Phelps, Ethel Johnston. "Gawain and the Lady Ragnell" in Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World. New York: Henry Holt, 1981.

Ethnic Origin

English (Arthurian Legends are Celtic)

Running Time

11 minutes

Power Center(s)




Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor"


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.

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.

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 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).