by Emma

“I am very fond of the stories of King Arthur and his knights, and one of my favorites is about Sir Gawain, a knight of the Round Table.  In this story, Sir Gawain agrees to marry Ragnell-a grotesquely ugly woman-in exchange for information that will spare King Arthur’s life.  Instead of any sense of celebration, his wedding day brought the town a great sense of mourning because King Arthur’s handsome and gallant knight was being married to a monstrous hag.

On his wedding night, Sir Gawain waited in bed while Ragnell prepared herself for their first night together.  When the door opened, Ragnell lay down beside him and said, “You have kept your promise and much more.  You have never shown me pity nor revulsion.  All I will ask of you is one kiss.”

Gawain immediately leaned over and kissed her, closing his eyes.  When he opened them, he discovered he was lying beside a beautiful woman.  Startled, he leapt from the bed and asked, “Who are you?  And where is my wife?   Is this some kind of sorcery?”

Gawain, I am your wife, Ragnell.  It is time to tell you my story.”

And so she began her tale about how her stepbrother, Sir Gromer, had hated her because of her beauty and because she did not fear him or follow his commands. In his jealousy and resentment, Gromer went to his mother-an evil sorceress-who turned Ragnell into one of the ugliest women ever.

Ragnell then paused and said to Gawain, “There is a second part of the curse I must share with you.  Since you have treated me with love and not resentment or pity, I am allowed to give you a choice.  I can be a beautiful woman by day, so that all may admire me and consider you a lucky man, but I would become once more the ugly Ragnell by night, when we lie with each other.   Or else I could be the ugly Ragnell by day, only to once again become the beautiful woman you see before you at night.  Which would you prefer?

Without hesitation, Gawain answered her.  “This should not be my choice but yours.  You must choose for yourself.  I will accept either decision as long as it is your will. ”With his response the rest of the curse was lifted, and Ragnell could now be beautiful both day and night.  Sir Gawain’s love was not concerned with his personal needs; he saw beyond them and was concerned only with his partner’s happiness and well-being.  His desire to empower her is what healed each of them and brought them both real joy.


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