In "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell," we are introduced to the most hideous woman ever described, Dame Ragnell. She first appears in the story when King Arthur meets her in the forest while he is searching for the answer to Sir Gromer's question: "what does woman desire most?" Dame Ragnell promises to tell the king the answer only if Sir Gawain marries her. But she is not the kind of woman Gawain has in mind for a wife. So, will she still be able to win Gawain’s love for her?

Upon King Arthur’s first sight of Dame Ragnell, he is terrified and petrified by her ludicrous appearance. He describes her as an "ungoodly creature" :

...Her face was red, her nose snotid withalle,
Her mouithe wide, her teethe yallowe overe alle,
With blerid eyen gretter then a balle;
Her mouith was not to lak;
Her teethe hing overe her lippes...("Dame Ragnell", 331)

Here, we can visualize just how awful Dame Ragnell looks. With yellow teeth, huge eyes, fat lips, and a broad shoulder, she is the most horrible woman who has ever lived. Most men will probably turn away immediately at their first glance of her. Thus, we should be able to understand why people are disgusted by her appearance when she enters the city, for they have never seen such foul lady, "alle the contraye had wonder great, from whens she com, that foule unswete; they sawe nevere of so foulle a thing" ("Dame Ragnell", 339).

Apart from her ugliness, Dame Ragnell’s lack of manners is also irritating to the other knights in the court. Without any respect and courtesy for the king, she grabs the first seat in the dining hall, a seat that symbolizes great honor that she definitely does not have, "this foulle lady began the highe dese; she was fulle foulle and not curteis" ("Dame Ragnell", 341). In addition, her behavior at the dinner table is unbelievably outrageous:

...She ete as moche as six that ther wore;
That mervalid many a man.
Her nailes were long inchies three;
Therwithe she breke her mete ungoodly...("Dame Ragnell", 341)

Dame Ragnell is described as having an appetite equivalent to that of six strong men. But the most horrible thing is the way she eats, using her long fingernails. Being afraid of her, the men in the hall leave her all alone to continue eating by herself until she "cleans" up all the dishes, "so she ete tille mete was done" ("Dame Ragnell", 341).

It seems impossible that any man would be willing to wed Dame Ragnell. However, because of Gawain’s loyalty to the king, without any complaint, he immediately agrees to take her as his wife:

...I wolle wed her at whate time ye wolle set;
I pray you make no care.
For and she were the most foulist wighte
That evere men mighte see with sighte,
For your love I wolle not spare...("Dame Ragnell", 335)

Although Dame Ragnell isn’t Gawain’s ideal woman, he still shows her the respect a husband has for a wife. He actually treats her as if she is really the person he chooses himself. For instance, he is more than willing to kiss her, simply because he believes that such an act is normal between a married couple.

Due to his sincere attitude toward this marriage, Dame Ragnell actually feels sorry for her ugliness because Gawain deserves better, "for thy sake I wold I were a faire woman, for thou art of so good wille" ("Dame Ragnell", 339). Later, transforming into her true and beautiful self, she asks Gawain whether he wants her to be like this forever or not. However, if he does make a choice, whatever it may be, he has not given her full sovereignty, which she wants most, and she will continue to remain in her ugly form. Fortunately, once again proving his noble character, Gawain lets her choose, "the choise I put in your fist" ("Dame Ragnell", 343). Consequently, Gawain is rewarded with Dame Ragnell’s beauty forever, "for now am I worshippid. Thou shalle have me faire bothe day and nighte" ("Dame Ragnell", 343).

In conclusion, as we can see, although the hag-like Dame Ragnell is not initially Gawain’s true love, he still shows his full respect for her as a wife and lives up to his responsibility as a husband. Upon her transformation to her beautiful self, Gawain does not regret his decision to allow her to choose for him. As a matter of fact, as noble as he is, even if Dame Ragnell had remained a hag, he would still treat her the best. According to the story, although their marriage lasts for only five years, and Gawain has many other wives afterward, he still loves her the best because of her uniqueness.