Heroes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Joseph Campbell

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Heroes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Joseph Campbell

Many would agree that although there are many stories about heroes, they all seem similar in some way. Joseph Campbell wrote many books about this theory of a "hero cycle" that every hero story follows. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this pattern is clearly exemplified and it shows the numerous steps in Joseph Campbell's idea of the hero cycle.

The first step in Campbell's hero cycle is "the call." This is when the hero of the story is drawn into some type of journey, challenge, or adventure. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this step occurs after the Green Knight enters the castle and requests a challenge, and no one but King Arthur will accept it. Then, Sir Gawain says, "I beseech you uncle, to grant me a kindness. Let this contest be mine. Gentle lord, give me permission to leave this table and stand in your place there" (Ponsor 127). Gawain believes that he is the least brave knight in the court and should take the blame if he fails so that it does not rest on the court since it is such a foolish challenge in the first place. So Arthur grants him his request and wishes him good luck. The second phase of the hero cycle is called "crossing the threshold." This is when the hero crosses his ordinary, everyday world and enters the dark, unknown area where his challenge awaits him. This happens when the story states, "Gawain walked, ax in hand, to the Green Knight, who had been waiting patiently" (Ponsor 127). Gawain then faces his first challenge with the Green Knight.

There are many trials the hero goes through in his adventure, which makes up the third step of Campbell's hero cycle. Gawain's first trial is in the castle when he takes over A...

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...ble to admit that he was dishonest and proved that the knights at the Round Table were all just as honorable as he. The return occurs after the Green Knight and Sir Gawain embrace each other in friendship and Sir Gawain heads back to Camelot. He was given his life back, and the green scarf as a reminder that he had committed a sin. He was a stronger knight and had learned a valuable lesson when he returned to King Arthur's court.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a great example of the hero cycle. There are many other stories that follow Joseph Campbell's theory, which is why I agree with him. Being familiar with the hero cycle makes these stories easier to predict and interpret. We can refer to the hero cycle when we want to find out why the hero goes on his journey, what he wants to accomplish, and what good he has done for the rest of his people.

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