Required Reading

The following are the texts for the class in the order in which they appear. Many of them are available for free online — just one small example of the advantage of studying very old books. In these cases, links to the online versions used during the course have been provided. When the texts are not free, there are links to various online bookstores where you may purchase the correct editions for the course.

Since the Tolkien Professor highly enjoys audio versions of stories, links to these unabridged files have also been included, if you are interested.

Sir Orfeo

This poem, and many wonderful Middle English texts, are available in good scholarly editions for free, courtesy of the good people at TEAMS.

Text, with notes: Sir Orfeo
A brief editors’ introduction: Intro to Sir Orfeo

It is very important to get the sound of the Middle English verse in your head; it makes a huge difference in understanding the poem. For the assistance of those who are new to Middle English, Professor Olsen has made some recordings for you to listen to. He recommends that you first play this audio version and then read through the text first while listening, without stopping to read the notes. Then, after hearing it once, read it through again, looking at the footnotes if you like.

Audio Version: .mp3 or .m4a

Sir Launfal

Text, with notes: Sir Launfal (another TEAMS text)
Editors’ Introduction: Intro to Sir Launfal

Audio Version: .mp3 or .m4a

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle

Text, with notes: Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle (TEAMS again)
Editor’s Introduction: Intro to Gawain and Ragnelle

Audio Version: .mp3 or .m4a

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” from The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

There are many good editions of The Canterbury Tales out there. If you are looking to buy a good copy, this one is the classic edition. The link below will take you to a free online version of the text of “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” but it is a note-less edition, alas. Fortunately, you will be nearly an expert in Middle English by this point in the semester.

Text, sans notes: “Wife of Bath’s Tale” (courtesy of the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, another great medieval text site)

Audio Version: .mp3 or .m4a

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Professor Olsen used a translation of SGGK, because the Middle English dialect of this poem is very much harder than the others that you have been reading. For this class, he is using a new translation for the first time: the recent alliterative verse rendering by Simon Armitage. One of the reasons that this translation stands out is that the Middle English and the modern English translation are printed on facing pages. This way, you can still read the Middle English, but have Armitage’s translation there to help you.

Text: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Simon Armitage.

Audio Version: A good professional recording, performed by Bill Wallis, is available for this title, but Amazon won’t let me link to it. You should be able to see it connected to the entry for the text at the link above, however.

Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books

Throughout the lecture series, you will read only a few scattered selections from Andrew Lang’s compendious series of collected fairy tales. All of these are available online on this one remarkable page.

From the Blue Fairy Book“Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” “Rumpelstiltzkin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Hansel and Grettel,” “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” “The History of Jack Giant-Killer,” and “The Black Bull of Norroway.”

From the Red Fairy Book“Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Three Dwarfs,” “Twelve Brothers,”“Rapunzel,” and “Snowdrop.”

From the Green Fairy Book“The Enchanted Ring.”

A free, unabridged recording of many of Andrew Lang’s collected stories is available thanks to the good, good people at, one of the best sites on the whole internet.

Audio: The Blue Fairy Book, the Red Fairy Book, and the Green Fairy Book are all available for download.

The Book of Wonder

by Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Lord Dunsany

Text: Wonder Tales: The Book of Wonder and Tales of Wonder
Audio: The Book of Wonder (courtesy of Librivox)

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

Text: The Princess and the Goblin (Puffin Classics)
Audio: The Princess and the Goblin (Librivox)

“Smith of Wootton Major”

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Text: Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham

Unfortunately, there is no unabridged version of Tolkien’s short fiction available. That’s right – Tolkien’s work is the only one on this whole syllabus that is not available in unabridged audio form. However, here is a link to all that there is: the abridged version.

Audio: Tales from the Perilous Realm

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

Text: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“If you buy this, do me a quick favor. When it arrives, take a marker and cross out the number ′2′ on the spine, replacing it with the correct number: 1. I have no patience with that particular heresy.”

– The Tolkien Professor

Audio: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or you could get the whole Chronicles of Narnia, performed by a truly all-star cast of readers. The whole collection is excellent. Jeremy Northram does a fantastic Puddleglum.

The Last Unicorn

by Peter Beagle

Text: The Last Unicorn
Audio: The Last Unicorn


by Garth Nix

Text: Sabriel
Audio: Sabriel, read brilliantly by Tim Curry