The unknown author of the story Sir Garwin and the Green Knight brings out Sir Garwin as a likable character which favors him throughout the story. Sir Garwin and the Green Knight is a story written in the fourteenth century by an author who is yet to be known. The story unfolds within King Arthur’s court where all ladies and knights are seated awaiting the celebration of the Christmas festive before a mysterious man disrupts them. Just as everyone is about to have their meal a gigantic man burst into that court disrupting the ongoing activities. Something striking about this man is the green color which happens to be the color of his skin and the horse he is riding. The green Knight proposes a game to the people seated in the court, but no one seems to be interested in the game which looks a little weird. So he challenges the king. However, Sir Garwin volunteers himself to participate in the game as it is obnoxious for the king to join in the game while the Knights are watching. So Sir Garwin takes the axe the Green Knight had come with and hops off his head just as he had challenged. Instead of the Knight dying, he picks up his head and challenges Sir Garwin to present himself in a year at the chapel for the same challenge. After a year, Garwin keeps his word and leaves the court in search for the green chapel where they had agreed to meet with the Green Knight. During the hunt for the chapel, he comes across a castle where he is welcomed warmly to stay, and the lord of the manor promises to take him to the chapel he was looking for. However, he asks him to keep up a little longer and play a game of hunting. Which they play for three days. Each of them keeps their promise during the game; however, Garwin breaks his promise the last day of the game. He sets out to meet the Green Knight in the Chapel where to his surprise, then Green Knight happens to be the same Lord that hosted him in his castle for days. The Green Knight does not chop his head off. He attempts to do it two times, and the third time he puts a small scar on his neck to always remind him that he failed to keep his promise the third day as they had agreed. His life is saved, and he goes back to his uncle’s court (David and James, 2006).
Sir Garwin is the protagonist of Sir Garwin and the Green Knight poem. He is King Arthur’s nephew and portrayed as one of the noblest knights. His likable reputation has been built around his love life and a great knight. He is the epitome of integrity, piety, honesty, humility, and loyalty. He only makes one mistake at the end of the story which is choosing to save his life over keeping a promise. However, this brings out his human nature.
Garwin is brought out as a likable character in the story. As the story unfolds, Garwin has seen as a noble character a perfect example of fairness. He is courteous, loyal and honest. He is subjected to several tests throughout the story; some are external while others are internal, but they do not put him down. Although in some instances he has made silly mistakes, things always work out in favor of him. His noble character is first seen at the beginning of the story. This is where the Green Knight challenges King Arthur to be part of the challenge. Garwin carefully frees the king from the predicament which restores his reputation. Of all the Knights seated in the round table, only Garwin dared to release his King by putting his own life at risk. The courageous act of Garwin is admirable to many, and even at the end of the story, we learn that the Green Knight was impressed by his action which favored him.
Another instance where the author brings out Garwin as a nobleman is a year later where he sets out on his journey to meet the Green Knight. This depicts him as a nobleman who keeps his word. From the challenge, Garwin’s destiny was known, his head would be chopped off by the Green Knight as per the agreement. It did not scare him off, however. We would expect him not to honor his word especially now that he knew he was going to be killed. Instead, he puts on a golden armor and goes to search for the chapel where they had agreed to meet. His choice of the shield which is has a gold pentangle tells us he is a peerless prince who keeps his word and a very courteous Knight.
Garwin is a generous soul. He is seen to put his life at risk to save that of the king. It is seen during his wedding with Ragnell Dame. This is when he is, but Garwin comes through for him to protect his reputation since he could not refuse. The two were forced to ask what all the women wanted which King Arthur would not resist. However, Sir Garwin helped him out. He earned King Arthur’s approval by revealing the answer to the question which was to marry a hag. It wins him another favor at the end of the story when Ragnell Dame receives sovereignty.
Another character of Garwin that makes him amiable is an honor. He is an honorable man for keeping his word to meet the Green Knight though he knew his life was at risk. Stepping out to save his uncle’s reputation when he was challenged and honoring his word was a despicable act which is not expected from commoners. Also, at the Lord’s castle, he is seen to respect the lady. All the days he spent at the villa he honored what the lady said and respected her till the last day.
Another instance where his honorable act is portrayed is him honoring to wear the girdle the lady at the castle gave him. After meeting the Green Knight, who turned out to be the Lord of the manor; he challenged him to wear the girdle throughout to serve as a reminder of him failing to keep his word which he did. He carried it to his court a continued wearing the belt.
Despite Sir Garwin’s noble character, some instances display his weaknesses. He is not a flawless hero like the author has presented him; he has shown his shortcomings as a man in the story. His first instance of weakness is revealed at the Lord’s castle where he stops by on his way to the green castle. He breaks his promise of giving the lord whatever he receives on the third day when the lady gives him the invincibility girdle. He chooses to break the promise to save his life as he believed that keeping the sash would prevent the green knight from killing him. Although this trait makes him look like a coward, it brings out the human nature in him. Just like any other human, he is flawed and would save his life given a chance. Instead of ruining his reputation, the act makes him more human hence understandable. All through Garwin’s journey in the poem, he is succumbed by many spiritual and physical trails. He shows doubt and anxiety in some instances which are not expected of him as a good knight. He gives in to temptation and chooses to save his life over keeping his promise. Regardless of his flaws, he is the noblest Knight and chivalrous companion king Arthur ever had in history. The author turns Garwin’s weaknesses to be positive traits making him the most likable character. He is portrayed as a role model by the way he carries himself out in different situations. He makes mistakes just like a normal human being and shows his heroic acts at the same time.
David, Alfred and James Simpson. The Norton Anthology: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006.