This initial situation sets us up perfectly for the wondrous event that’s to follow, for we know that Arthur won’t eat until he’s witnessed something marvelous, and in these tales, the king always gets to eat eventually. When the green man on the green horse rides in, we’re pretty sure that he’s the marvelous event Arthur’s been waiting for.
Since the rules of the Green Knight’s game, to which Gawain has agreed, dictate that he must submit to a blow from his axe in a year and a day, the Knight’s failure to die as expected really presents a conflict for Gawain. The conflict is between his code of honor as a knight, which requires him to always keep his word, and his natural survival instinct.
Gawain goes in search of the Green Knight at the appointed time, and it looks like all that’s left for him to do is die. Our story becomes more complicated, however, when Gawain comes upon a mysterious castle in the middle of the enchanted forest where he’s invited to spend the holiday season. The lord of the castle proposes an exchange of winnings on the days when he goes hunting and Gawain lounges at home in bed. This is all very amusing, but what does it have to do with the Gawain’s promise to the Green Knight? We’re guessing we’re about to find out.
Here it is, the moment we’ve been waiting for: at last, Gawain fulfills his promise to the Green Knight. It looks like his code of honor is going to win out over his survival instinct. Bye-bye, Gawain.
The Green Knight really prolongs the suspense here, since he keeps putting off the critical moment when Gawain will get his head chopped off. Gawain actually gets somewhat annoyed with the Green Knight for this after the two feints, recognizing that he’s teasing him and basically telling him to just get it over with, already.
Wow, this is a lot of information to get all at once. Not only are Lord Bertilak and the Green Knight one and the same, but he and his wife were in cahoots to test Gawain’s honor still further. Oh, and the old lady? Turns out she’s the one behind this whole adventure. Anyway, Green Knight (and the connection between the complication and the conflict) explained.
In medieval romances, the conclusion almost always occurs when the knight-adventurer returns to the place where he began, usually the court of his king. This return represents the re-incorporation of the knight back into society, along with everything he’s learned about himself on his adventure.