One Year Hence
Reincarnation of Gawain and the Fox

Being Scottish, I have returned to the place that my forebearers lived. In the late 60s, I did a year of post-graduate studies at New College of the University of Edinburgh. New is a relative term. It was built nearly two centuries ago; it was new then.

I lived in an apartment next to the castle’s esplanade, a two-minute walk to class at New College. New College and the castle were built upon an ancient volcano, hence the name the Mound. At the other end of the Royal Mile, another volcano is called Arthur’s Seat.

It is a huge area and takes several hours walking along the paths of Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur’s Seat is tied to the Arthurian stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. All sorts of legends and stories have developed over the centuries. Some believe that is real Camelot. Some accounts claim that Arthur is buried there and will emerge sometime when he is needed to assist Scotland.

That is the backstory. This essay is about King Arthur’s nephew, Sir Gawain. During Middle English (1150-1450), there developed a poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. No one is sure who wrote this poem, but that person was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The storyline is that King Arthur celebrating the Christmas season with his knights at a banquet. However, an unexpected guest arrives on horseback. It was the Green Knight. It didn’t take long before the Green Knight challenged King Arthur.

Gawain intervenes to protect his king, which he did. He wanted to do what was right. Thus began Gawain’s journey to define his character, prove his worth, and show the other knights his dedication. With one fell swoop, he beheaded the Green Knight. This is a drawing from that 14th century poem.

The Green Knight is beheaded, but he holds his head as he is about to ride off.

This is a more up-to-date picture of the beheaded knight.

The head of the headless Green Knight

The beheaded head utters to Gawain, “One year hence.” Essentially, the Green Knight said that he would see Gawain a year from that day. The Green Knight rides off, leaving Gawain with the task of finding him in a year.

Gawain goes on his noble quest not to find the Holy Grail but to find the Green Chapel and the Green Knight. The year passes without locating the Green Knight. Gawain and the fox searched found nothing.

Gawain and his fox

Finally, the two knights meet. This time the Green Knight attempts to decapitate Gawain. However, Gawain flinches, and the ax misses his neck. On the second attempt, the Green Knight draws some blood but doesn’t kill Gawain. The nick on his neck is a reminder to Gawain that while noble, he isn’t perfect.

One other item haunts Gawain. He was honest except for not telling someone about a green scarf or sash that he received. Essentially, he realized that he was not entirely forthcoming. That ethical infraction embarrassed him. He told King Arthur of his error in judgment. Nonetheless, King Arthur told the Knights of the Round Table from then on to wear a green sash in recognition of Gawain’s courage and to remind them to be completely honest.

And what is my takeaway from Gawain and the Green Knight? It didn’t take me long before realizing that Ginger and I are reincarnations of the fox and Gawain. Our lives run parallel to Gawain and the fox. The other takeaway is that everyone should see that all people are or should be clones of Gawain.

PS On July 31, the movie, The Green Knight, will be in theaters.