Sir Gawain

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Sir Gawain is a fictional character in the King Arthur stories, but according to some historical critics originates and inspired from a real knight of 850 in the area of north Europe, between legend and oral norvegian Orkney Islands history. He is one of the most important Knights of the Round Table. His parents are Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot. He is the main character of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a medieval fantasy poem. He is said to be Arthur's nephew. He appears very early on in the legend and has been mentioned in very early Welsh sord in wales.

He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as one of the greatest knights, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, well know also like with the nickname First knight. He is almost always portrayed as the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian, and his brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred. He was well known to be the most trustworthy friend of Sir Lancelot.[1] In some works, Sir Gawain has sisters as well. According to some legends, he would have been the true and rightful heir to the throne of Camelot, after the reign of King Arthur.[2][3].

Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable, courteous, and also a compassionate warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and as "the Maidens' Knight", a defender of women as well. In some works, his strength waxes and wanes with the sun; in the most common form of this motif, his might triples by noon, but fades as the sun sets. His knowledge of herbs makes him a great healer,[4] and he is credited with at least three children: Florence, Lovell, and Gingalain, the last of which is also called Libeaus Desconus or Le Bel Inconnu, the Fair Unknown. Gawain appears in English, French and Celtic literature as well as in Italy where he appears in the architecture of the north portal in the cathedral of Modena, constructed in 1184.[5][6]

Name Gawain (Gauvain)[change | change source]

Gawain is also called Gauvain,Gualguanus, Gwalchmei, Walwein, etc. is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. Under the name Gwalchmei, he appears very early in the legend's development, being mentioned in some of the earliest Welsh Arthurian sources. Gawain is known by different names and variants in different languages. The character corresponds to the Welsh Gwalchmei ap Gwyar, and is known in Latin as Walwen, Gualguanus, Waluanus, etc.; in French as Gauvain; and in English as Gawain. The later forms are generally assumed to derive from the Welsh Gwalchmei.[7] The element Gwalch means hawk, and is a typical epithet in medieval Welsh poetry.[8] The meaning of mei is uncertain. It has been suggested that it refers to the month of May (Mai in Modern Welsh), rendering "Hawk of May", though scholar Rachel Bromwich considers this unlikely. Kenneth Jackson suggests the name evolved from an early Common Brittonic name *Ualcos Magesos, meaning "Hawk of the Plain".[8]

Not all scholars accept the gwalch derivation. Celticist John Koch suggests the name could be derived from a Brythonic original *Wolcos Magesos, "Wolf/Errant Warrior of the Plain."[9] Others argue that the continental forms do not ultimately derive from Gwalchmei. Medievalist Roger Sherman Loomis suggests a derivation from the epithet Gwallt Avwyn, found in the list of heroes in Culhwch and Olwen, which he translates as "hair like reins" or "bright hair".[10][11] Dutch scholar Lauran Toorians proposes that the Dutch name Walewein (attested in Flanders and Northern France c. 1100) was earliest, suggesting it entered Britain during the large settlement of Flemings in Wales in the early 12th century.[12] However, most scholarship supports a derivation from Gwalchmei, variants of which are well attested in Wales and Brittany. Scholars such as Bromwich, Joseph Loth, and Heinrich Zimmer trace the etymology of the continental versions to a corruption of the Breton form of the name, Walcmoei.[7]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. C. Norris, Ralph (2008). Malory's Library: The Sources of the Morte Darthur. D.S. Brewer. pp. 200. ISBN 9781843841548. https://books.google.com/books?id=9bQxHyxm3pIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Malory's+Library:+The+Sources+of+the+Morte+Darthur&source=bl&ots=1JLpefc1-n&sig=eTuQvrwnHG4TA5jc8HJ2xxCWSss&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iZwiUPrRHIXf0QGowoGoAw&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Malory's%20Library%3A%20The%20Sources%20of%20the%20Morte%20Darthur&f=false.
  2. Hall, p. 3
  3. Day, Mildred Leake (1994), "The Rise of Gawain, Nephew of Arthur", in Wilhelm, James J., The Romance of Arthur, New York: Garland, pp. 365–366
  4. Whiting, p. 194
  5. Hall p.4
  6. Whiting, p. 218
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bromwich, p. 369.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bromwich, p. 367.
  9. Koch, "The Celtic Lands," p. 267.
  10. Roger Sherman Loomis, The Grail (Princeton University Press, 1963), p.272
  11. Roger Sherman Loomis, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance (Academy Chicago Publishers, 1997), p.63-6.
  12. Toorians, Lauran, "Nogmaals 'Walewein van Melle' en de Vlaams-Keltische contacten," Queeste, 2 (1995), 97–112.