What Is "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" About?


Quick Answer

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a poem about Sir Gawain, a nephew of the legendary King Arthur. Sir Gawain is at his uncle's castle when a mysterious green knight appears. The knight asks anyone present to strike him with an axe; in addition, the challenger must find the knight within a year and receive three blows from the same axe. Sir Gawain agrees to the terms and one year later rides out to find the knight.

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Full Answer

Sir Gawain faces a number of challenges in his search for the Green Knight but is ultimately successful. He finds the knight and survives three blows from the axe with the help of a magic girdle. However, due to Gawain's lack of honesty when acquiring the girdle, the third axe blow leaves a small scar on his neck. The story reveals that the Green Knight was sent to King Arthur's court by Arthur's half-sister, who wanted to test the honor of King Arthur's knights.

"Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" was written anonymously in the 14th century. As of 2015, nothing is known about the author's personal life. The poem was composed in dialect, making it difficult for modern readers to understand without translation. It features an ABABA rhyme scheme with heavy alliteration and has a total of 101 stanzas.

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