Turke and Sir Gawain

General Information

(N)IMEV: 1886
Form: 6-line tail-rhyme stanzas rhyming aabccb
Date of Composition: c. 1500
Place of Composition: North or North Midlands
Keywords: Conversion, Disguise, Friendship, Monster, Other-world, Quest, Saracen, Secular Spaces, Supernatural, Travel

Plot Summary

Plot summary image

As Arthur sits at his table, a short, broad Turk enters the hall. He challenges one of the knights to strike him a blow and accept another in return. Kay scornfully replies that he can defeat the Turk easily, but Gawain rebukes him for his discourtesy. [He accepts the challenge himself and strikes the Turk, but the return blow is postponed]. Gawain agrees to follow the Turk, and they ride northwards for two days. When the knight becomes hungry, his companion mockingly contrasts his suffering with the comfort of the court, promising him adventure and further hardship. He leads Gawain to a hill, which opens as terrible storms rage. [The Turk leads him to a mysterious castle] where a magnificent feast is laid out in a deserted hall. Initially the Turk forbids Gawain to eat, but then serves him lavishly, warning him that it will be a long time before he gets more.

When he has eaten, Gawain asks the Turk to return his blow and complete their bargain. [The Turk refuses] and they sail to another castle. The Turk explains that it belongs to the King of the Isle of Man, a pagan sultan, who lives there with a company of hideous giants. He promises to show the knight marvels, and reassures him that he will help him overcome any danger. [They enter the castle, where Gawain is insulted by the King of Man] who expresses his hatred for the English clergy, especially Bishop Baldwin, and declares his plan to destroy them. Gawain refuses his invitation to dine, demanding to see a marvel. At the king’s command, seventeen giants bring a huge brass tennis ball into the hall. [Gawain and the Turk beat the giants at tennis] and the king halts the ensuing fight to present his next marvel: a vast iron fireplace. Despite his size, the Turk lifts it easily and swings it around his head. [Concealing himself with an invisibility garment, he accompanies Gawain as the King of Man presents his third marvellous challenge]: a cauldron of boiling lead, presided over by a fearsome giant. The Turk throws the giant into the cauldron and, when the King refuses to embrace Christianity, flings him onto the fire.

[Instead of giving Gawain the return buffet] the Turk hands Gawain a sword and asks him to strike off his head, catching his blood in a golden basin. Gawain unwillingly complies, but when the blood touches the basin the Turk transforms into a noble knight, Sir Gromer, who celebrates by singing a Te Deum. They release the King’s female captives, promising to reunite them with their husbands. [They all travel to Arthur’s court] where they send for the banished knights, who gratefully promise to serve Arthur. Gromer asks Arthur to make Gawain King of Man, but the knight refuses. On his recommendation, Gromer accepts in his place.

From: Thomas Hahn, ed. Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000.
Manuscript: London, British Library, MS Additional 27879 (Percy Folio)


Click a title below to search for all romances in that manuscript.

London, British Library, MS Additional 27879 (Percy Folio) (folio: pp. 38-46)c. 1650, Lancashire. Unique copy. Incomplete, with only 337 lines, about half of the original, remaining.

Modern Editions

Frederic Madden, ed., Syr Gawayne: A Collection of Ancient Romance-Poems by Scottish and English Authors Relating to That Celebrated Knight of the Round Table (London: Bannatyne Club, 1839)Pp. 243-55. Edited from Percy Folio.
Jeanne Myrle Wilson Williams, ed., "A Critical Edition of The Turke & Gowin" (University of Southern Mississippi Dissertation, 1988)Edited from Percy Folio.
John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall, eds., Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances, 3 vols. (London: N. Trübner, 1867–68)Vol 3. Pp. 88-102. Edited from Percy Folio.
Thomas Hahn, ed., Eleven Gawain Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995)Pp. 337-358. Edited from Percy Folio.Available online at: http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/turkfrm.htm