Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

[Stone, B.  Penguin (1969].

Arthurian romance – no character undergoes  such metamorphosis. Began as an Irish hero > Arthurian cycle. Later superceded by Lancelot.

‘Beheading Game’ – source = Cuchulain (sun-hero), whose characteristics possessed by Gawain.

Gawain’s father = Lot (Orkney’s). Traced through Welsh Lloch to Irish god Lug. Cuchulain’s father – colour was red of setting sun = sunset > sunrise.

Early stories – Gawain’s strength (as with Cuchulain) increases until mid-day and then declines. Gawain inherits from Cuchulain his diadem and golden hair. It is Gawain – not Arthur – who owns Excalibur.

Welsh legend – before impact of Arthurian Cycle = Gwri Gwalltenryn = ‘of golden hair’.

This characteristic > Gwallchmai (Welsh Gawain) [see Graves ‘White Goddess’]. Therefore – Gwalchmai = ‘hawk of May’. Gwalchaved = ‘hawk of summer’. Gwalch gwyn = ‘white hawk’. Welsh court bards – always likened their patrons to hawks. Hawks = sun + bird. Gwalchaved = Galahad; Gwalch gwyn = Gawain.

Grail Romances + Welsh Triads – Gawain = healer, well versed in herbal remedies. [see J. Weston. From Ritual to Romance]. Therefore – Gawain = medicine man > fertility ritual underlying mystery of Grail = restoration to life of Spirit of Vegetation.

Gawain = original Grail hero. But – Grail Romances based by Chretien de Troyes + others on non-Christian poem by Welshman Bleheris.

Primitive solar characteristic = Gawain’s eternal youth. A gift from fairy island inhabited only by women = otherworld in Irish tradition.

Gawain – derives from Celtic tradition – but as model of chivalry = medieval fame. Good reputation in matters of women. First, by romancers, as King Arthur’s knights. Gavin = still popular name in northern England.


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