After reading “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” I can not help but see a Christian value rising up out of this story. Once I had reflected back on what I had read I realized that the number three has stood out to me, and that in the bible the number is of great significance. The tap that the Green Knight dealt to Sir Gawain is another symbol that stood out to me as well, this is Sir Gawain’s punishment and when he had ask the Green Knight his name at the end of the story, it symbolizes Sir Gawain’s shame after it is all through. Sir Gawain is a young and noble knight, but he is not with out fault just as most of us today are not without fault.
At first it did not stand right out to me until I thought back to my days in Sunday school. In the bible you are taught that you put your faith in the father, son, and Holy Ghost. Just about everything in life happens in threes, god has created man, but man needs a mate, so he creates woman out of man, then a child is created. Man, woman, and child, the woman goes through three trimesters of pregnancy to have that child. Even before man woman and child were created God creates the sun, the moon and the earth. Sir Gawain prays to the Virgin Mary to guide him through his journey and only when he crosses himself three times “he scarcely had signed himself thrice, ere he saw in the wood on a mound a moated mansion” (p1632) does he see a castle. Once he is settled in the castle he partakes in three days of celebration, then before he leaves to search out the Green Knight, Bercilak puts forth a challenge to Gawain. The challenge occurs over three days, the agreement is that Bercilak will go out hunting and he will trade his catch with what Gawain catches that day.
The first two days while Bercilak is out hunting Gawain is tempted by the wife of Bercilak and only agrees to accept a kiss, which in keeping his end of the bargain he gives to Bercilak. On the third day though Gawain again tempted by the lady, agrees to accept a green garter that she says will bring him luck against the Green Knight “for no man girt with this girdle of green, and bearing it fairly made fast about him…for his life in no way in the world could be taken.” (p1656). Gawain does not hand over the green girdle when the day’s catches are traded.
Sir Gawain goes on his way to meet the Green Knight just as he had agreed to one year ago. Instead of chopping off Sir Gawain’s head the Green Knight taps Gawain, enough to bleed and leave a scar “ than to give him a slight nick that severed the skin there” (p1666) The Green Knight forgives Sir Gawain for not giving up the belt, because he knows why Gawain had kept it. Unfortunately Gawain relies on the green belt for luck rather than his faith.
Sir Gawain confesses his sin and is forgiven, just as Christ forgave us of our sins and gave his life for us; the tap is a symbol of punishment. During the beginning of Gawain’s journey he uses his faith to guide him and when he needed to have the most faith he fails, which shows us that he is not with out fault.
In the end Sir Gawain asks the name of the Green Knight “what name do you bear? No more would I know” (p1668) After all is said and done Sir Gawain feels much shame, he is humiliated for accepting the gift, he feels cowardly for flinching with the first strike of the axe, but his sins are forgiven and he realizes that his faith may not be as strong as he had thought. Just as Adam and Eve felt shame after eating the apple and realizing that they were naked, Sir Gawain feels shame for his lack of faith.
In the end the green belt is worn to remind everyone of their sins. Just as we have symbols today that remind us of what Christ did for us. Many people wear a cross around their neck to remind them that Christ died for their sins and even though we are sinners we can be forgiven of those sins. Sir Gawain was not perfect, physical desires, his fear and his need to protect himself tempted him. Although when you think about it that is what everyone is tempted with today, but we are human, just as Sir Gawain is. We are shown that even though he feels as though he failed he is accepted back into King Arthur’s court, and everyone is to where a green sash in order to be reminded of their sins “the ladies and lords to the Table belonging…. Baldric Obliquely about them bands of bright green” (p1670) This story shows that we are not perfect but with strong faith even sinners can be heroes.
“You can have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say this to a mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it will obey you” (Luke17; 6)
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