• Home

Gawain and the Green Knight

Discuss the difference between heroism and monstrosity in Gawain and the Green Knight. How do different episodes within the poem define these terms, and how do they designate certain characteristics as heroic or monstrous?


· Your initial response should be at least 500 words in length

· Use MLA format for any quotations or citations that you use to support your answer. Use size 12 font, one-inch margins, and double-spacing.


Hunt, Lynn, et al. The Making of the West: People and Cultures. 6th ed., Macmillan Learning, 2019. Combined volume.

· Chapter 10: Commercial Quickening and Religious Reform, 1050–1150

· Chapter 11: The Flowering of the Middle Ages, 1150–1215

Anonymous. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by W. A. Neilson, 1999.

Select the link to read 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


These supplemental resources are available for your review and for additional information:

· What is Magna Carta? (Links to an external site.)

· How Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts Were Made: A Step-by-Step Look at This Beautiful, Centuries-Old Craft (Links to an external site.)

· Why a Medieval Woman Had Lapis Lazuli Hidden in Her Teeth (Links to an external site.)

· Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | A Literary Detective Walking Weekend

Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and
The Green Knight

translated by

W. A. Neilson

In parentheses Publications
Middle English Series

Cambridge, Ontario 1999


1. After the siege and the assault had ceased at Troy, the city been
destroyed and burned to brands and ashes, the warrior who wrought
there the trains of treason was tried for his treachery, the truest on
earth.1 This was Aeneas the noble; he and his high kindred afterwards
conquered provinces, and became patrons of well nigh all the wealth in
the West Isles. As soon as rich Romulus turns him to Rome, with great
pride he at once builds that city, and names it with his own name, which
it now has; Ticius turns to Tuscany and founds dwellings; Longobard
raises homes in Lombardy; and, far over the French flood, Felix Brutus
establishes Britain joyfully on many broad banks, where war and waste
and wonders by turns have since dwelt, and many a swift interchange of
bliss and woe.

2. And when this Britain was founded by this great hero, bold men
loving strife bred therein, and many a time they wrought destruction.
More strange things have happened in this land since these days than in
any other that I know, but of all the British kings that built here, Arthur
was ever the most courteous, as I have heard tell. Therefore, I mean to
tell of an adventure in the world, which some count strange and
extraordinary even among the wonders of Arthur. If ye will listen to this
lay but a little while, I will tell it forthright as I heard it told in town, as
it is set down in story that cannot be changed, long written in the land in
true words.

3. This King lay royally at Camelot at Christmas tide with many fine
lords, the best of men, all the rich brethren of the Round Table, with
right rich revel and careless mirth. There full many heroes tourneyed
betimes, jousted full gaily; then returned these gentle knights to the court
to make carols.2 For there the feast was held full fifteen days alike with


all the meat and the mirth that men could devise. Such a merry tumult,
glorious to hear; joyful din by day, dancing at night. All was high joy in
halls and chambers with lords and ladies as pleased them best. With all
the weal in the world they dwelt there together, the most famous
knights save only Christ, the loveliest ladies that ever had life, and he,
the comeliest of kings, who holds the court. For all this fair company
were in their prime in the hall, the happiest troop under heaven with the
proudest of kings. Truly it would be hard to name anywhere so brave a

4. When New Year was fresh and but newly come, the court was
served double on the dais. As soon as the king with his knights was
come into the hall, the chanting in the chapel came to an end; loud was
the cry there of clerks and others. Noel was celebrated anew, shouted
full often; and afterwards the great ones ran about to take handsel;3
called aloud for New YearÕs gifts; ladies laughed full loud, though they
had lost; and he that won was not wroth, that may ye well trow. All this
mirth they made till the meat time. When they had washed, worthily
they went to their seats, the best man ever above, as it best behoved.
Queen Guinevere full beauteous was set in the midst, placed on the rich
dais adorned all about. Fine silk at the sides, a canopy over her of
precious cloth of Toulouse and tapestries of Tars,4 that were
embroidered and set with the best gems that money could buy. Truly no
man could say that he ever beheld a comelier lady than she, with her
dancing gray eyes.

5. But Arthur would not eat till all were served. He was so merry in
his mirth, and somewhat childlike in his manner; his life pleased him
well; he loved little either to lie long or to sit long, so busied him his
young blood and his wild brain. And another custom moved him also,
that he through chivalry had taken up; he would never eat upon such a
dear day before he was told an uncouth tale of some adventurous thing,
of some great marvel that he could believe, of ancient heroes, of arms, or
of other adventures; or unless some person demanded of him a sure
knight to join with him in jousting, to incur peril, to risk life against life,
trusting each in the other, leaving the victory to fortune. This was the
kingÕs custom whenever he held court at each goodly feast among his


free company in the hall. And so with undaunted face he strides stoutly
to his seat on that New Year, making great mirth with everybody.

6. Thus the great king stands waiting before the high table, talking of
trifles full courteously. The good Gawain was placed there beside
Guinevere, and Agravain of the Hard Hand sat on the other side, both of
them the kingÕs sisterÕs sons and full sure knights. Bishop Baldwin at the
top begins the table, and Ywain, UrienÕs son, ate by himself. These were
placed on the dais and honorably served, and after them many a good
man at the side tables. Then the first course came in with blare of
trumpets, which were hung with many a bright banner. A new noise of
kettle-drums with the noble pipes, wild and stirring melodies wakened
the echoes; that many a heart heaved full high at their tones. Dainties of
precious meats followed, foison of fresh viands, and on so many dishes
that it was difficult to find place before the people to set on the cloth the
silver that held the several courses. Each man as he himself preferred
partook without hesitation. Every two5 had twelve dishes between them,
good beer and bright wine both.

7. Now will I tell you no more of their service, for everybody must
well understand that there was no lack of opportunity for the people to
take their food. 6 Another noise full new suddenly drew nigh, for
scarcely had the music ceased a moment, and the first course been
properly served in the court, than there burst in at the hall door an
awesome being, in height one of the tallest men in the world; from the
neck to the waist so square and so thick was he, and his loins and his
limbs so long and so great, that half giant I believed him to have been,
or, at any rate, the largest of men, and withal the handsomest in spite of
his bulk, that ever rode; for though his back and breast were so vast, yet
his belly and waist were properly slim; and all his form according, full
fairly shaped. At the hue of his noble face men wondered; he carried
himself in hostile fashion and was entirely green.

8. All green was this man and his clothing; a straight coat sat tight to
his sides; a fair mantle above, adorned within; the lining showed, with
costly trimming of shining white fur; and such his hood also, that was
caught back from his locks and lay on his shoulders, the hem well
stretched;7 hose of the same green, that clung to his calf; and clean spurs
under, of bright gold upon silk bands richly barred, and shoes8 on his


shanks as the hero rides. And all his vesture verily was clean verdure,
both the bars of his belt, and the other beauteous stones that were set in
fine array about himself and his saddle, worked on silk. It would be too
difficult to tell the half of the trifles that were embroidered there, with
birds and flies, with gay gauds of green,Ñthe good over in the middle;
the pendants of the poitrel, the proud crupper, the bits,Ñand all the
metal was enamelled; the stirrups that he stood on were coloured the
same, and his saddle bow likewise, and his fine reins 9 that glimmered
and glinted all of green stones. The horse that he rode on was of the
same colour too, a green horse, great and thick, a steed full stiff to guide,
in gay embroidered bridle, and one right dear to his master.

9. This hero was splendidly dressed in green; and the hair of his head
matched that of his horse;10 fair flowing locks enfolded his shoulders; a
beard as big as a bush hung over his breast; and it, together with his
splendid hair that reached from his head, was trimmed evenly all round
above his elbows, so that half his arms were caught thereunder in the
manner of a kingÕs hood, 11 that covers his neck. The mane of that great
horse was much like it, very curly and combed, with knots full many
folded in with gold wire about the fair green,Ñalways one knot of the
hair, another of gold. The tail and the forelock were twined in the same
way, and both bound with a band of bright green, set with full precious
stones the whole length of the dock, and then tied up with a thong in a
tight knot; where rang many bells full bright of burnished gold. Such a
steed in the world, such a hero as rides him, was never beheld in that
hall before that time. His glances were like bright lightning, so said all
that saw him. It seemed as if no man could endure under his blows.

10. He had neither helm nor hauberk, nor gorget, armour nor
breastplate, nor shaft nor shield to guard or to smite; but in his one hand
he had a holly twig, that is greenest when groves are bare, and an axe in
his other, a huge and prodigious one, a weapon merciless almost beyond
description; the head had the vast length of an ellyard, the blade all of
green steel and of beaten gold; the bit 12 brightly burnished, with a broad
edge, as well shaped for cutting as sharp razors. The stern warrior
gripped it by13 the steel of its stout staff, which was wound with iron to
the end of the wood and all engraven with green in beauteous work. A
lace was lapped about it, that was fastened at the head, and tied up often


along the helve, with many precious tassels attached on rich embroidered
buttons of the bright green. This hero turns him in and enters the hall,
riding straight to the high dais, fearless of mischief. He greeted never a
one, but looked loftily about, and the first word that he uttered was:
ÒWhere is the governor of this company? Gladly I would see that hero
and speak with him.Ó

He cast his eye on the knights and rode fiercely up and down,
stopped and gan ponder who was there the most renowned.

11. All gazed fixedly on the man, for everybody marvelled what it
might mean, that a knight and a horse could have such a colour: as green
grown as the grass, and greener, it seemed; shining brighter than green
enamel on gold. All were amazed who stood there, and stalked nearer to
him, with all the wonder in the world what he would do; for many
marvels had they seen, but such never before. Therefore for phantom
and faery the folk there deemed it; and for that reason many a noble
warrior was slow to answer, and all were astonished at his voice and sat
stone still in a deep silence through the rich hall. Their voices14 sank as
though they had suddenly fallen asleep. I deem, however, that it was not
all for fear, but somewhat for courtesy. But now let him to whom all
defer undertake the wight.

12. Then Arthur before the high dais beheld that adventure, and
saluted the stranger properly, for never was he afraid, and said, ÒSir,
welcome indeed to this place. I am called Arthur, the head of this hostel.
Light courteously down and tarry, I pray thee; and whatso thy will is we
shall wit after.Ó

ÒNay, so help me he that sits on high,Ó quoth the hero. ÒTo dwell any
time in this house was not my errand; but because the fame of this people
is lifted up so high, and thy town and thy men are held the best, the
stoutest in steel gear on steeds to ride, the wightest and the worthiest of
the worldÕs kind, and proved opponents in other proper sports; and here
courtesy is known, as I have heard tell,Ñit is this that has enticed me
hither certainly at this time. You may be sure by this branch that I bear
here that I pass in peace and seek no quarrel; for if I had set out with a
company in fighting fashion, I have a hauberk at home and a helm both, a
shield and a sharp spear shining bright, and other weapons to wield, I
ween well also; but since I wished no war, my weeds are softer. Now if


thou be as bold as all men tell, thou wilt grant me graciously the game
that I ask.Ó

Arthur knew how to answer, and said: ÒSir courteous knight, if it is
battle that thou cravest, thou shalt not fail of a fight here.Ó

13. ÒNay, I demand no fight; in faith I tell thee there are but beardless
children about on this bench. If I were hasped in arms on a high steed
there is no man here to match me, their might is so weak. Therefore I
crave in this court a Christmas game, for it is Yule and New Year, and
here are many gallants. If there be a man in this house who holds himself
so hardy, is so bold in his blood, so rash in his head, that he dares stiffly
strike one stroke for another, I shall give him as my gift this rich gisarm,
this axe, that is heavy enough, to handle as he likes; and I shall abide the
first blow as bare as I sit. If any warrior be wight enough to try what I
propose, let him leap lightly to me and take this weaponÑI quit-claim it
forever, let him keep it as his ownÑand I shall stand him a stroke firmly
on this floor. At another time, by our Lady, thou wilt grant me the boon
of dealing him another blow; I will give him respite of a twelvemonth
and a day. Now hie, and let us see quickly if any herein dare say aught.Ó

14. If he had astonished them at first, stiller were then all the
retainers in hall, the high and the low. The warrior on his steed settled
himself in his saddle, and fiercely his red eyes he reeled about; bent his
thick brows, shining green; and waved his beard, awaiting whoso would
rise. When none would answer him he coughed aloud, stretched himself
haughtily and began to speak; ÒWhat! Is this ArthurÕs house,Ó said the
hero then, Òthat is famous through so many realms? Where is now your
pride and your conquests, your fierceness, and your wrath and your
great words? Now is the revel and the renown of the Round Table
overcome by the word of a single man; for all tremble for dread without
a blow shown.Ó

With this he laughed so loud that the lord grieved; the blood shot for
shame into his fair face. He waxed as wroth as the wind; and so did all
that were there. The king so keen of mood then stood near that proud

15. ÒSir,Ó said he, Òby heaven thy asking is foolish; and as thou hast
demanded folly, it behooves thee to find it. I know no man that is aghast


of thy great words. Give me now this gisarm, for GodÕs sake, and I will
grant thy boon that thou has bidden.Ó

Quickly he leaped to him and caught at his hand; and the other
alights fiercely on foot. Now Arthur has his axe, and grips the helve; he
whirls it sternly about as if he meant to strife with it. The bold stranger
stood upright before him, higher than any in the house by a head and
more; with stern cheer he stood there, stroked his beard, and with cool
countenance drew down his coat, no more afraid or dismayed for
ArthurÕs great strokes than if some one had brought him a drink of wine
upon the bench.

Gawain, that sat by the queen, turned to the king: ÒI beseech now
with all courtesy that this affair might be mine.Ó

16. ÒWould ye, worthy lord,Ó quoth Gawain to the king, Òbid me step
from this bench and stand by you there,Ñthat I without rudeness might
leave this table and that my liege lady liked it not illÑI would come to
your help before your rich court; for methinks it is obviously unseemly
that such an asking is made so much of in your hall, even though ye
yourself be willing to take it upon you, while so many bold ones sit
about you on the bench; than whom, I ween, none under heaven are
higher of spirit, nor more mighty on the field where strike is reared. I am
the weakest, I know, and feeblest of wit; and to tell the truth there
would be the least loss in my life. I am only to praise forasmuch as ye are
my uncle; no other nobility than your blood know I in my body. And
since this adventure is so foolish, it belongs not to you; I have asked it of
you first; give it to me. Let this great court decide15 if I have not spoken

The heroes took counsel together and they all gave the same
advice,Ñto free the crowned king and give the game to Gawain.

17. Then the king commanded Gawain to rise from the table; and he
right quickly stood up and made himself ready, kneeled down before the
king and took the weapon; and Arthur lovingly left it to him, lifted up
his hand and gave him GodÕs blessing, and gladly bade him be hardy
both of heart and of hand. ÒTake care, cousin,Ó quoth the king, Òthat
thou give him a cut; and if thou handle him properly, I readily believe
that thou shalt endure the blow which he shall give after.Ó


Gawain goes to the man with gisarm in hand; and he boldly awaits
him, shrinking never a whit. Then speaks to Sir Gawain the knight in the
green; ÒRehearse we our agreement before we go farther. First, I conjure
thee, hero, how thou art called, that thou tell me it truly, so that I may
believe it.Ó

ÒIn good faith,Ó quoth the knight, ÒGawain am I called, who give you
this buffet, whatever befalls after; and at this time twelvemonth I am to
take from thee another with whatever weapon thou wilt, and from no
wight else alive.Ó

The other answers again, ÒSir Gawain, so thrive I as I am heartily
glad that thou shalt give this blow.Ó

18. ÒBy Gog,Ó quoth the green knight, ÒSir Gawain, it delights me
that I am to get at thy fist what I have requested here; and thou hast
readily and truly rehearsed the whole of the covenant that I asked of the
king, save that thou shalt assure me, sir, by thy troth, that thou wilt seek
me thyself wheresoever thou thinkest I may be found upon the earth,
and fetch for thyself such wages as thou dealest me today before this rich

ÒWhere should I seek thee?Ó quoth Gawain. ÒWhere is thy place? I
know never where thou livest, by him that wrought me; nor do I know
thee, knight, thy court, nor thy name. But tell me truly the way and how
thou art called, and I will use all my wit to win my way thither,Ñand
that I swear thee, for a sooth, and by my sure troth.Ó

ÒNew Year will suffice for that; no more is needed now,Ó quoth the
man in green to Gawain the courteous. ÒTo tell the truth, after I have
received thy tap, and thou hast smitten me well, I shall promptly inform
thee of my house and my home and mine own name. Then thou mayest
inquire about my journey and hold promise; and if I speak no speech,
then thou speedest the better, for thou mayest linger at ease in thy land
and seek no further. Take now thy grim tool to thee and let us see how
thou knockest.Ó

ÒGladly, sir, for sooth,Ó quoth Gawain as he strokes his axe.
19. The green knight on the ground prepared himself properly. With

the head a little bowed he disclosed the flesh. His long, lovely locks he
laid over his crown, and let the naked nape of his neck show for the
blow. Gawain gripped his axe and gathered it on high; the left foot he set


before on the ground, and let the axe light smartly down on the naked
flesh,16 so that the sharp edge severed the giantÕs bones, and shrank
through the clear flesh 17 and sheared it in twain, till the edge of the
brown steel bit into the ground. The fair head fell from the neck to the
earth, and many pushed it with their feet where it rolled forth. The
blood burst from the body and glistened on the green. Yet never faltered
nor fell the hero for all that; but stoutly he started up with firm steps,
and fiercely he rushed forth where the heroes stood, caught his lovely
head, and lifted it up straightaway. Then he turned to his steed, seized
the bridle, stepped into the steel bow and strode aloft, holding the head
in his hand by the hair; and as soberly the man sat in his saddle as if no
mishap had ailed him, though he was headless on the spot. He turned his
trunk aboutÑthat ugly body that bled. Many a one of them thought that
he had lost his reason.

20. For he held the head straight up in his hand; turned the face
toward the highest on the dais; and it lifted up the eyelids and looked
straight out, and spoke thus much with his mouth, as ye may now hear:
ÒLook Gawain, that thou be ready to go as thou has promised, and seek
loyally, hero, till thou find me; as thou has promised in this hall in the
hearing of these knights. To the green chapel go thou, I charge thee, to
receive such a blow as thou has dealt. Thou deservest to be promptly
paid on New YearÕs morn. 18 As the knight of the green chapel many men
know me; therefore, if thou strivest to find me, thou shalt never fail. And
so come, or it behooves thee to be called recreant.Ó

With a wild rush he turned the reins, and flew out at the hall
doorÑhis head in his handÑso that the fire of the flint flew from the
foalÕs hoofs. To what country he vanished knew none there; no more
than they wist whence he was come. The king and Gawain roared with
laughter at that green man; but this adventure was reckoned a marvel
among men.

21. Though the courteous king wondered in his heart, he let no
semblance be seen, but said aloud to the comely queen with courteous
speech, ÒDear dame, today be never dismayed; well becoming are such
tricks at Christmas, in lack of entertainment, to laugh and sing about
among these pleasant carols of knights and ladies. Nevertheless I may
well go to my meat, for I can not deny that I have seen a marvel.Ó He


glanced at Sir Gawain and said cheerfully, ÒNow, sir, hang up thine axe;
it has hewn enough.Ó And it was put above the dais to hang on the
tapestry where all men might marvel at it, and by it avouch the
wonderful happening. Then they turned to the board, these heroes
togetherÑthe king and the good knightÑand the keen men served them
double of all dainties, as was most fitting; with all manner of meat, and
minstrelsy both. They spent that day in joy until it came to an end. Now
take care, Sir Gawain, that thou blench not for the pain to prosecute this
adventure that thou has taken on hand.



1. This hansel of adventures had Arthur at the beginning, in the
young year, since he yearned to hear boasting. Although there was little
news when they went to their seats, now they are provided with stern
work,19 their hands quite full. Gawain was glad to begin those games in
the hall; but it would not be surprising if the end were heavy; for though
men be merry in mind when they have much drink, yet a year runs full
swiftly, and yields never the same; the beginning full seldom matches the
end. And so this Yule went by, and the year after it, each season in turn
following the other. After Christmas came the crabbed Lent, that tries
the flesh with fish and more simple food. But then the weather of the
world quarrels with winter, and though the cold still clings, the clouds
lift; copiously descends the rain in warm showers, and falls upon the fair
earth. Flowers show there; green are the garments both of fields and of
groves; birds hurry to build, and lustily they sing for the solace of the
soft summer, that follows thereafter. Blossoms swell into bloom in rows
rich and rank; and lovely notes are heard in the beauteous wood.

2. After the season of summer with the soft winds, when Zephyrus
blows on seeds and herbs, happy is the plant that waxes then, when the
dank dew drops from the leaves, to await the blissful glance of the bright
sun. But then harvest hastens and hardens it soon: warns it to wax full
ripe against the winter. He drives with drought the dust to rise,Ñfrom
the face of the earth to fly full high. The wild wind of the welkin
wrestles with the sun. The leaves fall from the bough and light on the
ground. The grass becomes all gray that erst was green. Then all ripes
and rots that which formerly flourished; and thus runs the year in
yesterdays many; and winter returns again without asking any man,20 till


the Michelmas moon has come in wintry wise. Then thinks Gawain full
soon of his anxious voyage.

3. Yet till Allhallows day with Arthur he lingers; and Arthur made a
feast on that festival for the heroÕs sake, with great and gay revel of the
Round Table. Knights full courteous and comely ladies all for love of that
man were in sorrow; but nevertheless they spoke only of mirth; and
many a joyless one there made jests for his gentle sake. After meat he
mournfully addresses his uncle, and speaks of his passage, and openly he
saysÑÒNow, liege lord of my life, leave I ask of you. Ye know the cost of
this case; I do not care to tell you even a trifle of its dangers;21 but I am
ready to start for the fray no later than tomorrow morn, to seek the man
in the green, as God will guide me.Ó

Then the best of the castle gathered together, Ywain and Erec, and
others full many, Sir Dodinel de Sauvage, the Duke of Clarence, Lancelot
and Lyonel and Lucan the Good, Sir Bors and Sir Bedever, big men both,
and many other proud ones, with Mador de la Port. All this company of
the court came nearer to the king, to counsel the knight, with care at
their hearts. There was much deep grief felt in the hall that so worthy a
one as Gawain should go on that errand, to endure a sorry dint and deal
none himself with his brand. But the knight ever made good cheer, and
said, ÒWhy should I swerve from stern and strange destiny? What can a
man do but try?Ó

4. He lingered there all that day, and on the morn made ready. Early
he asked for his arms, and they were all brought. First a carpet of
Toulouse was stretched over the floor, and much was the gilt gear that
gleamed upon it. The brave man stepped thereon and handled the steel,
clad in a doublet of costly Tars, and afterwards a well wrought hood,
closed on top and bound within with a glistening white fur. Then they
put the sabatons 22 upon the heroÕs feet, lapped his legs in steel with fair
greaves, to which were attached well polished poleynes23 fastened about
his knees with knots of gold. Fine cuisses then, that well enclosed his
thick, brawny thighs, they attached with thongs. Next the decorated
burnie24 of bright steel rings upon precious stuff encased the hero, and
well burnished braces upon his two arms, with elbow-pieces goodly and
gay and gloves of plate, and all the goodly gear that might avail him at


that time, with rich coat armour, gold spurs well fastened, and a sure
brand girt about his side by a silken sash.

5. When he was hasped in arms his harness was rich; the least latchet
or loop gleamed with gold. So, harnessed as he was, he heard his mass,
offered and adored at the high altar. Then he came to the king and his
court; courteously took his leave of lords and ladies; and they kissed
him, and convoyed him, entrusting him to Christ. By that time was
Gringolet ready, and girt with a saddle that gleamed full gaily with
many gold fringes; everywhere nailed anew, prepared for that
emergency. The bridle, barred about, was bound with bright gold; the
decoration of the breastplate and of the fine housings, the crupper and
caparison, accorded with the saddle-bow, and all was adorned with rich
red gold nails, that glittered and gleamed like the gleam of the sun. Then
he took the helm and quickly kissed it. It was stoutly stapled and stuffed
within; it was high on his head, hasped behind, with a light urison 25 over
the ventail, 26 embroidered and bound with the best gems on a broad
silken border; and birds on the seams like painted popinjays 27 preening
themselves here and there; turtle-doves and true-loves28 thickly
interlaced. As many birds there were as had been in town for seven
winters. The circlet that surrounded his crown was even more
preciousÑa device of gleaming diamonds.

6. Then they showed him the shield, that was of sheer gules, with the
pentangle painted in pure gold. He took it by the baldric and cast it
about his neck; and it became the hero passing fair. And why the
pentangle pertains to that noble prince I mean to tell you, though it
should delay me. It is a sign that Solomon set formerly as a token of
truth, by its own right, for it is a figure that holds five points, and each
line overlaps and locks in another; and throughout it is endless; and the
English call it everywhere, as I hear, the endless knot. Therefore it suits
this knight and his clear arms, forever faithful in five things, and in each
of them five ways. Gawain was known for good and as refined gold,
devoid of every villainy, adorned with virtues. Therefore, the new 29
pentangle he bore on shield and coat, as the man most true of speech,
and the knight gentlest of behaviour.

7. First, he was found faultless in his five wits; and again the hero
failed never in his five fingers; and all his affiance in this world was in


the five wounds that Christ received on the cross, as the creed tells; and
wheresoever this man was hard bestead in the m�l�e his pious thought
was in this above all other thingsÑto take all his strength from the five
joys that the courteous Queen of Heaven had of her child. For this cause
the knight had her image comely painted in the greater half of his shield,
that when he looked down thereupon, his courage never abated. The
fifth five that I find that the hero used, were generosity and fellowship
above all things, his purity and his courtesy that never swerved, and pity
that passes all qualities. These very five were more surely set upon that
warrior than upon any other. Now all these30 were established fivefold
in this knight, and each one was fastened in another that had no end, and
they were fastened on five points that never failed, nor met anywhere,
nor sundered either, but finished always without end at each corner,
wherever the game began or concluded. Therefore on his fair shield this
knot was painted royally with red gold upon red gules. That is the true
pentangle as the people properly call it. Now was the gay Gawain armed.
He caught up his lance right there, and with a good-day he went for

8. He spurred his steed with the spurs and sprang on his way so
swiftly that the stone struck out fire after him. All who saw the gentle
man sighed in heart, and the heroes said all together to each other in
their love for that comely knight, ÒBy Christ, it is a shame that thou,
hero, must be lost, who art so noble of life. In faith it is not easy to find
his match upon the earth. To have acted more warily would have been
better counsel; and to have made yon dear one a duke; it would well
become him to be a brilliant leader of people here. This would have been
better than to have him utterly destroyed, given over 31 to an elvish man
for mere boasting pride. Who ever knew any king to take such counsel as
to suffer knights to be so tricked for a Christmas game.Ó Much warm
water welled from eyes when that seemly sire departed from the
dwellings that day. He made no stop, but wightly went his way; many a
tiresome path he rode, as I heard the book tell.

9. Now rides this hero, Sir Gawain, through the realm of Logres in
GodÕs behalf, though to him it seemed no play. Oft alone companionless
he lodged at night in places where he found not before him the fare that
he liked. No company had he but his foal by friths and downs, nor


nobody but God to talk with by the way; till that he approached nigh
unto North Wales. He kept all the isles of Anglesey on the left side, and
fared over the fords by the forelands, over at the Holy Head, till he
again took land in the wilderness of Wirrel. There dwelt but few that
loved either God or man with good heart. And ever as he fared he asked
of men that he met if they had heard any talk of a green knight of the
green chapel in any spot thereabout, and all nicked him with nay, that
never in their life saw they any man of such green hue. The knight took
strange roads by many a rough bank. His cheer changed full oft ere he
saw that chapel.

10. Many a cliff he overclimbed in strange countries; far sundered
from his friends, lonely he rode. At each ford or water where the hero
passed it were strange if he found not a foe before him, and that so foul
and so fell t