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Gawain (Gwalchmei, Gawan, Gauvain, Walewein etc.) (IPA pronunciation: /gɑːweɪn/) is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table knights to be referred to as "the greatest" of the knights, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He is almost always portrayed as the son of Arthur's sister Morgause (or Anna) and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian, and his brothers are Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred. In some works he has sisters as well. Gawain is often portrayed as a formidable but brash knight, fiercely loyal to his king and family. He is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and a consummate ladies' man. His strength waxes and wanes with the sun; his might triples by noon, but fades as the sun sets. His knowledge of herbs makes him a great healer, and he is credited with at least three children: Florence, Lovell, and Gingalain, the last of which is also called Libeaus Desconus or Le Bel Inconnu, the Fair Unknown. In later Welsh Arthurian literature, Gawain is considered synonymous with the native champion Gwalchmei. Image File history File links Gawain_and_the_Green_Knight. ... Image File history File links Gawain_and_the_Green_Knight. ... Green Knight redirects here. ... IPA may refer to: The International Phonetic Alphabet or India Pale Ale ... A bronze Arthur in plate armour with visor raised and with jousting shield wearing Kastenbrust armour (early 15th century) by Peter Vischer, typical of later anachronistic depictions of Arthur. ... Knights of the Round Table were those men awarded the highest order of Chivalry at the Court of King Arthur in the literary cycle the Matter of Britain. ... In the legend of King Arthur, the Round Table was a mystical table in Camelot around which King Arthur and his knights sat to discuss matters crucial to the security of the realm. ... The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the legends that concern the Celtic and legendary history of the British Isles, centering around King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. ... Green Knight redirects here. ... In Arthurian legend, Morgause or Morgase (also known as Anna-Morgause or Ann-Morgause) is the half-sister of King Arthur who slept with him and produced Mordred, the incestuous heir that would lead to Camelots downfall. ... In Arthurian Legend, Lot (or Loth) is king of Lothian, Orkney, and sometimes Norway. ... Orkney (sometimes known as the Orkney Islands) is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated 10 miles north of the coast of Caithness. ... Lothian (Lowden in Scots, Lodainn in Gaelic) forms a traditional region of Scotland, lying between the southern shore of the Firth of Forth and the Lammermuir Hills. ... Sir Agravain or Sir Agravaine was a knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend. ... Gaheris is a figure of Arthurian legend, a knight of the Round Table, and a son of Morgause and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian. ... Sir Gareth was a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian Legend. ... Mordred or Modred (Welsh: Medraut) is a legendary figure of Britain, known in Arthurian legend as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. ... Sir Gingalain (Guinglain, Gingalin, etc. ... Libeaus Desconus is a 14th century Middle English version of the popular Fair Unknown story. ... Sir Gingalain (Guinglain, Gingalin, etc. ... This article is about the country. ...



Gawain is commonly considered identical with the Welsh hero known as Gwalchmei (or Gwalchmai) ap Gwyar (Gwalchmei, son of Gwyar), who appears in the Welsh Triads and in Culhwch and Olwen, an Arthurian romance associated with the Mabinogion. His appearance in Culhwch, which probably dates to the 11th century, makes him, like Cai (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere), one of the earliest characters associated with Arthur. Here Gwalchmei, like Gawain, is Arthur's nephew and one of his chief warriors; Arthur sends him and five other champions with the protagonist Culhwch on his journey to find his love Olwen. The Welsh Triads (Welsh, Trioedd Ynys Prydein) is used to describe any of the related Medieval collection of groupings of three that preserve a major portion of Welsh folklore and Welsh literature. ... Culhwch and Olwen is a Welsh story that survives in only two manuscripts: a complete version in the Red Book of Hergest, ca. ... The Mabinogion is a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. ... Sir Kay, son of Sir Ector, was one of the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthurs foster brother. ... How Sir Bedivere Cast the Sword Excalibur into the Water. ... In Welsh mythology, Culhwch (pronounced Kilhooch, the ch sound being the same as the Scottish Loch) was a hero who rescued Mabon from Annwn. ... In Welsh mythology, Olwen (white track) was a daughter of Ysbaddaden. ...

Scholars are not entirely convinced that the later character of Gawain is derived from the Welsh Gwalchmei ap Gwyar, but later Welsh writers clearly thought this was the case; the name "Gwalchmei" consistently substitutes for "Gawain" in Cymric translations and adaptations of foreign works, such as the Welsh Romances of the Mabinogion. The name itself is the subject of speculation; in Welsh, the term gwalch translates as falcon or hawk, but both mei and mai are more obscure. They may be archaic petrified genitives of Middle Welsh ma, meaning "plain, field" (from Brythonic *magos, genitive *magesos), but the exact relationship is debated.[1] Mai is the modern Welsh name for the month of May, leading to the popular speculation that the name means "Hawk of May", but this derivation is unlikely.[1] Additionally, not all scholars accept the gwalch derivation; noted Celticist John Koch has suggested the name could be derived from a Brythonic original *Wolcos Magesos, "Wolf/Errant Warrior of the Plain".[2] At any rate the spelling "Gwalchmai" has become popular, and there is a small village in Anglesey called Gwalchmai, probably named after the 12th century bard Gwalchmai ap Meilyr. The Three Welsh Romances are three tales associated with the Mabinogion. ... The Brythonic languages (or Brittonic languages) form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family. ... May is the fifth month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar and one of seven Gregorian months with the length of 31 days. ... Anglesey (Welsh: , pronounced (IPA)), is an island and county at the northwestern extremity of Wales. ... Gwalchmai is a village on Anglesey in north Wales. ... Gwalchmai ap Meilyr (fl. ...

Gawain in early literature

In the Gesta Regum Anglorum of around 1120, William of Malmesbury records that Gawain's grave had been uncovered in Pembrokeshire during the reign of William the Conqueror, and writes that the great nephew of Arthur had been driven from his kingdom by Hengest's brother, though he continued to harry them severely. William of Malmesbury (c. ... Pembrokeshire (Welsh: Sir Benfro) is a county in the southwest of Wales in the United Kingdom. ... William I of England (c. ... Hengest or Hengist (d. ...

Gawain is a major character in the Arthurian section of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, where he is a superior warrior and potential heir to the throne until he is tragically struck down by Mordred's evil forces, and the sheer amount of later works featuring him speaks to his popularity. He is an important character in most of Chrétien de Troyes' romances, functioning as a model of chivalry to whom the protagonist is compared and contrasted. His role in the unfinished Perceval, the Story of the Grail is so substantial that some commenters have wondered if his adventures were originally meant to form a separate book. However, Chrétien's title hero usually proves morally superior to Gawain, who follows the rules of courtliness and chivalry to the letter rather than to the spirit. Wikisource has original text related to this article: Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. ... Geoffrey of Monmouths Historia Regum Britanniæ (English: The History of the Kings of Britain) was written around 1136. ... Mordred or Modred (Welsh: Medraut) is a legendary figure of Britain, known in Arthurian legend as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. ... Chrétien de Troyes wrote in Champagne, France, during the last half of the twelfth century. ... Bors Dilemma - he chooses to save a maiden rather than his brother Lionel Chivalry[1] is a term related to the medieval institution of apple juice. ... A protagonist is the central figure of a story. ... Perceval, the Story of the Grail (French:Perceval, le Conte du Graal) is the unfinished fifth romance of Chrétien de Troyes. ...

Gawain in French literature

Gawain unwittingly fights Ywain, from Chrétien's Knight of the Lion.
Gawain unwittingly fights Ywain, from Chrétien's Knight of the Lion.

A large number of romances in French appeared in Chrétien's wake, and Gawain was portrayed in various ways. Sometimes he is the hero, sometimes he aids the hero, sometimes he is the subject of burlesque humor. In the Vulgate Cycle, he is depicted as a proud and worldly knight who demonstrates through his failures the danger of neglecting the spirit for the futile gifts of the material world. On the Grail quest, his intentions are always the purest, but he is unable to use God's grace to see the error in his ways. Later, when his brothers Agravain and Mordred plot to destroy Lancelot and Guinevere by exposing their love affair, Gawain tries to stop them. When Guinevere is sentenced to burn at the stake and Arthur deploys his best knights to guard the execution, Gawain nobly refuses to take part in the evil deed even though his brothers will be there. But when Lancelot returns to rescue Guinevere, a battle between Lancelot's and Arthur's knights ensues and Gawain's brothers (except for Mordred) are killed. This turns his friendship with Lancelot into hatred, and his desire for vengeance causes him to draw Arthur into a war with Lancelot in France. In the king's absence, Mordred usurps the throne, and the Britons must return to save Britain. Gawain is mortally wounded in battle against Mordred's forces, and writes to Lancelot apologizing for his actions and asking for him to come to Britain to help defeat Mordred. Image File history File links Ywain-Gawain. ... Image File history File links Ywain-Gawain. ... Ywain rescues the lion Sir Ywain (also called Owain, Yvain, Ewain or Uwain) is a Knight of the Round Table and the son of King Urien in Arthurian legend. ... Yvain rescues the lion Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (French: Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion) is a romance by Chrétien de Troyes. ... Photograph of Sally Rand, 1934. ... The Lancelot-Grail, also known as the prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend. ... For historical artifacts associated with the cup of the Last Supper, see Holy Chalice. ... For other uses, see Lancelot (disambiguation). ... Ή [[Image:Queen Guinevere. ...

In the Prose Tristan and the Post-Vulgate Cycle Gawain is a villain and a murderer. This depiction was not as popular in subsequent literature, however, as this type of generic evil doesn't make for a very good hero or foil for a hero, or indeed even an interesting villain. For the most part Gawain remained an honorable if flawed champion. The Prose Tristan is an adaptation of the Tristan and Iseult story into a long prose romance, and the first to tie the subject entirely into the arc of the Arthurian legend. ... The Post-Vulgate Cycle is one of the major Old French prose cycles of Arthurian literature. ...

Gawain in English literature

For the English and Scottish, Gawain remained a respectable and heroic figure. He is the subject of several romances and lyrics in the dialects of those countries, and his reputation remained untarnished perhaps through a reluctance to follow the French in portraying a British knight negatively. He is the hero of one of the greatest works of Middle English literature, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where he is portrayed as an excellent, but human, knight. In The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, his wits, virtue and respect for women frees his wife, a loathly lady, from her curse of ugliness. Other important English Gawain romances include The Awntyrs off Arthure (The Adventures of Arthur) and The Avowyng of Arthur. The English are an ethnic group and nation primarily associated with England and the English language. ... The Scottish people are a nation[6] and an ethnic group indigenous to Scotland. ... The silver Anglia knight, commissioned as a trophy in 1850, intended to represent the Black Prince. ... Middle English is the name given by historical linguistics to the diverse forms of the English language spoken between the Norman invasion of 1066 and the mid-to-late 15th century, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the... Green Knight redirects here. ... The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle is one of several versions of the loathly lady story popular during the Middle Ages; an earlier version appears as The Wife of Baths Tale in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales, [1] and the later folk ballad The Marriage of... The loathly lady is a common literary device used in medieval literature, most famously in Geoffrey Chaucers The Wife of Baths Tale. ...

These glowing portraits of Gawain all but ended with Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, which is based mainly, but not exclusively, on French works from the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles. Here Gawain retains the negative characteristics attributed to him by the later French, and the popularity of Malory's work ensured that most post-medieval English-language writing would retain those characteristics. Nonetheless, Gawain is cited in Robert Laneham's letter describing the entertainments at Kenilworth in 1575,[3] and the recopying of earlier works such as The Greene Knight suggests that a popular tradition of Gawain continued. The Child Ballads include a preserved legend in the positive light, The Marriage of Sir Gawain a fragmentary version of the story of The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, and recently, many writers have returned to the old English and Welsh sources and found a much more heroic Gawain. The character appears in a positive light in novels like Gillian Bradshaw's Hawk of May, Thomas Berger's Arthur Rex, and Stephen R. Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle. Sir Thomas Malory (c. ... The Last Sleep of Arthur by Edward Burne-Jones Le Morte dArthur (spelt Le Morte Darthur in the first printing and also in some modern editions, Middle French for la mort dArthur, the death of Arthur) is Sir Thomas Malorys compilation of some French and English Arthurian... The Greene Knight is a late medieval rhyming romance, found in the Percy Folio Manuscript, which effectively parallels the much more famous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. ... The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child. ... The Marriage of Sir Gawain is Child Ballad 31. ... Gillian Marucha Bradshaw (born May 14, 1956) is an American writer of historical fiction and science fiction. ... Thomas Louis Berger (born July 20, 1924) is a U.S. novelist. ... Stephen R. Lawhead (born July 2, 1950) is an American writer known for novels, both fantasy and science fiction and more recently his works of historical fiction. ... The Pendragon Cycle is a series of fantasy or semi-historical books based on the Arthurian legend, written by Stephen R. Lawhead. ...


  1. ^ a b Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, pp. 367–371.
  2. ^ Koch, "The Celtic Lands", p.267
  3. ^ Performance artist Captain Cox is described as "hardy as Gawin", and knows the Arthurian romances including "Syr Gawain"


  • Bromwich, Rachel (2006). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. University Of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1386-8.
  • Busby, Keith (1991). "Gawain", in Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
  • Koch, John T. (1995). "The Celtic Lands". In N. J. Lacy (ed.), Medieval Arthurian Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, pp. 239-322. New York.

External links

  • Gawain page at the Camelot Project
  • Dr. Anthony Colaianne, Chris Baugh - Medieval English Narrator - listen to recorded excerpts of Medieval English literature with text alongside for translation help. Several excerpts from Sir Gawain.

  Results from FactBites:
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Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Gawain was educated in the papal household in Rome, distinguished himself with bravery in the service of Arthur and was slain in Mordred's rebellion.
Gawain is variously portrayed by poets and romancers.
Gawain's hatred of Lancelot extends, with fatal consequences, the dispute about the queen that splits the Round Table.
§6. The Gawain Cycle. XIV. Metrical Romances, 1200–1500. Vol. 1. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of ... (964 words)
Gawain is depicted as the knight of honour and courtesy, of loyalty and self-sacrifice.
A combat is arranged, in which Gawain proves victor; whereupon the noble Arthurian not only grants the life of the defiant Golagros, but spares his feelings by returning to his castle as if he himself were the vanquished.
The victor, however, is afterwards overcome in a fight with Gawain, and then ensues a significant contrast in the matter of behaviours.
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