Friday, feb 18, 2000
Gawain & the Witch
The question was: What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and, to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. Well, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch’s proposition to have an answer by year’s end. He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everybody: the princess, the prostitutes, the priests, the wise men, the court jester. In all, he spoke with everyone but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.
What most people did tell him was to consult the old witch, as only she would know the answer. The price would be high, since the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.
The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no alternative but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer his question, but he’d have to accept her price first: The old witch wanted to marry Gawain, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur’s closest friend! Young Arthur was horrified: she was hunchbacked and awfully hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage water, often made obscene noises...He had never run across such a repugnant creature. He refused to force his friend to marry her and have to endure such a burden. Gawain however, upon learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur. He told him that nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur’s life and the preservation of the Round Table.
Hence, their wedding was proclaimed, and the witch answered Arthur’s question: “What a woman really wants is to be able to be in charge of her own life.” Everyone instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur’s life would be spared. And so it went. The neighbouring monarch spared Arthur’s life and granted him total freedom.
What a wedding Gawain and the witch had! Arthur was torn between relief and anguish. Gawain was proper and as always, gentle and courteous. The old witch put her worst manners on display. She ate with her hands, belched and farted, and made everyone uncomfortable. The wedding night approached: Gawain, steeling himself for a horrific night, entered the bedroom. What a sight awaited!
The most beautiful woman he’d ever seen lay before him! Gawain was astounded and asked what had happened. The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her (when she’d been a witch), half the time she would be her horrible, deformed self, and the other half, she would be her beautiful maiden self. Which would he want her to be during the day and which during the night? What a cruel question!
Gawain began to think of his predicament. During the day a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his home, an old spooky witch? Or would he prefer having by day a hideous witch, but by night a beautiful woman to enjoy many intimate moments?
What would you do?
What Gawain chose follows below, but don’t read until you’ve made your own choice.
Noble Gawain replied that he would let her choose for herself. Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time, because he had respected her and had let her be in charge of her own life.