Posted by: engl2220 | June 16, 2008

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

As you read Fitt 2 (p. 157-172) for Tuesday (17 June), Take note of: seasons, color, numbers, Christianity, wilderness/nature, chivalry, women, games.

So far, we have read two different “medieval” epics; one an Anglo-Saxon saga of the bravery of one man against a man-eating descendant of Cain; the other, a romantic tale of a quest one of Arthur’s knights accepts to prove his valour and bravery.

Consider the “monsters” in each tale; how is each described? How do we know they’re the “monsters”? Compare and contrast Grendel to the Green Knight in both appearance and manner. In which ways are both outsiders, and in which ways do they uphold or reinforce the comitatus group’s ideals? Are the “monsters” largely from pagan tradition, largely from Christian tradition, or a combination of the two–and how can you tell? Based on these two figures, how can we define the medieval concept of the “monster”?



  1. Both “monsters” are described very well. the author uses lots of detail in his descriptions of these two. Grendel is described as one of the most horrific beings to ever walk the earth. You can tell fom the way the author writes, that he is disgusted with the appearance of Grendel. grendel also seems to be illiterate kind of being. Not well versed in the ways of the people he is attacking. Basically an animal doing things on impluse. On the otherhand, the way the author describes the Green Knight is very admiring. He makes sure to give every detail about how the knight looks. The author is very impressed with the Green Knight. You would almost see the Green Knight as hero in another story. The Green Knight is very well versed in eddicate and manners. There is no “beastly” charateristics to the way he handles his time in King Authur’s court.

    These two charaters are outsiders in these poems because they are not like the rest of the characters in the poems. Grendel is a decendant of Cain, and the Green Knight is “other-worldly” compared to the other knights in the story. These two things set them apart from everyone else, and deems them outsiders. They both uphold the comitatus group by the response that is taken when they appear in the poem. beowulf and his group band together to deafeat him at whatever cost. Gawain comes to the aid and defense of his king.

    I think both of the monsters in these poems come from pagan back ground. Grendel is the defenition of “moster.” Monsters are pagan. The Green Knigh is more of the “magical” type pagan. The way he is referred to as “half-troll”, also lead to pagan type monsters.
    Monsters can be defined as the opposing person in these Anglo-Saxon, Hero type poems.

  2. In these two stories we see the monster as the ‘other’. They are characters that do not fit in with the so called ‘in group’. In Beowulf, Grendel is the type of monster people imagine from horror movies. He is ugly, beastly and evil. In Gawain the monster is a bit more subtle. The Green Knight, with the exception of his color, seems like he would fit right in with Arthur and his knights. He is a mighty knight, brave and strong, who also knows all the courtly rituals. It is the fact that he has some sort of supernatural abilities, his green color and ability to survive a beheading, that makes him the ‘monster’ in the story. Both of these monsters are more Pagan than Christian, i think. Even though there are Christian themes connected to them (Grendel and Cain, the Green Knights appearance and manners) they are still supernatural and magical. Grendel is described as this Hellish creature who roams the moors and eats men. The Green Knight, although beatiful and impressive, is green in color, as is his horse, thus linking him to the sort of wild man/nature/fairy idea. All in all, medieval monsters are the “other”.

  3. The narrator’s description of Grendel was an “evil dweller in darkness” (L. 78), “a horror from hell, hideous Grendel wrathful rover of borders and moors, holder of hollows, haunter of fens” (L. 91) and “The cursed creature, cruel and remorseless… proud of his murders” (L. 105). This is also our hint that he is definitely a monster. Grendel description is more monstrous than of the Green Knight. The Green Knight is described as being a hug man, “the largest man alive at least I declare him”, (L. 141). He has a green hue, decorated in bright stones and hairy, but finely trimmed. We depict he is a monster when he is still alive after his beheading and carries his head away with him.
    Grendel and the Green Knight are alike in appearance because they both have non-human qualities. We get the impression of Grendel being this awful looking creature and the Green Knight is huge and green. Although, there is nothing good the narrator says about Grendel, the Green Knight is said to be well trimmed and nice looking. They both intrude into others gatherings unannounced knowing what their goal is. However, Grendel goes in for the kill and the Green Knight offers the warriors a peace offering and a challenge.
    They are both outsiders because Grendel is a descended of Cain, and is doomed to be an outsider and the Green Knight is by himself in the wilderness. Both are non-human looking and have “powers”, which also sets them aside from the others.
    Grendel is not of Christian tradition because he is remorseless of his murders and I think the Green Knight has a combination of both. He understands the heroic code that is pagan, but also thinks that isn’t all you should focus on.
    I think the mid-evil concept of a monster is one who is an outsider, one how toys with people (killing, or playing games) and one who has non-human qualities with magical powers.

  4. Grendel and the Green Knight are the monsters in our tales so far, but I find that Grendel fits the descritption of a monster better than the Green Knight. Of course, these two characters would be considered “the other” in each of the poems because they are outsiders. Like it has been mentioned before, what you see is what you get. We know that Grendel is the monster in Beowulf because he is an ugly creature who wishes harm on others. We know that the Green Knight is the monster in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight because he looks like a wild man with long hair growing all over his body. Grendel speaks Old English and screams when he hears people rejoicing and feasting, while the Green Knight talks like everyone else. These characters are both outsiders. Grendel is a descendant of Cain, born of evil, while the Green Knight is literally an outsider who is not a native of their land. I believe that the monsters are both largely Pagan, considering that they both want to fight and kill. Basically, the “monster” is any creature that the hero goes after. The monster is usually evil, seeking death upon others. The monster is always physically different from the rest of the characters, usually ugly.

  5. Both Grendel and the Green Knight are the monsters in the two stories we have read so far. Grendel is portrayed more as a monster then the Green knight throughout the story. Grendel is described as very ugly and monsterous while the Green Knight is almost glorious in his description. The Green Knight is covered in jewels and fine silks while Grendel is just grotesque. I feel as though the only connection we have to the Green Knight being a monster so far is his magical type powers as well as the green he wears, while Grendel is obviously a monster. I believe that both of these monsters are pagan in influence although they both have hints of christianity in them. The Green Knights connection to the magical and fairy tell world, but he also has a holly branch that connects him to christianity. Grendel is also pagan with christianity influence as he is a cecendent of Cain.

  6. The fact that the Green Knight is a monster is purely what reinforces the concept of the comitatus group. He is the monster only because he is an outsider. Also, morally, they are considered monsters only because they are different from what we expect as normal. Grendel was really a wimp in a sense. He attacked at night mostly when the majority was asleep from a long night of partying. It is almost a biblical tale of their “last supper.” The Green Knight prances in in the middle of their feasting and celebration. He addresses the entire group. Grendel never addresses anyone. Grendel was called a fiend from the demons below. The Green Knight was more of just a wild man than a demon. The monster syndrome probably originated from paganism but was adapted or adopted in Christianity. Christianity gave monsters a certain title or name, demon/devil.

  7. The Green Knight and Grendel are portrayed as “monsters” in the two poems we have discussed. Both of these characters share similar qualities, as well as some differences, based on their role in the story. Grendel is considered ugly on the inside and the outside, but the Green Knight is almost glorious, even though he is the antagonist of the poem, and he is strong and brave like a knight. Also, Grendel is jealous of the celebration in the mead hall and this is the reason for his attack. On the other hand, the Green Knight is willing to make a deal and just challenge one of the knights.
    They are both considered outsiders because they are the ones that go against everyone else and cause trouble in their “perfect” world. On the contrary, both Grendel and the Green Knight possess comitatus traits. Grendel expresses anger and jealously which makes him fight for what he believes, and the Green Knight comes to King Arthur’s place and wants a fair challenge.
    Grendel and the Green Knight possess both pagan and Christian characteristics. The pagan side would be the back and forth revenge and wanting to challenge someone to a quest that is fatal. Although they have some Christian references like the holly on the Green Knight, Grendel and the Green Knight are mostly pagan.
    The medieval concept of the “monster” could portray an evil, disfigured but not hideous, strong and brave but still a misfit up-to-no-good character.

  8. Over the course of the past two tales, the ‘monsters’ appear to be Grendel and the Green Knight. Grendel is portrayed as a horrific character with a lust for killing. The Green Knight represents an almost invincible character, who even with a chopped off head, can still speak and ride away into the night. Compared to Grendel, however, the Green Knight has a code of honor and is well-mannered in appearance; Grendel is the typical beast from the underworld, a symbol of evil descended from Cain. Both of these monsters appear to be from Pagan tradition, simply because of their quest, it seems, to destroy life in some way. There are some Christian ties here and there, but the Pagan takes over as the tales proceed. The medieval concept of a monster can be portayed as something that continues to haunt the protagonist of an epic, directly or indirectly, until that protagonist copes with God to aid in destroying the ‘monster’.

  9. Grendel and the Green Knight are labeled as monsters simply because they are starkly different from those around them. Both authors make a point to clearly distinguish these creatures from everyone else; the Green Knight is described as a massive man “green all over glowed” (“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Line 150). Grendel is described as “a horror from hell, hideous,” (“Beowulf” 91). Although both characters are monsters, the Green Knight resembles the physique of a human which in fact beautifies him compared to Grendel’s beastly features. One large indicator of the Green Knight’s supernatural qualities is when he held his own decapitated head and said farewell. As a result, he is an outsider because no one else is seen as fairy-like or non-human. Grendel, on the other hand, is shunned because he causes distruction. Both monsters reflect pagan beliefs because of the usage of monsters and supernatual being in oral tradition; however, Christian references are present as well: Grendel’s origin from Cain. The medieval concept of “monster” can be defined as an often abnormal figure who can sometimes pose a threat to the society it resides in.

  10. In each of the tale, the “monsters” are described as different from the surrounding characters of the story. For example, Grendel was described as a creature with scales. The green knight was described as a man with hair all over his face and countenance.

    Both Grendel and the Green Knight are considered the “others” in the stories. Their presence are viewed with a sense of disdain by the surrounding characters. The Green Knight, however, is not a brute is manner as Grendel is. In challenging Arthur’s knights, he wily insults them to entreat them to play his games. Grendel and the Green Knight both reinforce the comitatus group’s ideals by causing the other characters of the stories to “gang” up together to overcome the “other evil” that is threatening their good times.

    The “monsters” in both of the stories are largely from a combination of pagan and christian tranditions. The reason for this is that the “monsters”, like grendel, has a christian history of being descended from cain while the green knight has a christian value which is inferred from his usage of the holly on christmas in arthur’s court. The pagan values of both of the “monsters” are attributed to their mystical ability. Grendel with his hyponsis and strength and the green knight with his immortality.

    Base on Grendel and the Green knight, a monster may be defined as any “other” creature with a mystical ability(ies) that uses that ability to threaten the ideals/ values of a comitatus group.

  11. The ‘monsters’ in these two tale are described as the outcast. In Beowulf, Grendel is a descendant of Cain. He has been evil since birth and because of this he is exiled for life. He is grotesque in both appearance and behavior. The Green Knight although described as a mythical figure and one not of ordinary appearance he is well mannered and seemingly capable of following societal rules. Both of these incongruous beings are both largely pagan, although they do have Christian influence. I feel the pagan influence is larger due to the magical characteristics of both Grendel and the Green Knight. This is reinforced in their actions; Grendel, in his killings and the Green Knight in his arrogance. I feel the medieval concept for a monster is an ‘extreme’ other. I feel the character has to be mythical but not af any specific physical apperance.

  12. The author of Beowulf describes Grendel in a frightening way, clearly illustrating that he is the monster in the story. The author calls him a “horror from hell,” for example. The Green Knight, on the other hand, is described as being majestic and admirable and not a wretched creature like Grendel. Grendel is violent and eats people, making him a danger. In contrast, the Green Knight does not present a terrible danger. He only asks for a volunteer to his challenge. Grendel is an outsider because he is a descendent of Cain, and therefore evil. The Green Knight is an outsider because he is not entirely human. He’s a huge, green man riding a green horse. Both are pagan figures. Monsters are a pagan concept. The Knight is Green, a color related to magic, also a Pagan idea. The medieval concept of a monster is a creature that does not mesh with the rest of society, making it an outsider.

  13. From the introduction of each ‘monster’ in both tales they impose themselves upon the men of the comitatus. Each ‘monster’ overtly challenges the heroes of the tale; Grendel physically assaults the thanes in Heorot, while the Green Knight verbally insults the court and challenges Arthur and his knights. Moreover, the stark physical contrast in appearance between the ‘monster’ of the tale and comitatus sets him apart. In clothing, Grendel’s lack of armor and the colors of the Green Knight, and in great size the visual description identifies each ‘monster’ as an imposing threat. Both Grendel and the Green Knight contain elements in their description of both the pagan and Christian realms, contrasting with the singular realm of the comitatus of each tale. The mixed origin of each ‘monster’ challenges the norms of each society, pagan in Beowulf and Christian in Arthurian legend. The ‘monster’ holds claim to the society based on its similar origin while simultaneously opposing the standards, making the subtle claim that each comitatus lacks the balancing elements of the other culture or tradition. This sets a basis for defining the medieval ‘monster’ as a physical representation of change, challenging the traditions of society.

  14. Both Grendel and the Green Knight are vividly described. While they are both “monsters”, Grendel is given the more beastly characteristics. He is described in a vile, horrid manner while the Green Knight is described as being easy on the eyes. Grendel acts more on instinct like an animal while the Green Knight seems to act more like a human. There is both Christian and pagan elements in both tales, and both monsters are pagan and have magical elements about them. Also, both monsters challenge the heros. Grendel attacks Heorot, which causes Beowulf to kill him, and the Green Knight verbally challenges Arthur and his knights, in which Sir Gawain then steps up to the challenge. Both Grendel and the Green Knight are considered outsiders because both are not completely human. Grendel takes it a step farther by being considered evil because he is a descendent of Cain. Both are monsters because of the medieval concept of what monsters are, which is a being that does not fit in to society.

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