Topic: CultureTraditions

Last updated: March 16, 2019

Before comparing and evaluating Beowulf, Nibelungen, King Arthur, Sir Gawain and Green Night and the Song of Roland, we need to focus on what chivalric romance and knighthood are. It is easily described that both of them are associated with each other, and so we can say that there is no way chivalric romance is formed without knighthood and bravery. Chivalric romance is a literature genre of prose or verse and it is also described as the adventures of legendary knights who have some heroic qualities such as courage, loyalty, honor and humility which are civilized behaviors and also it includes courtly love. As for Knighthood, we can say that it is a term which requires these moral behaviors and it consists of chivalric codes. Beowulf shows knighthood which is one of the elements of the chivalric romance by fighting with Grendel for helping Hrotgar. This is a great example of chivalry and knighthood. In Beowulf, the monsters can be described as figures which have a symbolic meaning.

For example, Grendel may seem to be Cain, a biblical figure, who killed his own brother so Grendel may be represented the evil disturbing and killing others. Fighting with a dragon Beowulf sacrificed himself for people. The dragon which is a common Christian figure of sin may represent a malignancy that proves Beowulf’s courage and goodness. Another motif in Beowulf is the Mead-Hall, where is a cultural place, providing food and drink, light and warmth, and revelry and this is also the place Beowulf spends the night. This cultural place or institution represents a safe zone for warriors returning from battle and also it may be described as place of community where traditions were preserved and it affects the oral tradition because, in that place, stories were told and reputations were spread.Like in Beowulf, there are also some motifs and symbols in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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Before talking about these, I would like to mention chivalric features of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Firstly, Sir Gawain accepts the challenge of Green Knight to prove his courage just like Beowulf. Both of them keep their promises by questing and fighting with monsters and both shows a valor. All of these are not for gold, money, profit or any wishes.

They fight for glory and fame. As a difference, their beliefs and social status could be compared but Sir Gawain also shows a great knighthood and codes of chivalry. One of the motifs is shield of Sir Gawain.

Its shape is Pentangle. This shield may be considered representing the five wounds of Christ, and it may symbolize the five codes of chivalry or the virtues of knighthood which includes generosity, courtesy, purity, chivalry and piety. Actually, we can say that the Pentangle is a symbol of Gawain’s personality. In the story, the lady offers Sir Gawain a ring, but Gawain refuses it because he does not show heroism for any profits or wishes as mentioned above. However, Sir Gawain accepts and wears the green girdle which the lady gives because he thinks that it would be a jewel for the peril that awaited him at the temple, and he thinks that he can use the girdle for an advantage. The girdle represents Gawain’s human weakness and human nature because he wants to save his own life. In addition, this girdle may be considered as a symbol of shame, and Sir Gawain will wear this girdle forever because of his failure.

The colour of the green knight represents the nature, and it symbolizes fertility and rebirth and also, green colour in medieval literature can be associated with lust love or forbidden love. In Nibelungen, Siegfried promises the lady whom his brother gets injured that he takes a revenge for this lady and he shows bravery and keeps his promise by killing the dragon which damages the people and thus the courtly love emerged. This refers to an example of chivalric romance because Siegfried also has some chivalric qualities or codes. These are to be polite and attentive, loyalty to the country, the king and his friends. He never betrays a confidence or comrade so that he always maintains his principles and dies with honor. In addition to these, Siegfried has successfully exhibited the codes of chivalry. As for motifs and symbols in the movie, spilling onto the earth’s surface blood belongs to the dragon which has killed by Siegfried symbolizes his invincible. At the same time, it is a symbol of Siegfried’s weakness because a part of his body is not washed with blood because of a leaf while he takes a shower with the dragon’s blood.

The cave where Siegfried entered to kill the dragon represents a place of evil. Ring of the Nibelungs, which Siegfried wore, symbolizes a supernatural the power and also a curse. When Siegfried wore the ring, he possessed the power and curse of the ring. Finally, the sword which was crafted by Siegfried has also a symbolic meaning which refers to Germanic mythology. It is also the symbol of burning force and power of life. Surely, Sir Gawain served only one lord, King Arthur.

Sir Gawain also is one of the Knights of the Round Table which symbolized chivalry, knighthood, and the knight’s morals. Actually, codes of chivalry were first described in the Song of Roland but we can say that while these were first mentioned in the Song of Roland, they came into existence and shaped with King Arthur’s Round Table. That’s why I will compare both of them together. In King Arthur, there are some motifs and symbols which stand for. Surely one of them is the Round Table which also symbolizes fairness and justice which are Arthur’s sense. The Round Table keeps them safe and gives a confidence for a union. It also provides that everyone who sits around the round table is equal to each other.

Sword of King Arthur, also known as Excalibur, symbolizes power, honor and strength. Moreover, it has a great privacy heritage because this sword which stuck in a rock is not allowed to use by anyone except for King Arthur and his father. In the movie, the sword has a colorful spell which contains color of blue.

The power of the sword or spell of the sword helps King Arthur to save his life and his friends’ life several times. The enchantress in the movie, can be described as a representative of Merlin and she helps King Arthur, who is the heir to the kingdom and she makes Arthur a king with the help of sorceries.


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