Who is the Green Knight? The Green Knight is described as an unusual and supernatural figure in the fourteenth century story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Throughout the story he is portrayed as a very confident individual who intends to play a game with one of the knights of the Round Table. In doing this, the Green Knight hopes to show that the knights of the Round Table indeed have flaws and weaknesses; this is the Green Knight's overall goal. However, the Green Knight himself can be viewed as a being prone to flaws and experiencing weaknesses.
However when Gawain asks the Green Knight where his home could be found, the Green Knight delays his answer, saying that Gawain will know soon enough after the blow where to find him. Not finding out the true identity of the Green Knight may be Gawain's first mistake. It is always important to know your enemies, especially when a very big, very green knight, who comes out of nowhere, presents one with a challenge. Having resolved the terms of the agreement, the Green Knight gets ready for the blow by kneeling down and moving his long green hair away from his neck. Gawain skillfully grips the ax and strikes the Green Knight with all his might, cutting through the flesh with such force that the blade ends up in the ground.
However, the real test of the Green Knight isn't about strength or swordsmanship. It's a test of character. During Christmas at Camelot, the celebration is interrupted by the entrance of the Green Knight. He offers (or demands) a contest: an exchange of axe-strokes. Feeling as if the honor of Camelot is being threatened, King Arthur accepts the challenge.
Though Gawain sits at the high table during the New Year’s celebration at Arthur’s court, he defines himself as the least of King Arthur’s knights in terms of both physical ability and mental aptitude. Gawain continually seeks to better improve his inner self throughout the story. His only known flaw proves to be his love to preserve his own life, so much that he will sacrifice his honor in order to save himself. When the Green Knight arrives at Camelot, he challenges Arthur’s court, mocking the knights for being afraid of mere words, and suggesting that words and appearances hold too much power with them. Although the Green Knight basically tricks Gawain, by not telling him about his supernatural capabilities before asking him to agree to his terms, Gawain refuses to withdraw of their agreement.
In every great work of literature, archetypes appear throughout the story, playing a key role in helping the audience understand the story. Examples of these archetypes are the boon, the magic weapon, and the refusal of the call. Archetypes like these help us capture what the story seems to really be about. In the story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a knight of Camelot must go on a quest to keep the value of his home, Camelot. During this quest, he seeks a green knight to chop off his head; however after this quest, he discovers that the green knight was not really his enemy but, the one that would change him.
While Arthur seeks pleasure in hearing tales “of some fair feat” (92), the Green Knight undermines all formality known to be chivalrous challenging the king to a life risking game. With a “broad neck to buttocks” (137), (opposed to Arthur’s’ court depicted in the ever regal color red,) the Knight is clothed in green, the color of nature. He appears with no armor other then his faith, merely a utilitarian woodsman’s ax. While Green Knight is described like an animal who is said to have “wagged his beard” (306) yet understands the cyclical nature of life and truth of mans futility, it is only after Sir Gawain proclaims his lack of strength (though he says it at that point as a matter of chivalry) that he is able to ... ... middle of paper ... ...Gawain’s time in the wilderness, living nature, and his acceptance of the lady’s offering of the green girdle teach him that though he may be the most chivalrous knight in the land, he is nevertheless human and capable of error. Through jest of a game the Green knight enlightens Gawain the short sights of chivalry.
Sir Gawain takes on the task. The beheading game threatens Gawain’s life—it is a game where two people take one turn to chop of the other’s head; the game is brought to Gawain by the Green Knight, a representative of the natural world, and therefore it is the natural world that threatens Gawain’s life. This beheading game is for the purpose of a fair exchange and keeping one’s word, something that the Knights of the Round Table claim to have throughout their lives, no matter what they’re faced with. It is essentially a test on the actual civility that these knights—Gawain specifically—hold when faced with a threat to their life. This is the natural world testing the civilization, making it a separation and conflict between the two.
Sir Gawain appears, as a real hero and a noble knight, almost from the very beginning of the poem when he is accepting the challenge of the Green Knight. No one is brave enough to accept the beheading game proposed by the Green Knight, and if no one of the knights will accept the challenge, then king Arthur has to accept it, so that he and his knights will not be regarded as cowards. Sir Gawain, as a noble knight who truly serves his king, takes the challenge upon himself when he says to the Arthur, " Would you grant me the grace"
Gawain knows that he is not the strongest, smartest knight but the loss of his life would not be as bad as if King Arthur loses his life. King Arthur agrees to let him enter this game and gives him a weapon to use against this Green Knight. King Arthur says to Sir Gawain, "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." (372-374) Gawain, with his weapon in his hand, is now ready to take part in the game. Before the contest starts, the Green Knight goes over the rules of the game again.
When the Green Knight challenged the knights of King Arthur for a game, and King Arthur volunteered, it was Sir Gawain who stepped in. Sir Gawain was quick to explain to Arthur, “When a challenge like this rings through your hall/To take it yourself . . . For battle.