The Green Knight

Information about The Green Knight

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The beheading game appears in a number of tales, the earliest being the Middle Irish tale Bricriu's Feast. The challenger in this story is named "Fear", a bachlach (churl), and is identified as Cú Roí (a superhuman king of Munster in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology) in disguise. He challenges three warriors to his game, only to have them run from the return blow, until the hero Cú Chulainn accepts the challenge. With Cú Chulainn under his axe, this antagonist also feints three blows before letting the hero go. In the Irish version, the cloak of the churl is described as glas, which means green. In the Life of Caradoc, a Middle French narrative embedded in the anonymous First Continuation of Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, another similar challenge is issued. In this story, a notable difference is that Caradoc's challenger is his father in disguise, come to test his honour. The French romances La Mule sans Frein and Hunbaut and the Middle High German epic poem Diu Crone feature Gawain in beheading game situations. Hunbaut furnishes an interesting twist: Gawain cuts off the man's head, and then pulls off his magic cloak before he can replace it, causing his death. A similar story, this time attributed to Lancelot, appears in the 13th century French work Perlesvaus.