Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Comparing Tolkien's works with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In the debate today, you discussed some similarities and differences between the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Tolkien's fictional works on Middle-earth. Can you think of other  parallels between the Middle English poem and Tolkien's 20th century fiction? What about other differences? Do you think Sir Gawain influenced Tolkien's works or thinking in any way?

1 comment:

Belladonna Took said...

One parallel that I found was fate versus freewill. Gawain references fate many times in the outcome of his test/agreement/game. Many times, Gawain reasons that the outcomes of everything are in Gods hands (fate) rather than his own. However, he does accept the girdle to save his life. To me, this questions whether or not Gawain truly believes that his confrontation with the Green Knight is out of his hands. Doesn’t such a Tolkien of luck and protection imply that Gawain does not believe that things are as pre-destined as he says? (Actions speak louder than words?) Why would he accept a gift of this connotation (instead of an expensive gift) if he thought that everything was already pre-decided anyway? There is fate versus freewill, but I feel like (despite what characters say) freewill dominates in Sir Gawain because of actions, not words. In Lord of the rings, I think there is more of a balance of fate and free will. In LOTR, you are supposed to do something (fate), but I think characters, ultimately, have the choice whether or not to do it and how they will accomplish it.
I also thought that the conflict between either valuing honor or life is found in both Tolkien’s works and in Sir Gawain. The dead in LOTR abandoned Isildur, valuing their lives over honor in battle. Gawain did not give up the girdle to the king, valuing the girdle’s protection (his life) over honoring the agreement.
Frodo’s parallel with Gawain was brought up in the debate. Overall, I would say that Tolkien may have taken some themes and characters from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but tweaked them.