Sir Gawain and the Green Knight The Supernatural Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line). We used James Winny's 2004 translation.
All those standing there gazed, and warily crept closer,
Bursting with wonder to see what he would do;
For many marvels they had known, but such a one never;
So the folk there judged it phantasm or magic.
For this reason many noble knight feared to answer:
And stunned by his words they sat there stock-still.
(237 - 243)
The only explanation Arthur’s court can come up with for the Green Knight is that he must be a ghost, or magical. They may even think he’s an apparition from the land of fairy. Whatever the precise theory, they obviously fear being magicked themselves, for no one dares to speak when confronted with what appears to be obviously supernatural in nature.
For he holds up the head in his hand, truly,
Turns its face toward the noblest on the dais,
And it lifted its eyelids and glared with wide eyes,
And the mouth uttered these words, which you shall now hear.
(444 - 447)
If Arthur’s court (or we) need any more proof that the Green Knight is some sort of supernatural being, this is it. What else but magic could account for how the man picks up his own severed head and speaks with it? This is the stuff of Halloween nightmares.
So many wonders befell him in the hills,
It would be tedious to recount the least part of them.
Sometimes he fights dragons, and wolves as well,
Sometimes with wild men who dwelt among the crags;
Both with bulls and with bears, and at other times boars,
And ogres who chased him across the high fells.
(718 - 723)
As Gawain draws closer to Sir Bertilak’s castle, he encounters various supernatural creatures scattered among the more conventional wild animals he must battle: dragons, wild men, and ogres. We’re all pretty familiar with dragons and ogres from fairy tales, but what about wild men? Well, they are actually mythical man-like creatures who supposedly inhabited the woodlands. Their consumption of raw animal flesh, hairy, naked bodies, and lack of speech marked them out as totally alien to the civilized world.