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.
Then he goes to the mound and walks around it,
Wondering to himself what it could be.
It had a hole at the end and on either side,
And was covered all over with patches of grass,
And was all hollow inside; nothing but an old cave,
Or a fissure in an old rock, what to call it he hardly
(2178 - 2184)
The fact that the Green "Chapel" is little more than a mound of grass represents just how far Gawain has come from the civilized world both geographically and symbolically. Medieval readers might also have recognized this hillock as a "fairy mound" a place that was supposedly an entrance to the world of fairy and where strange supernatural events were thought to have occurred. The Green Chapel thus links this place, and its guardian, to both the natural world and the world of fairy, or the supernatural.
"I accept it gratefully, not for its wonderful gold,
Nor for the girdle itself nor its silk, nor its long pendants,
Nor its value nor the honour it confers, nor its fine workmanship,
But I shall look at it often as a sign of my failing,
And when I ride in triumph, recall with remorse
The corruptions and frailty of the perverse flesh."
(2430 - 2435)
Gawain accepts the girdle as a sign of the frailty of the "flesh," or body. He failed to disclose his receipt of the girdle to Bertilak because he was too attached to his own life. He gave in to an animal instinct for survival rather than following the rules of civilized society. Accordingly, instead of seeing the human ingenuity of the girdle, its monetary value, or the status it might confer in society, Gawain links it to the sins of the flesh.