Paper Proposal: Symbolic Color in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Laurel McCormick


Symbolic Color in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The colors green and gold in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are assigned to The Green Knight and Sir Gawain as a physical representation of their inner qualities. These colors are also representative of the wildness of nature and inner morality. The Green Knight has many things that link him to the free natural world; his greenness, his green horse, the holly branch, the axe and the Green Chapel. These objects reflect his wildness of character. The Green Knight is continually outspoken, and somewhat unrefined. Nature, magic and unpredictability are closely intertwined when describing the character of the Green Knight. Sir Gawain on the other hand, is closely associated with the color gold. He is repeatedly mentioned adorning himself with gold trinkets and his armor is even tinged with the color. Gold typically represents purity and wealth. This association is maintained throughout Gawain’s journey. Gawain is even described as having a heart of gold. Sir Gawain embodies the courtly and spiritual morality that every hero should possess because he remains true to his mission throughout the story. His strengths are tested by the Green Knight by using his wild ways to try and uncover a flaw in the hero. The two opposing characters can also be seen in each other. Sir Gawain wears a green girdle at the end of the story and the reader sees an upset to his normally calm character. The Green Knight’s armor is laced with gold and Lord Bertilak behaves with the utmost knightly hospitability when Sir Gawain is staying with him.

One thought on “Paper Proposal: Symbolic Color in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  1. This sounds really interesting. I’d love to read the paper at some point. Your proposal reminds me of an article I read a few years ago about the color green in the Icelandic sagas. The author of the article writes about how green was associated in those stories with travelers, secrecy, and the supernatural, all of which I think apply to the Green Knight in the poem. Icelandic sagas are a little bit outside of what this class has focused on, but I think technically they ares till medieval literature. (If you want a copy of the article, I still have it in PDF form. Just let me know.)

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