Sir Gawain and the Green Knight The Supernatural Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
That side of the castle Sir Gawain surveyed
As it shimmered and shone through the fine oaks.
(771 - 772)
The description of the castle Gawain sees certainly makes it sound appealing. But the fact that it shimmers and shines should clue us into the fact that it may be involved with magic somehow. That, and its location in the middle of a forest full of ogres, dragons, and wild men.
"Bertilak of Hautdesert, I am called in this land.
Through the power of Morgan le Fay, who lives under my roof,
And her skill in learning, well-taught in magic arts,
She has acquired many of Merlin’s occult powers -
For she had love-dealings at an earlier time
With that accomplished scholar, as all your knights know
Morgan the goddess
Therefore is her name;
No one, however haughty
Or proud she cannot tame."
(2445 - 2455)
Here, Bertilak responds to Gawain’s question about his identity with a long description of Morgan le Fay, almost as if his own identity is swallowed up in hers. In a sense, it is, since Bertilak implies that he only holds power through her. Bertilak’s description of Morgan le Fay is somewhat ambivalent; although he calls her an "accomplished scholar," he also reminds Gawain of how she acquired her learning using sex, and implies that her aim is to "tame" people with her power.
"She sent me in this shape to your splendid hall
To make trial of your pride, and to judge the truth
Of the great reputation attached to the Round Table.
She sent me to drive you demented with this marvel,
To have terrified Guenevere and caused her to die
With horror at that figure who spoke like a spectre
With his head in his hand before the high table."
(2456 - 2462)
If we’re on the fence about Morgan le Fay, this passage doesn’t necessarily do her any favors. For although testing the honor of the knights of the round table (and teaching them a valuable lesson) doesn’t necessarily seem so bad, Morgan also wanted to terrify Guinevere… to death. So, the portrait of the sorceress remains ambivalent, but we can’t help but feel that she’s abusing her power.