Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Tradition and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Then they slit the base of the throat, took hold of the gullet,
Scraped it with a sharp knife and knotted it shut;
Next they cut off the four legs and ripped off the hide,
Then broke open the belly and took out the entrails
Carefully to avoid loosening the ligature of the knot.
(1330 - 1334)
This and many lines to follow describe in great detail the proper method of skinning and butchering a deer. So precise was this ritual that the exact order of cuts the butcher made was prescribed. Hunting is really an art form; to break with its rules is to betray yourself as ill-educated in the art.
So correctly they cut off all the offal in the spine
Right down to the haunches, in one unbroken piece,
And lifted it up whole, and cut it off there;
And to that they give the name of numbles, I believe,
as is right.
(1344 - 1348)
In keeping with hunting’s status as an art form, all of the different pieces of the animal had specific names that instruction-books could help the nobleman to learn. Here, the narrator gives us the correct name for the piece of meat or muscle torn from a deer’s spine, perhaps to show off his knowledge of hunting terminology.
Both the head and the neck they cut off next,
And then rapidly separate the sides from the chine;
And the raven’s fee in a thicket they threw.
Then they pierced both sides through the ribs,
Hanging each of them by the hocks of their legs,
For each man’s payment, as his proper reward.
(1353 - 1358)
Every person and animal who participated in a hunt (and in the raven’s case, who is just waiting nearby) receives a designated part of the prey as part of his "fee." Here, the raven’s fee seems to be some part of the animal’s face, while the hunters are rewarded with the animal’s sides.