My edit: OTPs in Arthurian Legends [2/?]: Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle- The Maiden’s Knight and the Loathy Lady
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle is an English poem written in the 15th century by an anonimous author (even if there’s the hypothesis that the author is Thomas Malory himself, because this poem was written in the same period of Le Mort d'Arthur). The poem begins with King Arthur threatened by a knight that he met in the magic forest of Inglewood. The knight, Gromer Somer Joure, said that he was going to kill King Arthur in a year, if he for that moment didn’t answer at his riddle, “What the women desire the most?”. King Arthur was in despar, until he met in a forest the ugliest woman that he ever saw, who said him that she had the answer at that riddle, but she was goingo to tell to him only at the condition that she would marry King Arthur’s nephew, sir Gawain. Arthur was reluctant, but Gawain accepted. So, the loathy lady, who was called dame Ragnelle, told him the answer: what women desired the most is sovereignty over themselves. When Gromer Somer Joure heard the answer from King Arthur, he became angry and cursed his sister Ragnelle. So, Arthur came to Camelot with Ragnelle, who wedded with Gawain, even if the court was unhappy for this marriage. But when came the moment of the wedding night, Gawain saw his wife transformed into a beautiful maiden, who said to him that she fell under a curse of her step-mother, but right now he could choose between having her beautiful in the night, but ugly in the day, or beautiful in the day, but ugly in the night. Gawain answered so:
“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.” (translation by David Breeden)
So, Ragnelle said to him that he had broken the curse, because he had given to her what she wanted the most: the sovereignty upon herself. So they are happy, until she had to left him (the text didn’t say if she died or she was only gone away). But Gawain never loved another woman as he had loved dame Ragnelle.The poem has many interpretation, many seemed a connection with the trope of the loathy lady who appeared also in “Canterbury’s Tales”. This trope had also a connection with the Celtic mythology, where the “sovereignty of Ireland” appeared both with the appearence of a beautiful maiden and of an old ugly woman, as a trial that the hero had to face, for becaming king.