Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Appearances Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
Most attractive was this man attired in green,
With the hair of his head matching his horse.
Fine outspreading locks covered his shoulders;
A great beard hangs down over his chest like a bush,
That like the splendid hair that falls from his head
Was clipped all around above his elbows,
So that his upper arms were hidden, in the fashion
Of a royal capados that covers his neck.
That great horse’s mane was treated much the same.
(178 - 187)
This description of the Green Knight’s long hair and beard have led some people to compare him to the "wild man of the woods," a mythical medieval character whose hair and beard were similarly long. Yet unlike that character, the Green Knight has his hair trimmed at just the length to match his beard "in the fashion / Of a royal capados," or cape. And although the passage emphasizes the way the Knight’s hair matches that of an animal - his horse - both horse and man are meticulously groomed, as the passage goes on to emphasize.
Yet he had no helmet nor hauberk either,
No neck-armour or plate belonging to arms,
No spear and no shield to push or to strike;
But in one hand he carried a holly branch
That is brilliantly green when forests are bare,
And an axe in the other, monstrously huge.
Rather than being dressed as a real knight should be, in armor, the Green Knight looks more like a woodsman, since he carries an axe. The holly branch he carries in one hand further emphasizes his relationship to nature.
The brave knight steps on it and examines his armour,
Dressed in a costly doublet of silk
Under a well-made capados, fastened at the top
And trimmed with white ermine on the inside.
(571 - 574)
Gawain’s clothing is similar to the Green Knight’s in its richness, with both silk and costly ermine making an appearance. Like the Green Knight, Gawain wears a capados, or cape, although his is made of fur and not hair!