Gawaine (or Gawain, Gwalchmai, or Walwen) is one of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table. He is usually listed as Arthur's nephew, since his parents are Lot of Orkney and Morgause, Arthur's half-sister through their mother Igraine. (Geoffrey of Monmouth names Gawaine's mother as Anna, though.) Gawaine is the leader of the Orkney family, being the oldest brother of Agravaine, Gaheris, Gareth, and their half-brother Mordred. He was knighted at Arthur and Guinevere's wedding, and is often listed as second only to Lancelot in fame and status among Arthur's knights.

French stories tend to cast Gawaine as just one of the Round Table knights, while English stories are more likely to have him as the major figure (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, among others). Different stories have Gawaine marrying different women.

Older works paint him as courteous, gallant, and smart, but Gawaine is often portrayed in more recent works as stubborn, blunt, hot-tempered, and proud. He is always very brave and loyal, to Arthur and to his brothers particularly (and very bitter toward Sir Lancelot who accidentally killed two of them). His quest for revenge against Lancelot was one of the factors that helped dissolve the Round Table. Howard Pyle describes Gawaine this way: "For indeed, though Sir Gawaine was at times very rough and harsh in his manner, and though he was always so plain-spoken that his words hid the gentle nature that lay within him, yet, under this pride of manner, was much courtesy."


The greatest of King Arthur's knights of the Round Table, according the Celtic sources, Sir Gawain is Arthur's nephew. He is the eldest son of King Lot of Orkney and Arthur's sister Morgause, and he has at least three younger brothers: the knights Agravain, Gareth, and Gaheris. The most famous tale about Sir Gawain to modern readers is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight about a beheading contest between Gawain and a supernatural Green adversary, Sir Bercilak.

Gawain is a re-anglicization of the French spelling Gauvain, from the original Celtic Gwalchmei, which means "Hawk of May." Geoffrey of Monmouth called him "Gualguanus," and Wace called him "Walwein." Judging from the way medieval poets rhymed the name, "Gawain" was usually pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.

Sir Gawain and The Code of Chivalry

Once upon a time, a brave knight named Sir Gawain confronted the Green Knight who he thinks will chop off his head. Sir Gawain is afraid of facing this very scary situation but he goes anyway; he lives by the rules and codes of the chivalrous Knights.

He is very brave in the face of danger, most would not go at all, and very honest, which is why he seeks out the Green Knight in the first place. His honesty in keeping his promise to find the Green Knight and let him have a swing at his neck with a very big, very sharp, very scary ax is a commendable card in his deck of positive personality traits. He abides by the code he has sworn to uphold by finding the Green Knight to finish what was started.

Upholding the code of chivalry: 1
For shame: 0

But Sir Gawain has a trick up his sleeve: a green belt is given to him by Mrs.Green Knight. This green belt is charmed, and it offers him some protection from the big scary ax. Why Sir Gawain, this is called cheating. What are you thinking? FOR SHAME, SIR GAWAIN!

Upholding the code of chivalry: 1
For shame: 1

Sir Gawain flinches when the big scary ax is about to swing down on his skinny little neck. This is a physiological response that all human beings have. It's not really something a person can control at will. Sir Gawain did a very good job; anyone in his position would have likely done the same. But nonetheless, he is a Knight, and is supposed to not flinch when it counts! FOR SHAME, SIR GAWAIN!

Upholding the code of chivalry: 1
For shame: 2

Trust: Being able to face a big scary Green Knight with a big scary ax and tell him the deal has been completed. Sir Gawain does just this after getting a small cut as opposed to losing his head. He trusts that the Green Knight will live up to his end of the bargain and that now the cards are equal in both hands. He upholds one of the four ideals of the Knights, truth.

Upholding the code of chivalry: 2
For shame: 2

Sir Gawain upholds truth again when he tells his buddies back at the round table just exactly what happened. He does not try to make himself seem the better man, he tells the gritty truth, even the 'FOR SHAME, SIR GAWAIN' parts.

Upholding the code of chivalry: 3
For shame: 2

Ultimately, our hero, the not-quite-as-brave-as-he-could-be-Sir-Gawain comes out on top. He is a very good example of what all Knights should strive to be like. Plus he gets an extra point for naming his horse Gringolet. It is not a very common name, very original.

Final Score:
Upholding the code of chivalry: 4 (with the extra point for originality)
For shame: 2

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