Medieval Literature

There is no doubt that many people are familiar with the name of King Arthur. A lot of us have heard stories about his adventures. Unfortunately, not very many people have ever read books about him. One of the main reasons is that those books are written in old English, and they are hard to read. Today, I would like to tell you about one of these books, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, written by an unknown author and adopted to modern English by Tolkien. This book is not about King Arthur; it is about his loyal knight Gawain, but it is still interesting and worth reading.

The plot begins in Camelot during the New Year celebration. The feast is on, and everyone, including King Arthur, is drinking, eating and laughing. However, in the middle of the repast, a person completely dressed in green came into the hall. He had a huge axe with him. He challenged people to hit him with his axe but said that the next year he would do the same thing to his opponent. The one who responded to the challenge was a young sir Gawain. He hit the man in green and chopped off his head; but the knight stood up, picked up his head, and told Gawain to find him the next year in the Green Chapel.  A year had passed, and the young knight started his way to the destination. He searched for a Green Chapel for a long time, and, by the time he finally figured out his way, the day was over.  The knight decided to spend the night at the nearby castle. The owner of the castle agreed to accept Gawain for a few nights. Bertilak (the host) also offered a bargain to the young knight: he would give Gawain whatever he catches on his hunt, and the knight would give him whatever he found in the castle. On the first day, while Bertilak was hunting, his wife tried to seduce the young knight.  Gawain was an honorable man, and he didn’t give in. The only thing she could do was to give him a kiss. When the noble man came back from his hunt, he gave Gawain the animals, and Gawain gave him a kiss. The same thing happened during the next two days. Gawain kept exchanging killed animals for kisses, but he never told the owner where he found the kisses.  He also didn’t give the owner a green ribbon that was given to him by Lady Bertilak.  It was finally time for him to leave. Gawain went to the Green Chapel ready to die. However, the Green Knight didn’t hit him with his axe for the first and second tries, and on the third try, he slightly touched Gawain’s neck. It angered the young knight, and he was ready to attack the Green Knight because he was playing with him. However, the man in green took off his mask, and Gawain realized that it was the owner of the castle. Bertilak told him that he didn’t hit him on the first two tries because Gawain kept his end of the bargain and honestly gave him what he found in the castle. He scratched him the third time because he had hidden the green ribbon from him. What was even more important, it was Lady Bertilak’s plan from the very beginning, and it wasn’t the lady, but Morgan le Fay in disguise. Luckily, Gawain survived and went back to Camelot’s safety.

Overall, this book is a good example of what medieval literature looks like. It has a good plot, which describes how an honest and honorable knight should behave, and, at the same time, tells about a great adventure. One should also mention that Tolkien did a great job adapting it to the modern English.


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