Sir Gawain, the Knight
Doing What a Knight Does

There I was on the opening night of the movie, The Green Knight. I hadn’t been to a theater to see any movie since COVID-19 had its debut in America a year and a half ago. I spent most of July 30th teaching and writing. Interestingly, the only other thing that I did on that day was to give myself a shot of Dupixent. Then off I went to watch The Green Knight, which had been postponed for over a year due to the coronavirus.

Several months ago, I wrote an essay about The Green Knight. I watched the trailer, but that was all I had to see. The storyline was based on the 14th century Arthurian story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain was King Arthur’s nephew who went on a quest to revisit the Green Knight one year hence on Christmas day. There I sat mesmerized by the movie while I tried to make sense of the storyline.

I wrestled with my attempt to grasp this 21st century version of a story that originated over a half millennia ago. I wished that I had Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel review The Green Knight on PBS and debate its message; that would have helped. I had many questions about the 14th century version, let alone the updated 21st century one.

Siskel and Ebert

However, Ebert and Siskel’s time in this world had come and gone leaving me to grasp the movie’s message on my own. To be honest with you, I felt bewildered. Before seeing the film, I had an excuse for my uncertainty and hesitancy. After watching the entire two-hour and ten-minute movie, I still had all sorts of questions racing around in my head.

Nonetheless, this is my spin on The Green Knight. It was Christmas at Camelot for King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. They had gathered for their Christmas banquet until the Green Knight interrupted their celebration and challenged King Arthur to a battle.

Enter Gawain. He wanted to protect his king. Gawain told Arthur that he will fight for him and announced his intentions to the Green Knight. The Green Knight responded to Gawain and set up a Yuletide game that they would play as a battle between them.

Gawain takes on the Green Knight in combat.

This is where it gets murky. Gawain beheaded the Green Knight with one fell swoop. However, the beheaded Green Knight’s head said, “One year hence.”

The head of the headless Green Knight

Gawain began his year-long search for the Green Knight. His trials during that year defined his character. Gawain explained his purpose in life in a simple sentence, “That is why the knight does what he does.”

Gawain doing what knights do

As I watched the story unfolded, it was not long before I identified with Gawain. I’m in my twilight years, facing many fights for noble reasons; the parallels were obvious.

It seemed that the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was an updated version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh wanted to find immortality and failed. Realizing that he could never achieve immortality, he said, “Forget death and seek life.”


Both Gawain and Gilgamesh understood that life is transitory. They grasped the reality that going on a quest for immortality was a fool’s errand. Both of them dropped immortality in favor of seeking a noble life by reaching out and helping others.

The two epics, Gawain and Gilgamesh, present to each of us the reality that our clocks are ticking. Go out into the world, fight the good fight, and do noble things. Or, in the words of Gawain, “That is why the knight does what he does.”

Gawain’s mindset should be for all of us our modus operandi in life. We should replicate the code of chivalry of the knights of old. We should defend, care for, and help all that we see. Our time on our yellow brick road of life is all too short…as in one year hence. Act now; you might not have another one year hence. Therefore, do what knights do. That is my challenge to you.

As you ponder my challenge, allow me to tell you a secret, which I discovered in my journey down my yellow brick road of like. It is in giving that we get. What a knight gives results in riches for the knight also. That isn’t an oxymoron; it is the truth. Now, go be a knight.