Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Erin has been caught up with a project, which is always a good sign. I gave her a copy of W. S. Merwyn's translation of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and she absolutely loved it. More than that, she came up with the crazy idea of adapting it for kids.

Crazy ideas are sometimes the best ideas there are.

Anyway, from Christmas on, she devoted most of her time to the project, and I think she is now at the stage where she might actually consider submitting it somewhere. Click here for what Erin has written thus far.

I've particularly enjoyed the section which I and others have nicknamed "the Castle Anthrax bit". Those of you who have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail know precisely what I mean. My eyebrows went progressively up as Erin told the scenario: near the end of Sir Gawain's quest, he comes upon a mysterious castle, where a beautiful lady and her husband welcome him, tell him they know where the Green Knight lives, and let him stay a while. Because Sir Gawain is exhausted, he lies in bed to rest, and the head of the household goes off to hunt. Their deal: they will exchange whatever gifts they find on their day's toils. Then the husband goes off, and the wife tries to seduce Sir Gawain. As with all mystical legends, this is a three-day, thrice-attempted event.

When Erin told this, she said that, after the first day, the head of the household gave Gawain a shot deer, and Gawain gave the head of the household a kiss. To which I replied, "gee, the head of the household is going to get a pretty big surprise come day three." Of course, this doesn't happen, since Sir Gawain is pure (well, almost). And, moreover, Erin tidied things up. This adaptation is supposed to be for kids, after all. So, Sir Gawain only kisses the head of the household full on the lips (with tongue?) on day three.

However, Erin read Sir Gawain to a group of twelve-year-olds and, while they loved the poem, they were shocked by Sir Gawain kissing the head of the household full on the lips, prompting her to ask, which age group is this poem/adaptation most suitable for?

One thing I find interesting is how series sometimes age as they go on. For instance, compare Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time to A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Both are classic fantasies, but there is no doubt that A Swiftly Tilting Planet is aimed at a slightly older audience than A Wrinkle in Time. It's darker, for one thing, dealing with issues such as nuclear war, murder, child abuse and even rape. This is over and above the more developed writing style and the more complex storyline. Now consider A House Like a Lotus, which features some of the same characters and their children, but has no science fiction or fantasy elements in it whatsoever, and deals frankly with issues of homosexuality and losing one's virginity.

Is there any coincidence in the fact that the characters within this series of books also get older? Meg Murry is 13-14 in A Wrinkle in Time and around 24 in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Is Madeleine L'Engle not only aging the characters, but aging the intended audience with each book? It's an interesting concept, if you could be sure that your readers were going to move onto each new book in the series a year at a time, and not barrel through them all at once. But it's also something that appears to be happening to me.

Rosemary and Time has elements of teen fantasy in a plotline that reads a lot like a late Middle-Grade reader. In this story, Peter and Rosemary are fourteen. In Fathom Five, the less episodic nature of the storyline and the romantic elements plant the story firmly in the teen realm. Here, Peter and Rosemary are nearing sixteen. With The Young City laced with elements of unresolved sexual tension and Peter and Rosemary on the verge of adulthood, I have a story that may be at the upper end of the teen readership. Shepherd Moons, if I get that far, will show Peter and Rosemary as adults, and I'll have to focus more heavily on the character of Rosemary's younger sister, Trisha, in order to stick in the young adult realm.

Everybody I talk to likes the idea of seeing Peter and Rosemary married and expecting their first child. There seems to be a prevailing interest among readers to see two characters who show real chemistry on the page develop a love interest and live happily ever after; they delight if they could see some of that ever after. But if that ever after occurs, then those characters have to grow. Real people don't stop growing, and neither should a set of characters you've seen at the age of 14 be exactly the same when they're 18. And the stories that they'd experience at 18 would be different from the ones they'd experience at 14.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an adult show with a considerable young adult following. Buffy and her friends have grown considerably from the sixteen-year-olds they were when the series started. Now, what would have the series been like if they started when Buffy was fourteen? How would the series have changed if we watched Buffy transform over the years from fourteen to twenty-one?

I'm sure the readers here would find this idea intriguing. Who doesn't like seeing people they love grow up? But can book series grow up?

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