Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The story begins at Christmastime at King Arthur’s court in Camelot. The Knights of the Round Table join Arthur in the holiday celebrations, and Queen Guinevere presides in their midst. The lords and ladies of Camelot have been feasting for fifteen days, and now it is New Year’s Day. Everyone participates in New Year’s games, exchanging gifts and kisses. When the evening’s feast is about to be served, Arthur introduces a new game: he refuses to eat his dinner until he has heard a marvelous story. Be careful for you wish for.
While the lords and ladies feast, with Arthur’s nephew Gawain and Guinevere sitting together in the place of privilege at the high table, Arthur continues to wait for his marvel. As if in answer to Arthur’s request, an unknown knight suddenly enters the hall on horseback. The gigantic knight has a beautiful face and figure. Every piece of his elaborate armor is green, with flourishes of gold embossing. His huge horse is green, and his green hair and beard are woven together with gold thread. He holds a holly bob in one hand and a huge green and gold Great axe in the other as if he was a nature god of long ago.
Without introducing himself, the brash knight demands to see the person in charge. His question meets dead silence—the stunned knights, lords and ladies stare at him, waiting for Arthur to respond. Arthur steps forward, inviting the knight to join the feast and tell his tale after he has dismounted from his horse. The knight refuses the invitation, remaining mounted and explaining that he has come to inspect Arthur’s court because he has heard so much about its superior knights. He claims to come in peace, but he demands to be indulged in a game. Arthur assumes the knight refers to some kind of combat and promises him a fight. However, the knight explains that he has no interest in fighting with such young and weak knights. Instead, he wants to play a game (blow for blow) in which someone will strike him with his own axe, on the understanding that he gets to return the blow in exactly a year and a day.
The strange conditions of the game shock the court into silence once again. The entire court think he's nuts. The Green Knight begins to question the reputation of Arthur’s followers, claiming that their failure to respond proves them cowards. Arthur blushes and steps forth defend his court, but just as he begins to swing the great axe at the unfazed Green Knight, Gawain stands up and requests that he be allowed to take the challenge himself. The king agrees, and Gawain recites the terms of the game to show the Green Knight that he understands the pact he has undertaken. The Green Knight dismounts and bends down toward the ground, exposing his neck. Gawain lifts the axe, and in one stroke he severs the Green Knight’s head. Blood spurts from the wound, and the head rolls around the room, passing by the feet of many of the guests. However, the Green Knight does not fall from his horse. He reaches down, picks up the head, and holds it before him, pointing it toward the high table. The head speaks, repeating the terms of Gawain’s promise to come to the green chapel to finish the game. The Green Knight rides out of the hall, sparks flying from his horse’s hooves. Arthur and Gawain decide to hang the axe above the main dais. They then return to their feast and the continuing festivities like that were normal.

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