Course Hero. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Study Guide." Course Hero. 9 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Sir-Gawain-and-the-Green-Knight/>.
Course Hero. (2017, February 9). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 23, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Sir-Gawain-and-the-Green-Knight/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Study Guide." February 9, 2017. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Sir-Gawain-and-the-Green-Knight/.
Course Hero, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Study Guide," February 9, 2017, accessed July 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Sir-Gawain-and-the-Green-Knight/.
Before the first course can be served, a stranger enters the hall. He rides in on a horse, but even seated he's one of the world's tallest men. The narrator thinks he may be half giant. The stranger's body is proportionate to his height and "full fairly shaped." He's also completely green.
The hero's body and clothes are green. His clothing is intricately designed, with a white hood, gold spurs, and a silk saddle. The embroidery on his saddle and stirrups is too detailed for the narrator to describe. His horse, too, is green with an embroidered bridle.
The hero has green, flowing hair and "a beard as big as a bush." His horse's hair is combed, knotted in gold, and "bound with a band of bright green." The hall has never seen a hero like this. He seems like he could defeat anyone.
The Green Knight is depicted immediately as a supernatural being; the narrator isn't even sure if he's fully human. And because green represents nature, virility, the earth, and the pagan heritage of Britain, the reader isn't sure immediately if the Green Knight is a good figure or an evil one. His face is described as "noble" and his physical appearance—although highly unusual—as attractive, indicating goodness. But he's clearly positioned as an enemy of the court, carrying himself "in hostile fashion."
The Green Knight evokes menace and awe: his clothing, like the clothing of other characters, signifies his social status, personality, and beliefs. He is clearly wealthy, his clothing lined with a "costly trimming of shining white fur" and adorned with jewels and silk. While the Green Knight is a figure of virility and nature, he is not a savage: as his clothing makes clear, he is wealthy and refined, like the courtiers of Camelot. The alliteration in his description—"gay gauds of green," reins that "glimmered and glinted all of green stones"—reflects the poetry and rhythms of the Alliterative Revival.
Green, the color of vegetation and nature, is also the color of decay and sickness. Red, a color associated with Gawain, is a medieval color of healing. The Green Knight's inability to be tamed or conquered contrasts with the civilized Christian knights, who have finally met their match. It quickly becomes evident that the Green Knight, wherever he came from, has come to put Camelot to shame. The volume of green is almost aggressive, and his glances, "like bright lightning," are meant to intimidate.