Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - an Example of Pure Medieval Literature

In medieval times myths and legends were used to explain how things came to be. They expressed the values and beliefs of the medieval people. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an Arthurian story that was written by a poet sometime in the late 14th century. It was during the medieval period. Medieval people were very superstitious. They had no real concept of science and generally had poor health. They would often die very young. Life was short and they were superstitious. For instance, a Magnetic object, was magic. A herbal remedies were considered medical magic. Wizards were feared and esteemed because of their knowledge of powerful magic spells. Many people accused of magic, however, were misguidedly put to death. For example, women accused of being witches during the Salem trials were burned to death.  

In the story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a Knight of King Arthur’s round table called Sir Gawain is challenged by the Green knight, to strike him with his axe if he will return the blow in return in a year and a day. Sir Gawain accepts his challenge and beheads him with a single blow. After which the Green knight stands up, picks up his decapitated head and reminds sir Gawain that in a year and a day he will have to return the bargain.

In a day and a year sir Gawain journeys to the green knight’s castle and goes through a series of challenges in which he demonstrates loyalty and chivalry, until he finally confronts the green knight. The green knight draws out his axe and only manages to slightly graze Gawain’s neck. With the bargain over the green knight transforms into the lord of the castle that sir Gawain met earlier. The lord explains how he used magic to transform into the green knight to trick and challenge king Arthurs knights.

The message of sir Gawain and the green knight is that one must stay true to one’s self. Through many challenges that sir Gawain faced, he had to stay true to himself and his morals. They story of Sir Gawain showed many different medieval beliefs and values. 

On the whole, the story showed that medieval knights had to have chivalry and loyalty. Also, in the story the lord of the castle was transformed into the green knight via magic. So that tells us the in the middle ages magic and wizards were thought to be real.

07 July 2022
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