Anyone who challenged King Arthur and his Knights at the Round Table was an enemy of them all and of the kingdom as well. Similarly anyone who challenged the forces of evil, albeit of bad King John- was considered a hero of the people. Robin Hood and Sir Gawain are the heroes of the poems that narrate these tales to us in old English. The first robbed from the rich and gave to the poor- a Good Samaritan aiming for a more equitable distribution of wealth in society. The second rose to confront the Green Knight and protect the good name of the King by valiantly being the first to accept the Green Knight’s challenge. In time the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight became a standard for heroism among the upper classes and Robin Hood a similar standard for the lower class population. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight The story begins when just after Christmas-tide when the New Year had dawned and King Arthur and his Knights were seated at the palace after dinner when all of a sudden their revelry was rudely interrupted by the sight of a large figure clad in green. He rode without stopping right into the Great Hall and asked to be introduced to the ruler of the people. He was clad in green from top to bottom, and even his horse bore this hue. In one hand he held a holly leaf and the other an axe. In view of his countenance and that of his horse, he could only be called the Green Knight. King Arthur introduced himself and invited the man to spell out what was troubling him, but in return the man threw everyone a challenge that if any man could withstand a blow from him, he would deem them worthy of respect. He was willing to receive a blow first, after which he would give the… This essay comments upon the values of heroism as brought out in two folklore tales specific to British medieval literature, namely Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. In popular culture, heroism generally means doing what is right, despite the odds. The essence of a heroic character is his ability to defy the odds and defeat the challenges that lie in his path. Whether it is Beowulf vs. Grendel, Theseus vs. the Minotaur, Robin Hood vs. the Sheriff of Nottingham or Sir Gawain vs. the Green Knight, these stories share a common theme in that virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The appeal of these stories through the ages and their survival to the present day is proof of the fact that the battle between the forces of good and evil is a topic of everlasting value. As the first tale was directed mainly towards the upper classes and the second towards the lower classes of medieval society, the researcher also tries to determine whether the popularity of these tales crossed the class boundaries of that time. From the popularity of both folk tales, it seems that they had managed to cross class boundaries and were being passed on to new generations in both the upper and lower classes of society. The truth is that a hero and heroic principles cannot be reserved for only one class of society, he belongs to all and it is therefore right that the exploits of both Sir Gawain and Robin Hood transcend and be told to all classes- they have values and principles which could be followed and imitated by all.
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