Sir Gawain: the Ideal Knight

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J.R.R Tolkien once said, “There is indeed no better medium for moral teaching than the good fairy story” (73). Often when fairy stories are mentioned, people think of gallant knights fighting an evil beast. Knights such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s knight in Canterbury Tales or even the nonfictional Richard the Lion Heart are exemplify knights. Determining the definition of ideal, however, determines whether or not a knight is ideal. Ideal in its simplest form means “a standard of excellence.” Many knights, fiction and nonfiction, fit this description; however, one knight in particular lives up to the description. Sir Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight exemplifies the ideal knight. Sir Gawain exemplifies the ideal knight because he demonstrates courage. First, he demonstrates courage before he departs from the castle. Sir Gawain’s courage first reveals itself when Sir Gawain offers himself up to challenge the Green Knight in King Arthur’s place and says, “’I beseech, before all here, / That this melee may be mine’” (lines 341-42).When Sir Gawain departs from King Arthur’s court, he is faced with difficult circumstances—circumstances that would have caused the average person to turn back. From the very beginning of his travelling, Sir Gawain, according to the poet, had no one to travel with but his horse, and the only one “to say his mind to” was God (693-96). The poet delineates all the foes that Sir Gawain fought: “serpents,” “savage wolves,” “wild men of the woods,” “bulls,” “bears,” “boars,” and “giants” (720-23). Sir Gawain also demonstrates courage when “The lord [Bercilak] with all his might / entreats his guest [Sir Gawain] to stay” (1041-42). Bercilak pleads numerous times with Sir Gawain to stay, and each time Sir Gawain has opportunity to succumb to the temptation to forget his debut with the Knight. Instead he says, “’I must set forth to search, as soon as I may; / To be about my business I have but three days / And would as soon sink down dead as...
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