Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Appearances Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
Hardly had he caught sight through the trees of a moated building
Standing over a field, on a mound, surrounded by boughs
Of many a massive tree-trunk enclosing the moat:
The most splendid castle ever owned by a knight,
Set on a meadow, a park all around,
Closely guarded by a spiked palisade
That encircled many trees for more than two miles.
That side of the castle Sir Gawain surveyed
As it shimmered and shone through the fine oaks.
(763 - 772)
When the castle appears to Gawain, tired and cold after over a month of wandering through an enchanted wilderness, it’s a sight too good to be true. In fact, it shimmers like a mirage in the distance, probably indicating that magic has some role to play in its existence.
Gawain studied the man who greeted him courteously,
And thought him a bold one who governed the castle,
A great-sized knight indeed, in the prime of life;
Broad and glossy was his beard, all reddish-brown,
Stern-faced, standing firmly on powerful legs;
With a face fierce as fire, and noble in speech,
Who truly seemed capable, it appeared to Gawain,
Of being master of a castle with outstanding knights.
(843 - 849)
In medieval romance (and a lot of medieval literature more generally), a man’s appearance matters. The healthy, powerful appearance of the lord of the castle indicate his fitness as a lord, a capability Gawain notes approvingly.
[Attendants] took him to a fine bedroom with marvellous bedding;
Curtains of pure silk with shining gold borders,
And elaborate coverlets with splendid facing
Of bright ermine on top, embroidered all around;
Curtains on golden rings, running on cords.
Walls covered with hangings from Tharsia and Toulouse
And underfoot on the floor of a matching kind.
(853 - 859)
As do the decorations in Arthur’s court, the richness of the chamber in which Lord Bertilak places Gawain indicate his wealth and influence. The wall-hangings from Tars and France indicate the kingdom’s access to international trade, a strange detail in a palace that appears to be in the middle of nowhere.