Part 4, Verses 80–87, Lines 1998–2211 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on January 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 479

Summary

Gawain awakes on a bleak, snowy day. After summoning his guide to take him to the Green Chapel, he puts on his armor. Along with his coat, he wraps the green sash about him, then sets out on what he thinks will be his final journey.

As they approach...

(The entire section contains 479 words.)

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Summary


Gawain awakes on a bleak, snowy day. After summoning his guide to take him to the Green Chapel, he puts on his armor. Along with his coat, he wraps the green sash about him, then sets out on what he thinks will be his final journey.

As they approach the Green Chapel, the guide tells Gawain that he dares go no further. The Green Knight, he tells Gawain, is known for his fierceness and his cruelty. No man, the guide says, can stand up to the Green Knight in battle, and everyone who goes to the Green Chapel is killed.

The guide himself, he tells Gawain, dares to go no further. He advises Gawain as well to turn back and says he will keep it a secret if Gawain does, even if he must swear solemnly to the lie. Though irritated, Gawain thanks the guide for his good wishes. He then declines the offer and insists on going on.

The guide gives Gawain a lance and helmet, then directs him to descend alone into a ravine. He hurries away, leaving Gawain to face the Green Knight alone. Gawain follows the path into a grim and desolate place, filled with huge, jagged rocks.

He comes to a large mound beside a stream. Dismounting, he tethers his horse to a tree. Approaching, he finds a cavern, which, he thinks, could be a pagan temple.

Analysis


Mounds in pre-Christian Britain and Ireland were often places of worship. In the folklore of the British Isles, they were dwelling places of fairies. These ambiguous creatures were considered capable of either generosity or cruelty.

Fairies were sometimes identified with fallen angels, ghosts, or pagan nature spirits. While Victorian representations generally made fairies small, older folkloric descriptions made them the size of mortals or larger. At times they would be green like the adversary of Gawain.

Folkloric traditions concerning fairies vary widely, but they are very consistent about one thing—that it is almost always best to avoid contact with them. Fairies, while not necessarily either good or evil, are very powerful and unpredictable. They live by codes which are very different from those of ordinary mortals. There are many stories of people who were destroyed by contact with fairies and others of people who barely escaped, but there are very few stories of people who received any lasting benefit from such contact.

The guide is, perhaps, a vehicle for folkloric traditions. He does not seem to share or even understand the knightly code of Gawain, according to which both cowardice and breaking of one’s word are very severe violations of honor. However, he is also part of an attempt to test Gawain. It may be that he does not believe what he says and is simply trying to frighten Gawain on orders from Bertilak, who, we shall learn shortly, is the Green Knight.

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Part 3, Verses 67–79, Lines 1648–1997 Summary and Analysis

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Part 4, Verses 88–101, Lines 2212–2630 Summary and Analysis