Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
At the first sound of the hunt the wild creatures trembled;
Deer fled from the valley, frantic with fear,
And rushed to the high ground, but were fiercely turned back
By the line of beaters, who yelled at them savagely.
They let the stags with their tall antlers pass,
And the wonderful bucks with their broad horns;
For the noble lord had forbidden that in the close season
Anyone should interfere with the male deer.
(1150 - 1157)
This passage focuses on the hunters’ dominion over the natural world by recounting how the sound of the hunt echoes throughout the whole valley sending animals scattering. As a counterpoint to the animal fear, however, is the orderly, rule-governed nature of the hunt itself. Lines of ‘beaters,’ basically people who guard a pre-determined boundary to hem the animals in, allow the male deer to pass through their line because the lord has ordered that stags cannot be hunted at this time of year. So the hunt becomes a set of civilized rules by which order is enforced in the natural world.
An incredible wild boar charged out there,
Which long since had left the herd through his age,
For he was massive and broad, greatest of all boars,
Terrible when he snorted. Then many were dismayed,
For three men in one rush he threw on their backs,
And made away fast without doing more harm.
(1439 - 1444)
In contrast to the deer, which are very easily brought down, the huge boar that the hounds scent out manages to give the huntsmen more of a run for their money, knocking many of them down and later, injuring them by goring them on his tusks. Because of the difficulty of his capture, the boar represents more of a prize even though he provides less meat than all the deer. He is a trophy-animal, whereas the deer are prized for their meat.
The boar charged out, straight at the man,
So that he and the beast were both in a heap
Where the water was swiftest. The other had the worse;
For the man takes aim carefully as the two met.
(1589 - 1592)
Sir Bertilak proves his valor by grappling with the wild boar from which everyone else backs away out of fear. He subdues him by taking careful aim, moreover, demonstrating the superiority of human rationality over even the brute strength of an animal like the boar.