Written by an anonymous 14th-century poet, this epic poem was preserved on a single surviving manuscript before it was rediscovered two hundred years ago and published for the first time in 1839. Now recognized as one of the founding stories of English literature, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight narrates the strange tale of a green knight on a green horse who rudely interrupts Camelot’s Round Table festivities one Yuletide, casting a pall of unease over the company and challenging one of their number to a wager. The virtuous Gawain accepts and decapitates the intruder with his own axe. Gushing blood, the knight reclaims his head, orders Gawain to seek him out a year hence, and departs. The following Yuletide, Gawain dutifully sets forth. His quest for the Green Knight involves a winter journey, a seduction scene in a dreamlike castle, a dire challenge answered―and a drama of enigmatic reward disguised as psychic undoing.
How was it?
Contrary to some of my friends I never had to read this for school. I’m not sure I would remember if I did since I wasn’t the most diligent pupil when it came to assigned readings. However I have to admit that this Arthurian legend kept my attention, which I wasn’t really expecting. I thought I’d have weird flashbacks of the stories I slog my way through at school, but this story about a code of honor and chivalry put me in a studious mood coming up with my own interpretations and lessons to take from the poem. I saw the religious and fantasy elements in this simple tale but they only served as possible point of views for an interpretation. Instead I mostly saw a story about a man who was being tested and kind of got lucky.