Monday, 22 June 2009

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Shown as part of the BBC's poetry season, I watched a very interesting programme the other week about the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The story begins in Camelot as King Arthur's court is feasting and exchanging gifts. A large Green Knight armed with an axe enters the hall and proposes a game. He asks for someone in the court to strike him once with his axe, on the understanding that the Green Knight will return the blow one year and one day later.

Sir Gawain, the youngest of Arthur's knights and nephew to the king, accepts the challenge. He severs the giant's head in one stroke, expecting him to die. The Green Knight, however, then proceeds to pick up his own head, and having reminded Gawain to meet him at the Green Chapel in a year and a day (New Year's Day the next year) rides away.

The reason I make mention of this legend here is because the events related in the poem are framed by Christmas festivities.

If you don't know the story of the Green Knight's infamous challenge yourself, you can find out more about the poem here and here. Alternatively, you could watch this rather unnerving animation that I first saw shown on schools' TV! (It features a Latin version of the Boar's Head Carol, which you can learn more about in What is Myrrh Anyway? published in the States this November as A Christmas Miscellany.)

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