Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 132-150, An Inside-Out Paper
Because another sound, a new sound, suddenly drew near,
which might signal the king to sample his supper,
for barely had the horns finished blowing their breath
and with starters just spooned to the seated guests,
a fearful form appeared, framed in the door:
a mountain of a man, immeasurably high,
a hulk of human from head to hips,
so long and thick in his loins and his limbs
I should genuinely judge him to be a half giant,
or a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals.
But handsome, too, like any horseman worth his horse,
for despite the bulk and brawn of his body
his stomach and waist were slender and sleek.
In fact in all features he was finely formed
Amazement seized their minds,
no soul had ever seen
a knight of such a kind-
entirely emerald green.
There was a new sound approaching, usually it would have been the start of the meal, the buglers having just finished their call, with the appetizers just being served. In the door appeared a frightening man. He seemed as tall as a mountain, a hulk from his head to his hips and his limbs were long and thick, I thought he surely must be half giant or the most massive of men and mightiest of all mortals but handsome, too, like any horseman worth his horse. Despite the bulk of his upper body, his stomach and waist were slender and sleek. In fact, he was nicely formed it seemed. Shock was evident as none had seen a knight of this kind, he was emerald green!
The first appearance of the Green Knight! Woohoo! I feel like I should be watching for the "batarang", or some other delivery device, to come whipping the challenge in, gently nicking Arthur's ear as it "thawacks" into the back of the chair he's sitting in. The Green Knight's description is more of a super villain from Marvel or DC but perhaps this is where we get the modern idea of super villains. His bulky upper body and his thin waist conjure that image of Bane or the Hulk, not necessarily a villain but the comic book body image of the Green Knight, green from head to toe. His narrow waist suggesting that of a body builder, a la Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is a suggestion of power, more power than Arthur's knights seemed to hold.
There seems to be a symbolism here with the Green Knight. His color suggests a link to nature as well as his build suggesting power. It could be that the description alone is meant to instill a sense of awe, even fear, at the power of nature and to scoff at the power is to scoff at nature herself. We have to take in the whole story to decide if the line "...or a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals..." (141) speaks truth. We clearly see that the man is not typical in appearance, he is emerald green and more closely resembles Bruce Banner's gamma irradiated alter ego, the Hulk, than a mortal medieval man.
In this passage we don't see his equipment but it is all green as well as his horse. This pushes me to believe that there is a connection to the Green Knight and nature. Arthur's time was a time of turbulence in the transition from the old ways of worshipping the earth and nature to Christianity. The Druids and the Celts were losing ground at an amazing rate. I feel that the Green Knight is representative of the old ways coming back. No mortal man is all green so he must be supernatural.
Supernatural. How else do we explain the bulky shoulders and the tapered waist as mentioned in the poem? He was also “a mountain of a man, immeasurably high…" (137). Back when this was written anyone over 5'8" would likely have been considered "immeasurably high" since poor nutrition stunts growth. But to be considered a “mountain of a man”? Supernatural!
The fact that this text calls the Green Knight a "fearful form" insinuates that the reader should be somewhat afraid of the Green Knight. If he were a mere mortal then why would the reader need to be afraid? “I should genuinely judge him to be a half giant.” (140) The author even says that the Green Knight is half giant, another mythical, supernatural being.
The Green Knight, is he a mere mortal or is he a supernatural being? It is my belief that he was in fact a mortal man imbued with mythical height and strength by the Old Ways. He is the mortal embodiment of the Green Man. There is no real description of the Green Man but I imagine him to be a huge hulking man much like the Green Knight, perhaps with more tree bark and leaves. The idea that the author considers the Green Knight fearful lends support to this belief. Why would he consider the Green Knight in any fashion a threat? He’s all green just like the Hulk. I’ll concede that the Hulk is a genetic mutation but the author had no concept genetics, radiation or mutations. So, what do we classify things we don’t understand? Supernatural!
College graduate, Army vet, single mom, Husky mom, Movie lover, writer