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Symbols and Symbolism in Sir Gawain and Green Knight

Symbolism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Symbolism is a literary technique used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to liven up the story and give a deeper significance to the plot. Almost anything in the poem can be interpreted as a symbol in one way or another. The Green Knight, the green sash, and Sir Gawain’s shield are three of the most prominent symbols presented to us in this author’s tale.

The Green Knight, this poem’s antagonist, serves as a symbol himself. He is not only portrayed as evil, but a mixture of the familiar and foreign, nature and synthetic, and divine and damned origin. His large stature can be interpreted as threatening or powerful. His green glow could be nature-associated or alien-associated. The first time he appears in the poem, he is even carrying a holly-branch (signifying peace) in one hand and a battle axe (signifying conflict) in the other. It’s hard to say exactly for what the Green Knight stands, because f…

The Importance of Celtic Culture in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Importance of Celtic Culture in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one can discover a variety of reasons why the Green Knight is indeed green. Some can be found in open text while others one has to search for. There is possibly another aspect involved in the holly leaf he carries in his first appearance. The deeper aspect of the Green Knight is how he ties into the beliefs and culture of the Celts.

The most obvious reason why the green knight is green are stated throughout his introduction. “Fellow, and his hands were green, and his face. And his armor, and his shirt, were green, all green…everything about him was elegant green” (line 150-55,66). Every piece of clothing that the Green Knight is in is green. His skin color was green and he was elegantly dressed in all of it. This gigantic man was the total opposite of Arthur’s Knights. They were smaller and clean-. The Green Knight had a manly beard to symbolize Celtic culture. He rides in on his great green horse! “He seemed half an ogre, a giant, but clearly the biggest creature in the world” (line 141-42). The most frightening thing any of the Knights of Camelot could ever see. The combined aspect of being green and a giant to the knights is what makes him so frightening.

Not only the great knight is green but his horse too! “It was carved with lovely green symbols…what it meant that a knight and his horse could have such a color, could grow as green as grass, or greener!” (lines 216 233-235). Today in many cultures “different” people are always striking fear into people. He is dressed in all green with his Celtic symbols surrounding him. If any man represented their religion to the fullest i…

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…re not worthy to fight him. They don’t have any beards and in his religion would be considered feeble and unrespectable. He demonstrates his strength the entire scene he is talking with Arthur and his knights.

The Green Knight is the perfect representation of the Celtic culture

He is protected by his Celtic magic from the holly branch and the power of the god Cernunnos. This enables him to be strong in his own beliefs and to challenge the Christian Knights. The author created the Green Knight based on factors that all lead up to the perfect representation of the Celtic people.

Works Cited

“Coverage of Youth Crime Promotes Fear, Study Says.” (Online) Available 1 Dec. 2001.

Wood, Juliette. The Celts New York: Duncan Baird Publishers, 1998.

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