Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: "Three"

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A recurrent theme in almost all works of Old English involves the presence of the number "three". Just as Beowulf fought the dragon in three rounds; King Arthur sent Sir Bedivere to throw Excalibur into the lake three times. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by J.R.R Tolkien, the number three is of triple importance. The bedroom scenes correlate with the hunting scenes; therefore, each one must be understood in reference to the other. On each of the three days, the behavior of Sir Gawain corresponds to that of the animal, which had been killed on that day. On the first day he is cautious like a deer; on the second he is more like a boar and on the third he is cunning like a fox. These are not the only similarities between the two plot elements. Hunting is generally used in literature as a metaphor for the pursuit of love that is for courting. This metaphor probably had already been known in the Middle Ages and was used by the Gawain Poet as well. In this story a parallel narrative occurs including three different events that each happened in three stages, the three hunts of the Lord, the three seductions by the Lady, and the three swings of the ax that the Green Knight took, all which relate to each other. The honor of Sir Gawain is his best value, though he suffered a set-back. His honor is the catalyst for what happens through the rest of the poem. First, Sir Gawain respectfully asks to participate in the game with the Green Knight. He feels he is the person to act in the game as he is "the weakest, the most wanting in wisdom...And my life, if lost, would be least missed, truly" (354-5). This surely is not true, but to Gawain the valor is necessary. It is also honorable as King Arthur had first accepted the challenge by the Green Knight. King Arthur's possible death, as head of the state, would be devastating to the community. As Gawain tells King Arthur; "this affair is too foolish to fall you" (358). The rules of the game are set and Gawain...
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