Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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I was asked to do a report on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in a British Literature class I am taking, since I was the only student to be reading it in full.  I was very happy because I love this story and want to enlighten others to its greatness.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English storytelling poem written in the late 14th century amid the peasants’ revolt and the Black Death plague.  The poem is written in alliterative stanzas followed by a short rhyming stanza called a bob and wheel.  It was written by a contemporary of Chaucer and, while no one knows who the Gawain author was, it is clear that they were pretty clever in their storytelling.  They created a character, the Green Knight, from their own region which we know was the north of England by the dialect that the poem was written in, and sent him south to seek Camelot and Arthur’s Round Table.  Then they brought an Arthurian character, Sir Gawain, to their own area seeking a local landmark: the Green Chapel.

Arthur and his court, including his nephew Gawain, were making merry around Christmas time.  Suddenly everyone was quiet.  A large knight rode into the hall on his horse.  The author waits until the last moment to say that this knight and his horse were entirely bright green.  This Green Knight greeted Arthur and said that he had heard of how brave and good at battle Arthur and his men were and that he had come to offer a challenge to them that has come to be called the beheading game.  The Green Knight wanted a man in the hall to take his ax and chop off the Green Knight’s head;   if the Green Knight lived, the man who had beheaded him would journey to a certain Green Chapel in a year’s time and receive the same blow from the Green Knight.

After some silence, Arthur got up and said he would do it.  Gawain can’t let his uncle, the king, get his head chopped off, so he got up and, taking the ax from the Green Knight says that he will do it.  The Green Knight knelt on the floor and bared his neck and Gawain cut his head off.  The Green Knight got up, put his head back on his neck and, reminding Gawain of his promise to come to the Green Chapel in a year, he rides off.

True to his word, the next year Gawain sets out a few weeks early to find the Green Knight’s chapel.  Winters in England are very wet and miserable and here is Gawain, a young knight, probably not more than 20 years old, all alone journeying through the countryside.  After days on the road, Gawain comes to a castle and begs admittance.  The lord of the castle welcomes him and treats him like a royal guest.

After staying for a couple of days, Gawain says he really must be going to find the Green Chapel.  He doesn’t want to ruin his honor by breaking the Code of Chivalry and breaking his word.  The lord says that it will be fine; he will make sure that Gawain reaches the Chapel on time.  Then he makes an agreement with Gawain.  Gawain will stay in bed as long as he likes for the next three days while the lord goes hunting.  Everything that the lord kills in the hunt, he will give to Gawain as long as Gawain gives whatever he receives in the castle to the lord.  This has come to be called the exchange of winnings.  Gawain agrees.

Each morning for the next three days, Gawain stays in bed late. And each morning also, the lord’s wife comes into Gawain’s room and flirts with him, tempting him.  One of the rules in the Code of Chivalry is to never refuse a lady, but Gawain must keep his honor and respect the lady’s fidelity to her husband while not refusing her.  Luckily, Gawain comes up with ways to resist her temptation while still keeping the Code of Chivalry.  On the last day of the exchange of winnings, the lady comes into his room tempting him even more and gives him a green belt that she says will keep him safe from harm.  Gawain knows that he shouldn’t break his agreement with the lord, but he is about to get beheaded, so he does not pass along the belt.

The lord sends a guide with Gawain to lead him to the Green Chapel and once they arrive, the guide tries to persuade Gawain to turn around and leave so that he doesn’t get killed.  Gawain is determined to follow through with his promise to the Green Knight, so he refuses the guide and is left alone with the special belt hidden around his waist.  Gawain hears humming and whirring noises from the top of the hill (the Green Knight sharpening his ax) and yells that if the Green Knight doesn’t show himself, Gawain will leave.  The Green Knight says to wait and he’ll come down.

The Green Knight comes with his massive battle ax and Gawain kneels down with his neck exposed.  The Green Knight swings his ax, but stops short because Gawain hunched his shoulders.  He reproaches Gawain for being a coward and Gawain says he won’t do it again.  The Green Knight swings a second time, but stops short again just to make sure that Gawain wouldn’t hunch his shoulders.  By now, Gawain is mad because the Green Knight won’t get on with it.  The Green Knight swings and makes a small gash on Gawain’s neck.  Gawain jumps up and the Green Knight says that Gawain is like a pearl compared to the white peas that are other fair knights.  The Green Knight reveals that he was the lord who made the agreement to exchange winnings with Gawain and that he sent his wife to tempt Gawain and that the special belt that his wife gave to Gawain was, in fact, his own.  The lord/Green Knight then reveals that he was sent to Arthur’s court in the form of a green knight by Morgan Le Fey, (who was once romantically attached to Merlin) to test the Round Table and see if it was really as wonderful as it was said to be, by testing Gawain.

There are three themes in the story: the beheading game, the exchange of winnings, the temptation of the lord’s wife and temptation to not follow through with the Green Knight.  All three test Gawain’s self-restraint, his character and his willingness to discipline himself to keeping the Code of Chivalry.

I can picture Gawain in knight school, with his teacher listing the rules of chivalry for the young knights to memorize.  Gawain, looking out at the green grass, begins to daydream about his adventures as a knight: a beautiful lady, an enormous bright green knight, beheading and his own grand outcome.

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Photos

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It’s really quite hard to get good pictures of goats: they eat a lot, so there heads are mostly down in the grass, they jerk around a lot and they are always very interested in the black thing you are holding, so you get a lot of really big heads and noses.

I spent 20 minutes out there with them trying to get some good ones, but I still didn’t get any of Morisot nursing.  Bummer.

Top left is Hildegarde, (aren’t her ears great?  They flop all over when she runs too), the top right is Morisot grazing, the next down on the right is Widget and Morisot (can you tell they’re mother an daughter?), bottom right is Hildegarde again and bottom left is Morisot (her eyes are the prettiest colors.  The pupils are a very dark blue-black and right around them are a sort of aura of lighter blue, then the rest of her eye is a beige color).

August 21st Eclipse

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By the 17th, all the towns within an hour of our house had sold out of the eclipse glasses.  We thought we might have to figure out how to make our own, but my mom found out that my grandmother’s library was having a program on the eclipse and would be giving out the glasses afterward.  On her suggestion, my grandmother took my cousins to the program and managed to get an extra pair of glasses for us.

We had my family plus four friends all sharing the glasses and it worked great.  The friends also brought a pin-hole camera that they had made and some binoculars to project the eclipse on paper.

The morning of the eclipse day, the sun was unbearably hot and it was in the mid eighties.  By 1:45pm, there was a cool breeze and we stayed in the sun, with its intensity lessened by the eclipse, the entire time we viewed the eclipse and were perfectly comfortable.

We just got a new goat who loves people.  She and our cow (also a people lover) stayed quiet and inside even when we sat right outside their paddock.  They didn’t come out until after the peak of the moon’s coverage of the sun.

Mid-Summer on the Farm

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We have finally finagled a way for us to go on vacation for a few days this year.  It took weeks to figure out how we could do it, since we have to cater to the needs of all our animals.

Meg, our milk cow, will be going away for breeding in a few days, which means that we have to dry her up.  It’s a very sad process, because we love her milk and we won’t get any more until next June.  We milked her Monday evening and will be doing it on Thursday morning or evening, depending on how full her udder is.  She is doing fine with not being milked, as long as we feed her copious amounts of hay.  Cows love eating.

We are separating Morisot, the baby goat, from her mother, Widget, at night and then we milk Widge in the morning and let Morisot out.  Widget is giving about three cups a day, which is pretty good for a Nigerian Dwarf goat with a baby.

Morisot’s horns are getting to be about an inch long and she enjoys butting people’s arms and legs with them.  We keep telling her no, because when her horns are five inches long, that will not be very pleasant, as you can imagine.

The sweet little bantams that I’ve been raising for my friend are going back to her soon.  They are very friendly and amusing to have around and I’m considering asking her if I can give her $20 for them, but we really don’t have anywhere to put them and our big rooster has taken a disliking to pipsqueak upstarts in his job field.

Marvin, the head bantam rooster, had a standoff with one of the big hens the other day, which was hilarious.  She is one of our largest hens, at about 10 times his size.  Marvin put his wing down and did his mating dance around her. Deciding that she would not take sass from a little pint sized rooster, she put HER wing down and did the rooster’s dance around him.  Needless to say, he strutted off to go woo his brothers.

A few days ago, I tore out our peas, since it’s getting too hot for them and they had powdery mildew for some reason, and last night I took out the pea poles.  It was very satisfying.  Then I pulled all the weeds (well, not ALL the weeds, there are always more), cut the roots off and put them in a big bucket for Meg.  We do that with most of our weeds, because the animals love them.  We call them salads.

Actually, it’s a circle.  We take the cow manure and put it on the garden.  Then the weed seeds in the manure sprout and we pull them and give them to the animals, who in turn give us more manure for the garden.

The chickens really love the cow and goat manure as well.  Whenever the cow sticks her tail out in preparation to poop, the chickens come running and look up (“manna from heaven” as my mom said) and immediately start to scratch it up, looking for bits of grain and seeds.  The goat poop, which is little “nanny berries,” is like a little gift.  The chickens follow the goats around just waiting for it and then break each one open to see if there’s some tasty something inside.

Another really hilarious thing happened, which was this:  I had an old piece of roast beef in a container that I took out to give to the chickens.  I gave it to them and a chicken picked it up and carried it away with a horde of other chickens running along behind, trying to intercept it.  Then I saw that one hen, Clio had a hold of another something and there was a chicken screaming and I saw Thia, who has a very floppy comb, had fallen down on the ground.  I finally realized that Thia was the one screaming and the nice piece of meat that Clio had, was in fact, Thia’s comb.  Clio didn’t see the actual bit of meat and instead thought “I want that bright red juicy piece” and clamped her beak onto the prize and refused to let go of it (and apparently realize) that it was her sister’s comb!  I felt really bad for Thia, whose comb must have hurt a lot.

While on the subject of funny animal stories, I’ll tell you this one that got a group of adult friends that I was giving a tour of the farm to, laughing like crazy:

Our dog is deathly afraid of goats.  She will walk out the back door; see the goats and then back herself into the breezeway again.

Our goat, Molly, has head-butted her numerous times, so she thinks the whole caprine species is out to get her.  My dad decided to take her out into the back yard to introduce her to Widget and Morisot, because they are really sweet and there’s no reason for a 60 pound dog to be afraid of a Nigerian Dwarf goat and her tiny baby.

So he drags the dog out and shows her to Morisot and Widget.  The dog cowers and flinches away from them thinking “something is going to happen.  They are going to hurt me.”  Finally, she is like “please let me go back.  I want to be done with this” so she turns around and begins to slink back towards the house.  Then…WHAM!  Widget head-butts her retreating back-end and our dog puts her tail between her legs and runs to the house thinking “I knew it!”

As my mom would say, “never a dull moment around here.”

Morisot

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Thursday evening our goat Widget had her kid!  We named her Morisot (more-iss-o), after the female painter Berthe Morisot, who painted in the 1800s.

We thought Widgie would be having triplets, or at least twins, since she had triplets last time and she was very large, but she just had one little girl.

Happy Earth Day!

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Hello!  Happy late Earth Day!

Well, it’s been a while…

We sold our calf.  We sold her to some friends who live about 20 minutes away, so we can go visit her whenever we want.  Meg, her mom, mooed all night after we sold her.  It was a sleep deprived night for all and I’m sure our neighbors like us even less than they did before.

Our brood hen, Runner, now has chicks!  Her eggs didn’t hatch, so yesterday, we got six bantam chicks from my friend.  She has too many chicks to raise anyway, so she was really happy to have six less.  We put the chicks under Runner and she took them.  When they are old enough, we’ll give them back to my friend, which is fine, because we don’t need anymore chickens.

It’s been a beautiful day today.  We have lots of flowers blooming-daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, plum tree and cherry tree.  Not to mention all the other trees that are flowering, such as sassafras, maple and ironwood.

We’ve been making lots of art, writing and reading (Harry Potter for the first time!) and gardening.  Our vegetable garden is looking good.  We have planted peas, onions, carrots, turnips, kale, mache, escarole and mustard mix.  Also been digging out hordes of Jerusalem artichokes.  I swear, those are the most invasive things ever!!

I can’t say that I anticipate posting more.  I’m trying to spend as little time on the computer as I can, so maybe once a month, maybe less.

 

Here are some pictures I’ve taken:

Gandhi Peace Greeting

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My mom used to be the director of children’s ministries at our church for a few years when I was younger.  Every Sunday in Sunday School, we would all say the Gandhi Peace Greeting.  Yesterday I was trying to remember how it goes, so I looked it up and decided to post it here.

“I offer you peace.
I offer you love.
I offer you friendship.
I see your beauty.
I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.
My wisdom flows from the highest Source.
I salute that Source in you.
Let us work together. For unity and peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Dicey’s Song

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I just finished reading Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt.  I would like to post a few quotes from chapter 7:

“‘….I got to thinking-when it was too late-you have to reach out to people.  To your family too.  You can’t just let them sit there, you should put your hand out.  If they slap it back, well you reach out again if you care enough.  If you don’t care enough, you forget about them, if you can.  I don’t know, girl.'”

That was Dicey’s grandmother speaking to Dicey.

Now, on the next page:

“‘….And I’m sorry, the way it turned out.  Because somebody’s slapped your hand back good and hard.  But I don’t want you to stop reaching, just because it didn’t come out the way it should have.'”

That was still Dicey’s grandmother.

A bit further down that page she says:

“‘I took him-in the nature of an experiment.  You know? I wondered if I could.  I like him, don’t you?’

‘Sure,’ Dicey said.  ‘We all do.  But that’s why you told him how poor we are.’

‘You don’t go reaching out with your hand closed up,’  Gram said.  ‘It worked out all right this time.’

Dicey thought.

‘It took me so long to learn,’ Gram explained.  ‘I’d like you to have more of a head start.'”

 

I love when she says “you don’t go reaching out with your hand closed up.”  That’s the main reason I posted all this.  I had to post a bunch so it would make sense, but that part and the first part about reaching out is really what I wanted to quote.

Think about it.  Really think about it.  The more you do, the better it gets.

 

The quotes are all from chapter 7 of Dicey’s Song, by Cynthia Voigt.