June 07, 2021

#08-093: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Part I

manuscript illumination of a king and several courtiers at a high table above; a man in green seated on a green horse, and holding up his own severed head; another man holding a large axe
The Green Knight disturbs King Arthur's feast

Note: When King Arthur's feast is disrupted by a not-so-jolly green giant, his nephew Gawain must step up and defend his honor--with dire consequences.

Get Ready: Would swinging an axe at someone's neck seem like a "game" to you?

One of the best-known examples of Arthurian literature is the story of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."

England's legendary King Arthur and his court--including the "Knights of the Round Table"--are holding their traditional New Year's Eve feast in Camelot. As custom dictates, the meal cannot begin until the king has been presented with an adventure.

As luck would have it, at this juncture in rides an enormous knight all dressed in green and riding a green horse. In one hand he bears a fine axe, in the other a bough of holly. He will not fight, he says, as none there is a match for his great strength, but instead he proposes a game: someone there is to take his axe and strike at his neck. Then, one year later to the day, that same person will present himself to the Green Knight (for that is how he is called) at a place called the Green Chapel, and he will return the favor. Furthermore, whoever is willing to play gets to keep the axe (much focus is made in medieval stories on the glories of particular weapons).

At first no one dares, but as Arthur himself is preparing to take up the challenge, Gawain, Arthur's youngest knight and his nephew, comes forward. The Green Knight bares his neck, Gawain swings, and off comes the head!

The unfazed Knight does not falter, but instead remounts his horse after picking up his head, which speaks to remind Gawain of his promise before the Knight rides out of the hall. The party--and especially Queen Guinevere--must shake off their memory of the grisly sight before continuing their celebration.

The year passes swiftly, and as New Year's approaches, Gawain sets out to fulfill his vow. It is hinted that he has many adventures before arriving on Christmas Eve at a splendid castle kept by a lord with a beautiful wife. Gawain's fame has preceded him, and the noble couple are pleased to have such a renowned guest. Gawain also notices an ugly old lady in the company, but though she is treated with great respect she is not introduced.

When Gawain explains his quest and asks if they know the location of the Green Chapel, the lord laughs and explains that it is less than two miles away, and Gawain should take his leisure with them until the time comes.

Now, this lord proposes another game: He will go out hunting every day. When he returns in the evening, he will give Gawain whatever he has gained, and Gawain is to do the same for him. Gawain agrees.

We'll see how things turn out in Lesson #08-094.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Gawain_and_the_Green_Knight

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. falter
  2. grisly
  3. preceded
  4. quest
  5. remounts
  6. renowned
  7. return the favor
  8. shake off
  9. take his leisure
  10. unfazed

  1. remove; be rid of
  2. do the same for someone
  3. hesitate; stumble
  4. gets back on
  5. not affected; undaunted
  6. came before
  7. famous
  8. a mission; a task
  9. relax
  10. gruesome; horrible

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 7, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. j; 3. f; 4. h; 5. d; 6. g; 7. b; 8. a; 9. i; 10. e