Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Supernatural Theme
When the Green Knight appears in King Arthur’s court, the people there think he may be some sort of magical creature. How else to explain the fact that he’s entirely green? When he picks up his own severed head and speaks with it, well, then they (and we) are convinced of it. It turns out that we’re not far off: a sorceress named Morgan le Fay has enchanted the otherwise normal Sir Bertilak into the Green Knight in order to frighten Arthur’s queen and test his knights. It turns out magic is never far off in the Arthurian legend - Arthur’s own birth was the result of a shape-shifting deception of his father by his mother. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, though, magic is a specifically female enterprise, with Morgan le Fay wielding and abusing power. But even treacherous sorceresses and magical, shape-shifting creatures are no excuse for a knight to behave badly; instead, the supernatural world becomes yet one more proving ground for his bravery and honor.
Questions About The Supernatural
How do the members of Arthur’s court account for the presence of the Green Knight? Are they right?
Who is responsible for all of the supernatural happenings in the poem, and with what motive?
What are some of the supernatural creatures Gawain encounters on his way to Bertilak’s castle? What do these encounters tell us about his character?
Chew on This
Magical shape-shifting in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a metaphor for the multi-dimensional nature of a person’s character.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight portrays Morgan le Fay as evil.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’s portrayal of Morgan le Fay is ambivalent.