Pagan and Christian views from "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"
British literature is filled with puzzling, yet captivating stories set during the fictitious times of King Arthur of Camelot and his Knights of the Round Table. The medieval poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is, unquestionably, included in this category. The poem gives an organic message through the connections between humanity and nature, portrayed in the mystical Green Man. The story seemed to depict many pagan and Christian symbols and they seem to be of high importance in the poem. There is a constant mention of God, the celebration of Christmas in Camelot and a knight trying to keep his vows which are similar to Christian beliefs. Other elements also play a role which can hint towards being either Christian or pagan:, the spring of holly in the Green Knight’s hand and even the pentangle in Gawain’s shield. Both Christian and pagan beliefs are ensnared in this poem and different elements which have a religious association might as well be a product of paganism.
In the opening of the poem the knight who burst in Camelot’s court was described by saying “Well garbed was this giant geared in green… The tail and his forelock twinned, of a suit, and bound both with a band of a bright green,” (SGGK (245)) both the knight and his horse were green, but the color itself also conveys both Christian and pagan symbolism. The color green is a clear representation of nature and is linked to the vegetative cycle of the year. The knight is entirely green, carries a spring of holly, and resides in a Green Chapel. In “Who was the Green Knight” Alexander Krappe writes” “On the strength of this color, the Green Knight should have been acclaimed as a ‘Vegetation Spirit.’”(Krappe(207)). Krappee then goes on to say,” “The Green Knight is a figure closely related to the ancient tree-god Virbius of Arician memories… human representative of the oak tree: the hair, garment, beard and horse are green, and the...
Cited: Krappe, Alexander.”Who was the Green Knight?”. Medieval Academy of America. Speculum.
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Nickel, Helmut.”Why was the Green Knight Green?”. Scriptorium Press. Arthurian Interpretations. Vol.2, No.2. pp. 58-64. Spring,1988
Tracy, Larissa.”A Knight of God or the Goddess?”Scriptorium Press. Arthuriana. Vol. 17, No. 3. Pp.31-55 Fall,2007
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