The Medieval romances are fond of using conventions that are often stereotypical of day-to-day living especially in the realm of romance and upholding virtues. These associative scenarios usually make it a familiar experience for the readers or audiences. According to Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey is an identification of the pattern common with medieval romances. Sir Gawain’s journey is illustrated in context to suit the pattern of a hero’s journey. Such stories are usually categorized into five sections: a call to adventure, the road to trials, the process of goal achievement, a return to ordinary life, and the benefits of achieving the goal. Sir Gawain, a Knight at King Arthur’s court is broadly an exemplification of the hero’s journey in all aspects. For instance, there is a focus on the court and nobility of a Knight who are often the main characters and protagonists in the play. Adventure and courtly love and divinities are as well regular ingredients. The set up usually involves the forest or a court of momentous emphasis in the play. The significance of this paper is thus to focus on how Sir Gawain’s story fits into the pattern of the Hero’s Journey.
Sir Gawain is a Knight of the Arthurian round table and is called to adventure when he is provoked to take up a challenge by the Green Knight. Other Arthurian Knights are not as courageous as Sir Gawain is and no one volunteers to take up the challenge. This is because they did not believe in its fruition without the occurrence of death. The Green Knight had walked in Arthur’s court during a celebration of the New Year. As was the norm, King Arthur could not partake of his meal without hearing a fascinating and adventurous tale. He was thus impressed at the thought of the tale that the Green Knight would offer upon his entry. The green Knight then went on a proposed a challenge of a beheading game. The intent of the game was to have one of the Knights use their axe on the Knights neck. Consequently, the Knight was then to allow the player to chop off his head, an year and a day from then. The Green Knight then offered an axe as a prize. All of Arthur’s Knights hesitated to participate due to fear. The Green Knight then accused the Arthurian Knights of cowardice.
King Arthur was frustrated as he was sure to take up the challenge until his nephew Sir Gawain, one of his Knights, accepted the challenge. Sir Gawain felt it worthy to sacrifice his own life as a Knight instead of having the death of a King. Sir Gawain assented to the terms to take the blow a year henceforth. After the sealing of the pact, Gawain swung his axe at the Green Knights neck. Instead of the body collapsing to the floor, the Green Knight bent over and picked up his head. As agreed in the game, Gawain had to visit Green Knight at the Green Chapel an year henceforth so as to receive the blow. This marked the beginning of Gawain’s journey to adventure. His acceptance to the challenge was the call to adventure in which he felt dutiful to partake. He felt that he was the weakest and his presence did not mean much, therefore his death too would not mean as much pain as that of a King. Having the nobility of a virtuous Knight, Gawain had to pledge his allegiance to the court of Arthur.
In comparison to the hero’s journey by Campbell, Gawain had to depart from Camelot to honour his promise. A feast is prepared for him before his journey. King Arthur’s best Knights come to the counsel of Gawain as the ladies and damsels grieved for him. A clad of armour is brought to him in his honour just before he departs. Sir Gawain had no company during his journey apart from Gringolet, his horse. However, he was guided by some spiritual amour which was in the form of a shield with the Virgin Mary adorned on the inside. Gawain experiences several tribulations along his journey to the green chapel. He had to go through the forest alone. He came across rival Knights and wild men along the way. He had to fight off satyrs, forest trolls, bulls, boars, bears, dragons, wolves, and giant ogres in his travel. The swirl of the snow and the winds of the winter tormented him throughout the nights and his perils through the woods quite necessitated such a supernatural guidance. His troubles accumulated in threshold and the breaking point was when he had to seek prayers in the name of the Lord and unto the Virgin Mary to pardon his misdeeds.