In, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight challenges King Arthur’s court to the beheading game, and no one accepts the game. As a reaction King Arthur accepts the challenge. Sir Gawain then asks the king if he can take the challenge because he is expendable and if he dies, the kingdom will still have their king. He takes his swing, cutting off the Green Knight’s head. To much surprise, the Green Knight picks up his head, tells Sir Gawain where to find him, and rides off.
His wish is granted. The passage begins as King Arthur calls Sir Gawain to his side to give him his weapon and blessing. As Gawain kneels before his lord, King Arthur says: "Keep, cousin what you cut with this day, and if you rule it aright, then readily, I know, you shall stand the stroke it will strike after." (Norton p. 210) With these words King Arthur implies that since Sir Gawain has the first hit, he has nothing to worry about, since the Green Knight will be dead and unable to return the blow. The Green Knight asks Gawain to go over the terms of the game and asks to know his name.
Feeling as if the honor of Camelot is being threatened, King Arthur accepts the challenge. However, Sir Gawain intercepts the challenge before Arthur can formally accept. Gawain welcomes the contest and chops off the head of the Green Knight who dryly smirks and picks up the severed body part. He then reminds Gawain of his promise: to accept a return blow a year and day from the first. The Green Knight rides off with his severed head in his hand, and the hall rejoices from the display of Gawain's bravery.
He will allow someone to strike him with his ax, as long as they agree to find him in one year to accept the return blow. The Green Knight looks around to see if anyone will accept his challenge, and he begins to taunt and laugh at the knights. King Arthur is enraged at the stranger's laughter, and he stands up to accept the challenge. He takes the ax, and the Green Knight dismounts and prepares for the blow. However, before Arthur can strike the blow, Sir Gawain speaks up, asking if he can replace the King in this game because he does not think the King should take the responsibility upon himself.
“For that scalp and skull now swung from his fist; to the noblest at the table he turned to face and it opened its eyelids, stared straight ahead and spoke this speech,-“(Sir Gawain and The Green Knight ln.444-447). He said Sir Gawain would have to come find him in a year, or be claimed a coward forever. Not only would Sir Gawain have to face a magical immortal man, but he would have to go on a mysterious journey to find him. On his trip Gawain is tiered and lost, but starts to see a shimmering castle that is hidden by magic. “He stopped and stared at one side of that stronghold as it sparkled and shone within shimmering oaks,-“(Sir Gawain and The Green Knight ln.771-772).
As he tries to perform the first part of the challenge, he stumbles into an even bigger surprise. As Gawain hits the Green Knight with an ax, the head of the Green Knight falls on the floor. Instead of the Green Knight falling, he jumps up, grabs his head and leaves, with these final words: "Sir Gawain forget not to go as agreed…To the Green Chapel come, I charge you to take such a dint as you have dealt – you have well deserved that your head should have a knock on New Year's morn." (Norton Anthology,211) The year goes by, and Gawain prepares for his long journey. When the final day comes, Sir Gawain is given a farewell celebration, and armed with a ceremony, off he goes.
He is successful, as the king promises to take the game, although he does not know what it is yet. The Green Knight comes into the hall where King Arthur and his knights feast on a horse, and does not greet anyone. He carries a huge axe with "The Spike of green steel" (Norton 207) and with green engravings. He carries no armor and no other weapons. When he enters, not only he does not greet the people present, but he looks down rudely at them and asks: "Where is the captain of this crowd?
Just as he begins to agree to the terms Sir Gawain jumps up and asks to take on the test himself. He grips the axe and cuts off the knight’s head in one fatal blow. To everyone’s surprise the headless knight now picks up his head and restates the terms of the pact to remind Gawain in a years’ time they are to meet at the Green Chapel so he can return his blow. The author of the article Catherine Swanson says that the story is good and important. The time finally comes for Sir Gawain to take the journey to the Green Chapel to meet up with the Green Knight as he previously agreed.
The Green Knight disrupts a Christmas celebration taking place in Camelot, and offers a contest: an exhange of ax-strokes. Gawain takes up the contest and chops off the head of the Green Knight who survives through magical means. Gawain sets forth to accept the return blow which is to take place a year and one day from the first. While Gawain is searching for the Green Knight's chapel, he is taken in by a great lord named Bercilak who puts Gawain's honesty and integrity to the test. In parrying Bercilak's wife's attempts at seduction with gentlemanly skill, Gawain passes this moral test.
If Sir Gawain chops off the Green Knight's head, one would think that the Green Knight would die. So why does the Green Knight ask to meet Sir Gawain in a year and a day to return the strike? The answer to this question shows the Green Knight's supernatural powers because he knows that he is not going to die because of the strike. The Green Knight appears to have a hidden agenda, which will be revealed at the end of the story. As a reward for the knight who is brave enough to participate in the game, the Green Knight gives him his ax to keep and use for the game.