Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Among the sources that influenced the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories one of the most important is the medieval epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Maybe surprisingly, this is not a story about how to kill a dragon but one about how to conquer the immortal chivalric virtues. The fundamental background of this wonderful story is a code of honor which has as its veritable axis the virtue of chastity.

Presenting all the essential virtues of a Christian knight, this medieval poem provided to the creator of the hobbits the best example of a Christianized legend, a creation that under some respects resembles with the older legend of Beowulf. In no case should you think, however, of the usual legends of King Arthur and the Round Table. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is no place for that frivolous, romantic sentimental love depicted in many such stories.

What this poem brings to our attention is the necessity of the purity of heart – the main feature of any Christian hero. This is the central message encoded in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A similar message can be found in Tolkien’s novels. It is a message and an illustration of a chaste, mature love that is devoid of the passion of those who – touched by the violence of the romantic love – are ready to sell their purity for an inflamed and destructive love.


  • Author: Anonymous
  • Original title: Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt
  • Original language: Middle English
  • Genre: Epic chivalric poem
  • The period of creation: ~ The fourteenth century AD
  • Publication year: 1839
  • Public: Adults, teenagers
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight