The  Green  Knight's  Challenge!

The Castle of the Baron (aka The Green Knight) with moat and enchanted forest. Click here for a larger view!
The scene begins with the continuing description of the Green Knight as one who had come with "no helm, nor hauberk neither." The Green Knight has no helmet or armor. In his hands are a holly branch and an enormous green axe. The axe is described as having a head an ell in length. An ell is equivalent to forty-five inches. This is no ordinary axe. He claims that the branch shows he comes in peace but the axe belies his deadly mission. Although his green color may symbolize rebirth and the coming of spring, surely the axe is reminiscent of the executioner and the coming day of judgment.
The Green Knight rides directly up to the dais and demands the audience of the "captain of this crowd." At this point, no one has addressed him or tried to stop him. Surely good knights would not let a stranger ride unmolested into their midst. Instead, the knights marvel at the Green Knight's hue and wonder whether or not he is a faerie or a phantom. They sit in stunned silence until Arthur speaks up. Although the author claims that it was not strictly out of fear that they sat silently, but rather out of a measure of courtly grace, this explanation reads more like a retrospective apology rather than a statement of the facts.
Arthur comes forward and asks the Green Knight to step down from his horse and state his mission, but the Green Knight does things his own way. He mentions the praise that Arthur and his court have received in nearly mocking tones, saying that it is "puffed up so high" that he has sought them out. He says that he has come in peace or else he would have worn his armor. This proclamation is strange, for although he states that "I willed no war, I wore no metal," he is certainly carrying a significant piece of metal, the enormous green axe. The Green Knight's demeanor, and surely his axe, would not have seemed so peaceful to a band of knights in the middle ages. He then tells Arthur that he only requests his participation in a game. Arthur agrees to the game without question and the passage ends. The game, we learn later, is an exchange of blows to the neck with the axe, a year and a day apart.
All quotes from Norton. 206-208

This page and all graphics created by Lowell Wilson
Email Lowell