Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Song of Roland
In mythological Europe, knightly heroes abounded whereever one
could choose to roam. There are hundreds of tales of knights who embodied
the concept of chivalry, slew huge dragons, slew legions of foes in single
combat, and still made it home in time for dinner. Of all these tales,
ballads and poems, a few have risen to the fore front of the genre as an
example for the rest of the stories to follow. I will be comparing the
positive and negative personality traits of two heroes from the famous
poems "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Song of Roland."
On the lighter side, both Gawain and Roland had more positive
attributes than they did negative. Both men were honorable, almost to a
fault. For example in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" Gawain agreed to
be on time for his own execution:
"Nor I know you not, knight, your name nor your court.
But tell me truly thereof, and teach me your name, and I
shall fare forth to find you, so far as I may, and this I say
in good certain, and swear upon oath."
(G&GK, pt.1, ln. 400-403)
Gawain's agreement might have been honorable, but it doesn't strike
me as particularly bright. Roland had the same type of problem. His honor
also got him to into trouble. One perfect example of this was when Roland
made his Uncle Ganelon so angry by antagonizing him that Ganelon used
Roland's concept of honor to make Roland take the rear guard and be
slaughtered. Roland antagonized Ganelon by saying: "Quoth Roland: '
Ganelon my step she is the man" (SOR, ln.229) Roland also felt honor bound
not to call for reinforcements against the pagan horde until almost every
single one of the knights were dead. "Companion Roland, your Olifant now
sound! King Charles will hear and turn his armies round; hell succour us
with all his kingly power.' Roland replies: 'may never god allow that I
should cast dishonour on my house or fair France!" (SOR, ln.1063-1068) To
go along with that incredible sense of honor, Gawain was the best man in
King Arthur's court with weapons. Gawain might have been fairly humble
about it, but the poet emphasizes Gawain's prowess with weapons by self
deprecation. "While so bold men about upon benches sit, that no host ...