Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

As with so many stories written in the Middle Ages Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is filled with wonders, magic and knightly pursuit of fame and nobility. It combines folklore and romance as does, according to The Norton Anthology, no other known work. The character of the Green Knight fascinates and amuses. Most people would not think of it as an Arthurian-time creature. The Green Man in fact, is a part of an ancient folklore where the beheading of a green man would assure the return of spring next year.

The passage that I am discussing takes place almost a year after the Green Knight has visited King Arthur's court to challenge the court. He has specifically challenged Sir Gawain who steps forward to accept the challenge. The passage starts with the appearance of a castle. This is very significant to the story, and this fact is communicated to the reader in the description of the castle and even by the initial fact that it appears so suddenly and so very conveniently after Sir Gawain's prayer.

Sir Gawain has been suffering, trying to find the Green Knight. The Green Knight has set a date on which they will meet, and Sir Gawain, as is the custom for knights, has to keep his promise that he will fight him. Furthermore, Sir Gawain is the best of King Arthur's knights and his five-pointed star symbol on his shield stands for truth so there is no way he will not keep his promise.

We are made aware of the importance of the castle first when it just suddenly appears from nowhere and secondly when we notice it is set in a green field. The green field makes no sense to the reader because it is the middle of winter, but it does signify the fact that the appearance of the castle is not acci...

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...ain is not aware of. Sir Gawain is just grateful that he has found this castle (or that he has been led there) and that he will have a place where he can spend Christmas day. He does not see all the symbols that make this castle special.

From all the clues that the author gives us, we know that the castle is crucial for the story as well as for Gawain's life. He is not aware of it, but the castle is the place where he is tested, and ultimately his future is decided there. It is very typical of this kind of story to include such symbols, like the castle, to convey to the reader that whatever happens there should be remembered because it is important part of the story.


1. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In The Norton Anthology of Literature. Ed.

M.H.Abrams, et al. Vol I. Sixth Edition. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1993, pp 200-

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