When Gawain leaves King Arthur's court to meet the Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, he travels for a great length of time, finding himself in North Wales and beyond. He asks any he meets for word of the Green Knight.
Gawain moves on, traveling through strange country. On his journey, he must fight dragons, wolves, bears, boars, bulls and even trolls on occasion. Many times it is the grace of God that he is not killed.
Only constant courage and the care of his God
could save him sometimes from certain death.
For if warfare was hard, winter was worse...
He lay down half-dead, drenched in his armor,
too many times to bear...
Gawain travels on, until Christmas Eve—he lifts up a prayer to Mary. Gawain worries about where he will spend the evening.
At that very moment, Gawain's prayer is answered, for he discovers a castle where he hopes he will be able to ask for shelter. Gawain approaches the gate to ask for admittance, and the Porter gladly grants his request. Gawain enters and servants rush to his aid. Taking his horse, they lead him inside. The lord (Bertilak) orders that Gawain be given a room; he is taken to a beautiful chamber, where he changes and rests before the fire. Downstairs, the table has been covered with a variety of wonderful dishes, and the knight eats.
Conversation turns to Gawain home and who he is. He tells the lord of Arthur and the Round Table. When the company learns who Gawain is, the lord is delightfully surprised that such an honored knight has joined them. After the meal, the group goes to mass: Bertilak, his wife and her ladies, and Gawain. Soon after, everyone retires.
Christmas day is spent in giving thanks, eating and visiting. After a couple of days, Bertilak decides to hunt but Gawain, too exhausted, does not go. Bertilak challenges Gawain that each should share with the other, the fruits of their labors at day's end. So agreed, the lord goes hunting; but as Gawain sleeps, the lord's wife enters Gawain's room and tries to seduce him. He courteously declines her offer, so she asks for a kiss. The chivalrous knight does so, but then offers this kiss to Bertilak, when the lord presents his kill for the day to Gawain. The next day the same thing happens, but Gawain remains strong. On the third day, the lady comes again, but while he praises her, he declines her "offer." However, she gives him a sash that is said to protect one from death. This he keeps, not sharing it with Bertilak, though each day, Gawain returns the kisses to the lord.
As New Year's approaches, Gawain gives his thanks and departs the castle, calling down a blessing upon his hosts:
'I commend this castle to Christ, may He give it ever good fortune.'
And so, Gawain continues in search of the Green Knight. One man travels with him to guide him to the location of the Green Chapel. His guide begs him to run away, but Gawain refuses:
[If] I passed here and fled for fear as thou sayest, then were I a coward knight, and might not be held guiltless. So I will to the chapel let chance what may...
With directions from his guide, and a farewell, Gawain continues on alone, to the Green Chapel.