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Published: 20-11-2019

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Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: the Role of Supernatural in Shaping the Hero

Supernatural creatures play an essential function in defining the hero in both the eighth century epic poem Beowulf, and the fourteenth century British Romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Even though each tales involve the hero’s journey to find and fight these creatures, their battles serve distinct purposes. Whereas Beowulf’s capacity to overcome Grendel and Grendel’s mother in battle serves to reinforce his status as a strong epic hero, Gawain’s relationship with the Green Knight tests the hero’s capacity to balance his courtly duties and his organic impulses. By undergoing testing in this manner, the romantic hero might discover and modify from his experiences Beowulf, on the other hand, remains a strong static figure in the manner of a true epic hero.

In understanding the function of the supernatural in these performs it is pertinent to also examine the origin of the supernatural in these functions. Both works’ supernatural creatures discover their roots in the pagan Anglo-Saxon tradition. Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem, displays its Scandinavian roots all through the text. The supernatural creatures featured in the text such as Grendel, his mother, and the dragon are clearly creatures primarily based on Germanic tradition. In the very same manner, the concept of a green man presented in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a product of the pagan tradition. In his introduction to the text, translator Brian Stone notes that the poet utilizes “pagan folk material drawn mainly from the early Celtic tradition” (11). Although the thought of a all-natural, wild man is a solution of native influences, the Green Knight, basically by name, is a dualistic character. By providing the creature the title of knight the poet exemplifies the French influence present in the poem. According to William Goldhurst, the juxtaposition of the terms “green” and “knight” in the creature’s title serves to explain this dualism. “His appellation reveals his paradoxical nature: Green represents untamed all-natural forces, and Knight, the effects of courtly civilization” (64). This notion of nature and civilization abiding in one particular body is evident in the first description the reader receives of the knight, which intertwines his awe-inspiring monster appearance with the elegant and knightly elements of his clothes and manner. The poet describes the supernatural aspects of the knight by saying, “…an great fellow/Who in height outstripped all earthly men, from throat to thigh he was so thickset and square/…that he was half a giant on earth/…and all glittering green” (lines 136-150). This monstrous description is juxtaposed with a description of the knight’s fine garments, alluding the truth that this creature is also refined: “And garments of green girt the fellow about-/…A comely cloak on leading, accomplished with lining/ Of the finest fur to be found, mad of one particular piece,/ marvellous fur-trimmed material, with matching hood” (lines 151-155). Not only is this knight a civilized creature in the manner of a French court member, but he is also a civilized creature with exquisite tastes for luxurious garments. Whereas the Knight’s sophisticated dress and manner show the influence of the French on this British Romance, the knight’s wild “greenness” displays the pagan influence.

By understanding the origins of the supernatural creatures featured in the poems, it is easier to interpret what role these creatures play in each and every of the performs. In each poems, the monsters, Grendel, his mother, and the Green Knight serve as physical hurdles that the hero need to overcome. Although the supernatural creature in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight plays an added part in relation to the hero, for Beowulf the creatures serve only as objects to be conquered to continually reestablish the hero’s strength. Fighting supernatural creatures is component of the every day life of an epic hero like Beowulf, who routinely proves his physical prowess in battle. Beowulf himself notes his great abilities upon meeting Hrothgar, “In my youth I achieved a lot of daring exploits… I destroyed five, a family members of giants, and by night slew monsters on the waves….” (Lines 407-419). In the identical way that Beowulf utilizes his past accomplishments in battle to prove his status as a correct and capable hero, the battles with Grendel and Grendel’s mother only serve to additional exalt Beowulf’s physical potential and courage. Right after fatally wounding Grendel in Heorot, these in the mead hall praise Beowulf. “Then Beowulf’s exploit was acclaimed several a man asserted time and time once again that there was no far better shield-bearer in the whole globe, to north or south in between the two seas, below the sky’s expanse, no numerous far more worthy of his personal kingdom” (lines 856-860). His greatness, which the poet establishes early in the text, is becoming reinforced with every single battle he wins. The same is true relating to his victory over Grendel’s mother. The victory does not change Beowulf rather, it reemphasizes his greatness. “Then the fearless leader of the thanes, covered with glory, matchless in battle, once more entered Heorot…” (lines 1644-1646). The battle with Grendel’s mother merely reiterates Beowulf’s ability rather than emphasizing a personal journey or alter. This concept of a static hero is a significant theme of the epic genre.

In contrast, the Green Knight serves as a catalyst for internal change inside Gawain. This concept of an inner journey or improvement of the hero is an concept discovered mainly in the French version romance, but is also evident in this text. The Green Knight, a creature the poet depicts as simultaneously wild and civilized, tests not only Gawain’s physical strength but also his inner strength to abide by his courtly responsibilities. Many descriptions all through the text exemplify the Green Knight’s role as a representation of the balance amongst nature and civilization. In the description of the knight at the Green Chapel the poet describes the creature in one particular instance as a “courteous knight,” and in the subsequent describes his animal-like movements saying the creature “…with massive strides/ Sophisticated violently and fiercely along the field’s width/ On the snow” (lines 2212-2235). By generating such a dualistic opponent for the hero, the poet alludes to the reality that there is a lot more to this battle than what meets the eye. The physical fight, the journey by means of harsh landscape to exchange blows with the green knight, is not the principal battle in the poem. The most trying battle proves to be the temptation Gawain experiences in Sir Bertilak’s castle, a courtly battle rather than one particular involving physical strength on the battlefield. So although the Green Knight acts as Gawain’s physical opponent in the natural landscape of the Green Chapel, he also acts as his opponent in the much more civilized setting. Due to the fact the emphasis in the story is not on winning a physical battle more than the supernatural creature, as it is in Beowulf, the hero’s failure to defeat the Green Knight and to honor his guarantee to his host makes it possible for him to understand and to evolve as an person. When Gawain pledges to put on the girdle as a reminder of his failure, he is using his failure as a indicates for improving himself and the other members of King Arthur’s Court who also adopt the girdle as a reminder of the lesson learned by Gawain. ” ‘Look, my Lord,’ stated Gawain…/this belt confirms the blame I bear on my neck/…For getting caught by cowardice and covetousness/ This is the figure of faithlessness found in me,/ Which I have to requirements put on even though I live” (2504-2509). Rather than preserving the status quo of an epic hero like Beowulf, Gawain’s multi-faceted experiences with the Green Knight permit an opportunity not only for him, but also for Arthur’s complete court to learn from his encounters with the supernatural.

Via Gawain’s experiences with a double-sided supernatural creature he learns a lesson regarding the challenging balance of courtly duties and all-natural desires, whereas Beowulf’s experiences with the supernatural serve only to reinforce his physical abilities. The aspect of the evolution of the hero, a key theme in romance, occurs only via Sir Gawain’s struggle with the Green Knight. In the identical way, Beowulf’s defeat of Grendel and Grendel’s mother emphasizes the notion of the epic hero as a strong, in a position warrior and a static character. The emphasis on Gawain’s struggle with the forces presented by the binary supernatural creature permits the hero to find out and evolve. This role of the supernatural creature as a mechanism for modify is in stark contrast to Beowulf, which focuses on the hero’s defeats over monsters, which only serve to reinforce what the reader and the other characters of the text already assert about the hero’s capabilities.
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