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These first 36 lines serve as a kind of introduction to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
We kick it off with a kind of mythological history lesson, including some references to the Trojan War and Aeneas (which you can learn more about in our guide to Virgil's Aeneid and Homer's Iliad).
The narrator says that when the siege of Troy had ended and the city was burnt to the ground, the man who had committed treason against Troy was tried for his treachery.
Aeneas (the star of The Aeneid and a Trojan nobleman) and his family then conquered kingdoms and became lords over all the riches of the western isles.
After that, Romulus traveled to Rome and founded it. (FYI, Romulus is the legendary founder of Rome. He's one of Aeneas's descendents, and he and his twin brother, Remus, were raised by a wolf. You can learn more about him in Ovid's Metamorphoses.)
We jump ahead in our mythological history lesson and learn that a guy named Felix Brutus settled Britain. We get the picture that Britain has had a rough past, including wars and general turmoil.
Since Britain was founded by Brutus, many brave men have been born there, but the narrator says that the awesomest was King Arthur.
The narrator says he's going to tell us about an adventure from the time of Arthur. He claims he'll tell it to us exactly as he heard the story, which has been passed down in Britain for a very long time.