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Book-Talk Monday: Favorite Childhood Bedtime Stories

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hey, y’all. Since Kaye asked Flannery to do a guest post a couple of weeks ago, I guess she felt sorry for me and asked me to do one (officially—not a takeover like I usually do!). I picked Monday and found out that Kaye likes to talk about reading and books on the Monday blog posts. So since I probably don’t really read a lot of what Kaye’s blog readers like to read, it took me a while to figure out what to post. But then it came to me. I still like reading now as an adult because I loved being read to as a kid.

When I was little, I stayed with my grandmother often, until I moved in with her when I was thirteen when . . . well, this probably isn’t the appropriate place to get into all of that. Anyway, when I was little and would stay at her house, Cookie would read to me at bedtime, and I had a few favorite stories I asked for so often that it finally got to the point where both of us could pretty much recite them word for word to each other. This one was my favorite:

    The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell
    One day King Arthur went hunting in the forest of Inglewood with his retainers. At length he and his companions became separated, and he found himself in an unfamiliar part of the forest. Abruptly, he found that his body was quite frozen and he could not move a muscle. A menacing figure, dressed in pitch-black armor, approached him, saying, “Arthur, I have you in my power. You have wrongfully given my lands to Sir Gawain, and for that, you will die unless you find the answer to a question I put to you.”

    Arthur found that he could speak and asked, “Who are you, and what is this question you wish me to answer?”

    “I am Gromer Somer Joure. If you would win your life, return here in twelve months with an answer to this question: What is it that every woman desires most?” As suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone; and the King found that he could move freely again. He returned to his court with a heavy heart.

    Of all his retainers, only Sir Gawain asked King Arthur what sorrow he bore; and Arthur related the tale of his discomfiture in the forest. Sir Gawain then proposed that they ride forth and ask every woman they found what she most desired and collect the answers in a book.

    They set out and asked women what they desired and soon they had a huge book of answers. But as many as they had found, they were still uneasy that any of the answers they had were the true one.

    Shortly before the King had to meet with Gromer Somer Joure, he rode again through the forest of Inglewood and came upon a hideously ugly woman, one who not only looked terrible with a foot-long dripping nose, donkey ears, and a gaping mouth with yellow teeth, but one who also smelled terrible. She stopped King Arthur saying that she had the right answer and could save his life, if he agreed to her terms. She somehow knew about his quest. He asked what her terms were, and she replied, “I am Dame Ragnell, and I want to marry one of your knights: Sir Gawain.”

    King Arthur was horrified, and told her that he could not promise her Gawain without Gawain’s consent and that he would return to her after speaking with Gawain. He returned to court and explained the situation to Gawain. Without hesitation, Gawain, the most noble of knights, answered that he would marry her in a minute, even if she was a devil, if it would help save Arthur’s life.

    Arthur returned to the forest where Dame Ragnell was waiting. He told her that Gawain had agreed to marry her if her answer was the one sought, but if one of the others they had collected was the one, the deal was off. Satisfied with this, she gave Arthur the answer.

    On the appointed day, Arthur rode to meet with Gromer Somer Joure. Again Gromer appeared suddenly, demanding the answer to his question. Arthur gave him the book with the answers they collected. Gromer looked it over, laughed with a deep laugh, and told Arthur to prepare to die. Arthur said, “Wait, I have one more answer,” and gave him that of Dame Ragnell.

    Gromer roared in frustration. “Only my sister could have told you that! May she be burned in the fires of hell for her treachery! Go where you will, King Arthur; I will bother you no more.” So Arthur returned to Ragnell and brought her back with him to court.

    Upon seeing her for the first time, Gawain looked stunned but bravely assented to be married the next day. The ladies of the court wept to see such a kind and handsome knight to be married to such a hideous woman; the other knights were glad it wasn’t any of them who had to marry her.

    Ragnell demanded to be married publicly and to have a great feast with all the nobles attending. She was decked out in the most costly of dresses, but her manners repulsed everyone there. She ate great volumes of food with loud slurps and belches, food sometimes running down her chin. Great was the pity felt for Gawain that day!

    At last the wedding feast was over, and the couple led to their chamber. There Gawain gazed at the fire, reluctant to touch his bride, until she requested a kiss. Bravely, he acceded, only to find a most radiant woman in his arms. He stared speechless in wonder and, finally finding his tongue, asked her how could this be. The lady told Gawain that her own brother, the giant Gromer Somer Jure, had placed a spell on her which could only be broken if the best knight in the world had the courage to marry and kiss her.

    “I have waited in that shape until I found a man gentle enough to marry me. Now I offer you a choice: I can be fair by night and foul by day; or foul by night and fair by day. Decide which you want.”

    Gawain thought for a while, pondering the events that had lead to this moment, and then it dawned on him what answer he must give. “I cannot make such a choice; that is for you to decide.”

    She cried out in joy, “My lord, you are as wise as you are noble and true, for you have given me what every woman genuinely desires, sovereignty over herself. You will never see that hideous old hag again, for I choose to be fair from this time on. You have discovered the solution to my brother’s riddle—that the greatest wish of all women is to be able to make their own decisions.”

    Thus Gawain and Dame Ragnell begot Gyngolyn of the Round Table, a knight of strength and goodness. Dame Ragnell helped King Arthur and her brother Sir Gromer come to peaceful terms.

    Alas, the gentle lady lived only five years with Gawain, and he mourned her death for the rest of his life.

So, there you have it—my favorite bedtime story from childhood.

What’s yours?

  1. Monday, October 17, 2011 12:06 am

    Hmmm . . . this explains a lot.


    • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:07 am

      Seriously? What could you possibly read into this being my favorite story as a kid?


      • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:09 am

        Oh, good grief! Don’t get so defensive all the time. I just think it’s sweet that your favorite story is one in which the moral of the story isn’t the princess needs to be saved or the biggest, bravest prince wins the day but one in which the best thing the man can do for the woman is to let her make her own choice. It’s unusual for a fairytale. I actually like the fact that this is your favorite story from when you were a child.


        • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:11 am

          Oh. Sorry.

          (And it’s not a fairytale. It’s a legend.)


        • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:14 am

          (If we’re going to get technical, it’s not a fairytale or a legend but a Middle English epic poem that was originally part of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” in the Canterbury Tales. I found a version of the original poem online here:


        • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:15 am

          You strangely seem to know an awful lot about this story.


      • Monday, October 17, 2011 12:17 am

        I took a few courses and seminars in Medieval, Middle Ages, and Renaissance literature in college, that’s all.


  2. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
    Monday, October 17, 2011 1:23 am

    Ah, another reminder that I should read all the Arthurian legends and e-book stories I downloaded to my computer … I agree with Flannery –it isn’t what you’d expect from a medieval tale, but it’s cool!

    One of the books I remember my mom reading to my siblings and I at night was “It Looked Like Spilled Milk” (not sure if that was the exact title), Eric Carle books, and my mom’s favorite: “I’ll Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. My favorite stories my mom read aloud to us wasn’t for bedtime– it was reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” for an hour or so every morning when I was in 3rd or 4th grade.


  3. Monday, October 17, 2011 5:55 am

    I know i use to have stories read to me but dont really remember a favourite til I was about 6 or 7 when I was given a fairy tale book and fell in love with The snow queen.


  4. Monday, October 17, 2011 10:05 am

    Love the banter!

    I don’t remember Mom or Dad reading/telling bedtime stories… And I’m not coming up with one at all at the moment…


  5. Monday, October 17, 2011 11:35 am

    Not at bedtime but I loved the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I feel I know your characters and I haven’t even read the book.


  6. Monday, October 17, 2011 12:39 pm

    Oh, this post makes me want to revisit my childhood Arthurian legends storybook. I adored stories of Arthur & his knights growing up!


  7. Monday, October 17, 2011 2:04 pm

    I loved Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood until I grew up and learned how dark those stories really are.

    I’d have to go with Winnie the Pooh and Harry the Dirty Dog. Oh and let me not forget BaBar!


  8. Monday, October 17, 2011 2:58 pm

    I loved so MANY books! I can think of two favorites, though: “Brave Cowboy Bill” and “Miss Susie.” The first was about – you guessed it – a cowboy, and the second was about a lady squirrel who is run out of her home in the tree by a gang of mean rats. She finds shelter in the attic of a deserted house where there was a DOLL HOUSE and tin soldiers. When the rats find her and try to run her out of her NEW home, the tin soldiers come to her rescue.

    I’m a sucker for a happy ending. 🙂


  9. Rebekah W permalink
    Monday, October 17, 2011 5:20 pm

    I loved “The Bernstein Bears” growing up. They had book on life lessons that a child should know. I also loved a book called ” Silly Sally.” It’s about a girl who walks around on her hands and soon others join her.


  10. Monday, October 17, 2011 5:24 pm

    Oddly enough, I don’t remember my parents reading to me at night. I am sure they did, but I don’t remember it. I loved reading when I was a little older, but I don’t have any childhood favorites. How sad! I have never really thought about it until now. I hope my son and daughter grow up with these kind of memories. We read every night together. Hopefully, that is building memories for them.


  11. Pam K. permalink
    Monday, October 17, 2011 5:35 pm

    When I was really young, there were a couple of books I really liked having read to me. One was Sailor Dog and the other Crybaby Calf. I think they might have both been Little Golden Books or something similar.


  12. Rachel Wilder permalink
    Monday, October 17, 2011 7:17 pm

    It wasn’t a story from a book, technically speaking. We had this book about what happened to the dinosaurs, and it had a section in it on the exploding beetle. One night the four of us asked Papa to read to us from the book. He did. But not what was in the book.

    He made the whole thing up based on the pictures, and included all four of us in the story. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my whole life. All four of us cherish that ridiculous story in which we all became exploding beetles and blew ourselves up.


  13. Audry permalink
    Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:24 am

    I’d have to say the Dr. Seuss stories my mom used to read when I was little (and when my younger siblings were little and I wasn’t) particularly “What Was I Scared Of?” – she has the most perfect, expressive voice for them. To this day, if we’re all together, it’s not uncommon for several of us to break out in unison with, “I yelled for help, I screamed, I shrieked; I howled, I yowled, I cried! Oh, SAVE me from these pale green pants with NOBODY INSIDE!!”

    Gets us some pretty weird looks when there are non- family members around.


  14. Janet Kerr permalink
    Tuesday, October 25, 2011 2:20 pm

    I always loved books but as a child I was not read to. At nine though I started reading about the saints. When I ran out of saint books in the school library I went to the church library and found a book with a woman dressed in blue and a man holding a knife over her. It was called Maria Goretti. I thought of this book often as a child. This “saint” started me on a path of crime writing.


  15. Monday, September 24, 2012 6:46 am

    Reblogged this on Vanessa King, Toastmaster and commented:
    This story was quoted in a book I read a little while ago called ‘Kissing the Hag’ and I just loved it. You can buy it through my shop if you like :-). Then I discovered someone has written a blog post about it, so I have shamelessly copied and pasted it, as I thought the images he used were lovely. You can see the original post here.


  16. Monday, September 24, 2012 6:49 am

    Hi, so glad I came across your retellling of this story. I’ve reblogged it, but something odd has happened I think, as it’s not showing up on my blog yet. Never mind, thanks for sharing!


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