Sir Gawain:
The Ideal Knight

T hroughout the Arthurian legends, Sir Gawain seems to be the epitome of a noble knight. He is always putting his king before himself, repeatedly sacrificing his own life in some way for King Arthur. He is an honorable knight that lives up to his word. This is evident in both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell." In these stories, Gawain lives up to the expectations of a knight belonging to the legendary Round Table.

I n "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell," King Arthur is accused of unrightfully giving away Gromer Somer Joure's lands to Sir Gawain. Gromer Somer Joure asks Arthur a question, which Arthur must answer if he wants his life to be spared. Arthur, going against the instructions of Gromer Somer Joure, tells Gawain of his predicament. He tells Gawain that he must not speak of the situation to anyone else. Gawain responds by telling Arthur, "I am not that man that wold you dishonour." ("Ragnell" 150) It is apparent that Gawain is an honorable person that keeps his word. Arthur would not confide in him, otherwise.

G awain's commitment to King Arthur is even more evident as the story goes on. Arthur finds an old hag, Dame Ragnell, who knows the answer to the question he has been asked. She asks in return, "Thou must graunt me a knighte to wed--his name is Sir Gawen." ("Ragnell" 280-281) Arthur cannot agree to this without consulting Gawain. When Arthur tells Gawain about his encounter with the hag, Gawain brushes it off as if it is nothing. He does not fear marrying the hag as long as it will spare the life of King Arthur. He says to Arthur with great confidence:

Is this alle?
I shalle wed her and wed her again,
Thoughe she were a fend,
Thoughe she were as foulle as Belsabub,
Her shalle I wed, by the rood,
Or elles were not I your frende;
For ye ar my king withe honour
And have worshipt me in many a stoure.
Therfor shalle I not let.
To save your life, lorde, it were my parte,
Or were I false and a great coward; ("Ragnell" 342-352)
Gawain is willing to put his welfare on the line to save his king and friend. He says that he would be a coward and without honor if he lets King Arthur die knowing that all he must do to save him is to marry a woman, although she is quite disgusting.

G awain shows his nobleness once again when Dame Ragnell tells him that she can make herself either beautiful at night or during the day, but he can only choose one of the two. He tells her, "The choise I put in your fist. Evin as ye wolle, I put it in your hand, lose me when ye list, for I am bond." ("Ragnell" 678-680) He shows that he is not concerned with her appearance; it is up to her to decide when she would like to look beautiful.

I n Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Gawain exemplifies all the traits of a noble knight. When King Arthur accepts the Green Knight's challenge, Gawain steps in. He cannot allow the King to put his life on the line. Gawain says to King Arthur:
I find it not fit, as in faith it is known,
When such a boon is begged before all these knights,
Though you be tempted thereto, to take it on yourself
While so bold men about upon benches sit,
That no host under heaven is hardier of will,
Nor better brothers-in-arms where battle is joined;
I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest;
And the loss of my life would be least of any;
That I have you for uncle is my only praise;
My body, but for your blood, is barren of worth;
And for that this folly befits not a king. (Green Knight 348-358)
Gawain realizes that the loss of King Arthur's life would be a tragedy and offers to take his place in the challenge. He humbly says that he is worth the least of any of the knights, but when all is said and done, he is a step above them. Gawain shows his loyalty, courage and honor by taking Arthur's place.

S ir Gawain has the distinction of being one of the bravest, honorable, yet still humble, knights in King Arthur's court. He never falters in the time of need. Gawain is always there when he is relied upon. He is what every knight should aspire to be.

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