Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Tradition and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
And another habit influenced him too,
Which he had made a point of honor: he would never eat
On such a special day until he had been told
A curious tale about some perilous thing,
Of some great wonder that he could believe,
Of princes, or battles, or other marvels.
(90 - 95)
The king has started a tradition of refusing to eat on a feast day until he has heard or witnessed a "wonder." In this, he’s fulfilling a duty as a host, for it’s up to him to make sure everyone under his roof has a good time during the celebration. He needs to provide entertainment, and his custom ensures that he will.
And in so many yesterdays the year wears away,
And winter comes round again, as custom requires,
(530 - 532)
This passage makes strange use of the word "custom," which we usually associate with traditions humans have instituted as part of culture. By contrast, here, custom is "requir[ing]"
nature to repeat its cycle of seasons, almost as though this cycle is something humans have instituted. In any case, this strange use mixes nature and culture in an interesting way.
The noblest pressed forward with many attendants,
Gathered together the fattest of the deer,
And neatly dismembered them as ritual requires.
(1324 - 1326)
This passage marks the beginning of the deer-butchering scene. Medieval hunting was an extremely complex ritual about which whole instruction manuals were written. There was a proper way of doing everything, from uncoupling the hounds to skinning the deer. Part of being a good nobleman was knowing how to perform the ritual precisely.