The fearless King Arthur speaks up and greets the knight politely, saying, "Sir, welcome to this place. I am the head of this house, and my name is Arthur. Get off your horse and relax, and we will learn what your wish is after a while."
But the large Green Knight isn't interested in hanging around. He's come because Camelot and Arthur's knights have a reputation for being the best of the best.
He says that the holly branch he's carrying shows that he's come in peace, as does the fact that he isn't dressed for battle.
The Green Knight assures Arthur that he hasn't come to pick a fight. But if he were here to fight, he's sure that none of these little knights could beat him.
So what does he want? To play a little Christmas game, of course.
The Green Knight explains the rules, saying, "If anyone here believes himself so hardy and quick as to be able to give stroke for stroke, I will make him a gift of this fine axe. I will attempt to withstand the first blow from it, totally unarmed. If anyone is inclined to take my challenge, make your way to me quickly and pick up this weapon. He may keep it as his own. And I will withstand his stroke unflinching, right here, right now."
Hmm. What's the catch?
The Green Knight has one condition. A year and a day from today, he'll get the chance to take a swing at the challenger with an axe.
No one responds, so the Green Knight starts insulting Arthur and his knights, saying they're not as brave and fierce as they pretend to be.
Arthur is embarrassed and tells the Green Knight that his game is ridiculous, but that he will meet the challenge.
Arthur goes up the Green Knight and grabs the axe. The giant seems totally unconcerned.
But then Gawain steps up. He thinks it's wrong for the noble Arthur to take such a silly challenge. He proposes that he take his uncle's place.
Arthur agrees, gives Gawain the axe, and tells him to hit the Green Knight hard.
Gawain goes up to the Green Knight, who is still completely unafraid.
The Green Knight asks for the name of his challenger, and Gawain says that he's Gawain. He also agrees that in twelve months he'll receive a blow in return from the Green Knight.
The Green Knight wants to add one more detail to the terms of the agreement: after twelve months, Gawain has to come looking for him.
When Gawain wants to know where the Green Knight lives, the knight responds that he'll give Gawain the name of his home after Gawain hits him with the axe. If the Green Knight can't speak after the axe-blow, then Gawain doesn't have to come looking for him in a year's time.
So the terms of the agreement are set.
The Green Knight exposes his naked neck.
Gawain swings the axe and hacks off his head.
The Green Knight's handsome head drops to the ground and rolls around.
Though he's decapitated and his fancy green clothes are covered in blood, the Green Knight's body remains standing.
Then he walks forward and picks up his head. Holding his head, he mounts his horse.
The Green Knight turns his nasty, severed head to Arthur and his guests. The head speaks and reminds Gawain of his promise. He says he's known as the Knight of the Green Chapel, and Gawain can find him at the Green Chapel on New Year's Day, twelve months from now. If he doesn't show up, he's a total coward.
Then the decapitated Green Knight gallops out of the building.
Arthur and Gawain laugh and grin about the green man, agreeing that they have indeed witnessed a marvel. Guess they can eat their feast now.
Arthur, Gawain, the Queen, and all of the knights and guests have double helpings of the holiday meal, plus desserts. They listen to music and generally have a good time.