stories Told at the National Storytelling Festival. Jonesborough, TN: National Storytelling Press, 1992.
- "Gawain and the Lady Ragnell" in Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World. Phelps, Ethel Johnston. New York: Henry Holt, 1981.
- "Lady Ragnell" told by Finley Stewart in Best Stories from the Texas Storytelling Festival. Little Rock: August House, 1995.
- "The Marriage of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell" in Three Romances: Love Stories from Camelot Retold. Winifred Rosen. New York: Knopf, 1980.