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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Passage AnalysisLines 2160-2238
We meet Beowulf as he approaches the Green Chapel. Riding on the horse given to him by Bercilak, Beowulf sees nothing more than "…a mound, A hillock high and broad, hard by the water, Where the stream fell in foam down the face of the steep And bubbled as if it boiled on its bed below." (Norton 212) He is quite perturbed when he realizes that this old, muddy, slimy, grassy hole in the ground is the very Green Chapel that he has been seeking. In the background, he hears the spinning of a grindstone sharpening what he presumes to be a "…great scythe!" (Norton 203), and yells out in anger "…that business Up there Is for my arrival, or else I am much misled. Let God work! Ah me! All hope of help has fled! Forfeit my life may be But noise I do not dread…Who has power in this place, high parley to hold? For none greets Sir Gawain, or gives him good day;.." (Norton 203) At that, a large figure appears from behind the crag, holding a hateful weapon. The Green Knight runs down the hill with his all-green ax in hand. Upon arriving at a nearby-stream, the Green Knight vaults over it using his ax as the pole, and lands accurately in front of Gawain.
The Green Knight thanks Gawain for keeping his word and showing up at the requested location at the proper time, and flatters him with compliments. They waste no time getting down to business.
The Knight attacks Gawain three times: 1) Gawain flinches just before the ax hits 2) Gawain remains steady but the Knight backs down 3) The Knight nicks Gawain on the neck
As a young boy, my favorite Disney animated motion picture was "The Sword in the Stone." It was the story of a young King Arthur and his adventures with Merlin prior to his becoming king. It's a children's version of the legendary tales written about the legendary Arthurian tales. I grew up thinking that there was nothing more to Arthur than what I saw in that movie. As I grew older, I asked my mom to take me to the library to look for books with the stories of King Arthur. I would read and read and read, never getting tired of the various adventures. Customarily, when the name "King Arthur" was said, the first thing that popped into my mind was Guinevere, Lancelot, Excalibur, Holy Grails, etc. Not once is the name Sir Gawain mentioned in any of the children's books that I read. Why is that?
If anyone knows that answer to that, please email me at NMavromoustakos@aol.com. I'd really like to know.
Gawain was Arthur's best knight way before Lancelot came into the picture. His adventures remain vast and interesting, as all legends should.
His most interesting appearance lies in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," where he is challenged and is tricked into [what he thinks is] certain death, by a magical green knight. Not his courage, or strength, or agility, but his honesty as a knight is put to the test; a test which he fails with great misery.
Another of the more famous appearances of Sir Gawain is in "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." This is a story borrowed from Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," "The Wife of Bath's Tale." Here, Arthur seeks out the answer to the question "what is it that all women most desire," and locates the answer with an old and hideous hag. The only condition for obtaining the correct answer is that Gawain must take as his wife the old hag. He gladly does so for his friend and lord. In the end, the hag changes into a…and they live happily ever...wait, I'm not giving away the ending. You'll just have to read it yourself to see what happens.
Gawain slowly but surly fades away when Lancelot arrives. It isn't until the fall of the round table when he makes another major appearance. It's too bad for that too. He would have made an excellent Disney movie. :)