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Storytime with Dowdle

Before I get to the reason for this blog, it is storytime. This is a tale from ye olde England about Sir Gawain from King Arthurs Court; ah yes, the knights of the round table. The basic jest of the story is as follows. King Arthur gets himself in a bind with Sir Gromer Somer, a land owner. He is given a task to save his honor and his life. Valiant Sir Gawain finds about the King's dilemma and offers to do whatever he can to assist the King. The King and Sir Gawain set out on their quest together. They part up to cover more land. King Arthur encounters Dame Ragnell, described as a hideous hag. The coarse, nasty woman says she will give the King the solution to save his life and honor if he will give her his word to grant an unspecified request. He concedes because, hey, he's the King. She gives him the answer, and he rides to meet Sir Gromer Somer, gives Dame Ragnell's answer, and foils Sir Gromer Somer's plan to gain power over King Arthur.


King Arthur and Sir Gawain then meet back up and ride to see Dame Ragnell. Dame Ragnell greets them as repulsive as ever. She demands that King Arthur have Sir Gawain marry her. He resists, but Gawain says he will do it for the King, gasp. They ride back home on what must have seemed to Gawain like a nightmarish death march. A hasty marriage is performed between Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.


We next see our "happy" couple, Gawain and Ragnell, in the wedding chamber. Gawain is ratcheting up the courage to honor his oath and fulfill his husbandry duties. Gawain swallows hard, takes a deep breath, and turns his face towards Ragnell for a kiss. WHAT!?!? He turns and beholds that she has transformed into the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Aaaaand:

"Sir," she said, "thus shall you have me.
By God, choose one--for my beauty will not hold.
Choose whether you will have me
Beautiful in the nights
And as ugly in the days, when men see me,
Or else have me beautiful in the day
And the ugliest woman in the nights.
One or the other you must have. Choose.
Choose, sir knight, which is more important
To your honor."
 
"Alas!" said Gawain, "the choice is hard.
Choosing the best is difficult.
I don't know what to choose.
To have you beautiful
At night and no more,
That would grieve my heart.
And I would lose my reputation.
But if I choose to have you beautiful in the day,
Then at night I would have slim pickings.
Now, gladly would I choose the best,
But I don't know what in the world to say.
Choose what you think best, happy lady.
The choice I put into your hand.
Do as you want, as you choose.
Untie me when you will, for I am bound.
I give the decision to you.
Body, possessions, heart and everything,
It is all yours, to buy and sell.
This I swear to God."
 
"Thank you, courteous knight," said the lady.
Of all the earth's knights, may you be blessed.
For now I am worshipped.
You shall have me beautiful both day and night,
And always I shall be fair and bright.
Therefore, grieve not,
For I was transformed through necromancy
By my stepmother, God have mercy on her.
She changed me by enchantment
From my true form--
Until the best of England
Had truly married me
And given me sovereignty
Over his body and all his goods.

So why the story? The riddle King Arthur must find the answer to is, "What do women love best in field and in town?" In today's vernacular, that would be," What do women want most in the world?" The answer is 'sovereignty,' to be able to self-determine.


Unfortunately, voices in society seem to rob many women of that freedom. There are new mothers facing voices that they are inadequate mothers or not doing enough for their babies. Some are criticized for having babies and not pursuing careers. Some mothers still grieve for lost children and feel diminished when they see mothers with children. Other mothers look at the images of "ideal" families and feel like failures if their families don't match the perfect picture. Women who are on a path without children can feel judged, diminished, or like an outsider. Through all this, that picture of unattainable perfection is paraded as standard reality when it doesn't exist. Let's face it; women face so many voices of judgment and evaluation that their self-esteem seems under constant assault. Usually, the loudest voice is the one inside, and they are hardest on themselves. Often, some mistakenly feel like they are hideous and wanting, but it is simply not true.


As the Mother's Day season comes around, take the gift of Sir Gawain and "give the decision to YOURSELF. Body, possessions, heart and everything, it is all yours, to buy and sell." Grant yourself sovereignty and block out the noise that says otherwise and be the true you. You are on your own unique path, and claiming your power will give you courage. Feminine nature is a powerful teacher to instruct men in deeper meanings of compassion, love, true chivalry, and needed balance in our world. Love who you are and the innate, internal beauty you possess will light the world around you. Thank you for the magic you bring to the world.


6 comments


  • Marie

    Beautifully written/said! Thank you so much for the powerful message of having the courage to be exactly who you want to be. Every woman needs to hear that message. Men, too! The choice to be who you are should always be yours alone.


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