The moral of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Tucson Traditionalist objects to me including the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with the tradition of courtly love:

It’s a mistake to cite the case of Gawain without noting its outcome. Gawain is rebuked for having flirted with Bertilak’s wife and taken her favor, without disclosing this to her lord husband. As Tolkien said, Gawain represents a divorcing of the chivalric ideal from the notions of courtly adultery and obedience to a lady’s commands. He is commended for resisting her seductions, and chastised for yielding as much as he did.

So yes, chivalry *is* a good thing — all of it, from the code of honor to the pious brotherhood to the courtesy given to women — when it has been purified from the later Provencal tendency to delight in fornication, adultery, and the abasement of men. It was so cleansed in the greatest medieval literature (Gawain, Malory, Dante, etc.), and represents a point to which Christians in the 21st century should rally.

The reason chivalry is so pernicious is the inability of it’s proponents to spot the very obvious corruption. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a morality tale that teaches the moral primacy of courtly love.  When the obligations of masculine honor (keeping his word)  contradicts the morality of courtly love, our hero chooses courtly love as the higher morality.  As Infogalactic explains this is how he passes the test and ultimately is victorious (emphasis mine):

Temptation and testing

Knights of Gawain’s time were tested in their ability to balance the male-oriented chivalric code with the female-oriented rules of courtly love. (God Speed! – Edmund Blair Leighton 1900)

At the heart of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the test of Gawain’s adherence to the code of chivalry. The typical temptation fable of medieval literature presents a series of tribulations assembled as tests or “proofs” of moral virtue. The stories often describe several individuals’ failures after which the main character is tested.[19] Success in the proofs will often bring immunity or good fortune. Gawain’s ability to pass the tests of his host are of utmost importance to his survival, though he does not know it. It is only by fortuity or “instinctive-courtesy” that Sir Gawain is able to pass his test.[20]

In addition to the laws of chivalry, Gawain must respect another set of laws concerning courtly love. The knight’s code of honour requires him to do whatever a damsel asks. Gawain must accept the girdle from the Lady, but he must also keep the promise he has made to his host that he will give whatever he gains that day. Gawain chooses to keep the girdle out of fear of death, thus breaking his promise to the host but honouring the lady. Upon learning that the Green Knight is actually his host (Bertilak), he realises that although he has completed his quest, he has failed to be virtuous. This test demonstrates the conflict between honour and knightly duties. In breaking his promise, Gawain believes he has lost his honour and failed in his duties.[21]

The hero originally feels ashamed for yielding to the woman and choosing deceit over honoring his word.  But he learns that this feeling of shame was his real mistake.  Again from Infogalactic:

Gawain is ashamed to have behaved deceitfully but the Green Knight laughs at his scruples and the two part on cordial terms. Gawain returns to Camelot wearing the girdle as a token of his failure to keep his promise. The Knights of the Round Table absolve him of blame and decide that henceforth that they will wear a green sash in recognition of Gawain’s adventure.

What started as Sir Gawain’s reminder of shame turned into a badge of honor other knights chose to emulate.  This is the moral of the story.  For those who might have missed this quite obvious moral, the poem concludes with:

Honi soit qui mal y pense  (Shame on him who thinks evil of it)

This ties the tale back to St. George and the Order of the Garter. Tellingly, there is a longer version of the French expression the Order of the Garter is said to be founded on:

Honi soit qui mal y pense. Tel qui s’en rit aujourd’hui, s’honorera de la porter.

The latter part of the expression translates to:

Those who laugh at this today, tomorrow will be proud to wear it.

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Posted in Chivalry, Courtly Love, Denial, New Morality, Sir Gawain | 15 Comments

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

When I first started blogging one regular criticism I received from traditional conservatives (especially when writing about Game) was that I was killing chivalry.  For the most part I disregarded this with the assumption that they either didn’t understand Game or didn’t understand chivalry.  But the more I have learned about chivalry the more I have come to realize that the conservatives were right all along.  I had mistaken chivalry for something that was originally noble that was somehow corrupted in the latter half of the 20th century.  But the chivalry we love today comes from a glorification of cuckoldry and a worship of women and romantic love that dates back to around 1100.

Last month I shared the tale of St George and the dragon.  Today I’ll share a bit of the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. From the plot synopsis at Infogalactic:

…Many adventures and battles are alluded to (but not described) until Gawain comes across a splendid castle where he meets Bertilak de Hautdesert, the lord of the castle, and his beautiful wife, who are pleased to have such a renowned guest…

Before going hunting the next day Bertilak proposes a bargain: he will give Gawain whatever he catches on the condition that Gawain give him whatever he might gain during the day. Gawain accepts. After Bertilak leaves, Lady Bertilak visits Gawain’s bedroom and behaves seductively, but despite her best efforts he yields nothing but a single kiss in his unwillingness to offend her. When Bertilak returns and gives Gawain the deer he has killed, his guest gives a kiss to Bertilak without divulging its source. The next day the lady comes again, Gawain again courteously foils her advances, and later that day there is a similar exchange of a hunted boar for two kisses. She comes once more on the third morning, this time offering Gawain a gold ring as a keepsake. He gently but steadfastly refuses but she pleads that he at least take her belt, a girdle of green and gold silk which, the lady assures him, is charmed and will keep him from all physical harm. Tempted, as he may otherwise die the next day, Gawain accepts it, and they exchange three kisses. That evening, Bertilak returns with a fox, which he exchanges with Gawain for the three kisses – but Gawain says nothing of the girdle.

As with St George and the dragon, the lady’s girdle has sexual connotations, indicates that the knight has won her favor, and contains the magic the hero needs to succeed in his quest.  At least in the tale of St. George there is no three way make-out session between the knight, the nobleman, and the nobleman’s wife.

Posted in Chivalry, Courtly Love, Cuckoldry, Game, Infogalactic, Romantic Love, Traditional Conservatives, Wife worship, You can't make this stuff up | 42 Comments

Honi soit qui mal y pense

From the Daily Mail: Cornell University senior strips down to her underwear to give her thesis presentation after her female professor questioned how short her denim shorts were

See Also: Winning the arms race (made you look!)

Posted in Chivalry, Daily Mail, Modesty, Social Justice Warriors, Turning a blind eye, Ugly Feminists | 29 Comments

He wipes his feet and eats what he is served.

Instapundit linked to a post by Dr. Helen titled How Have Men been Affected by Feminism?

The stories ranged from an immigrant from India who felt that “feminism was a cultural force that had the effect of dehumanizing me in a manner far more severe than the experience of racism”… to a man who was fired from his job due to baseless allegations. In-between, there are other accounts of men who did not have children because they were afraid of having them taken away after seeing this happen to so many others, men whose fathers were abused by their wives without intervention, and men who no longer wanted relationships with women because of the psychological (and sometimes physical) pain they have caused, all without concern or empathy.

Old_School_Conservative53 wanted Instapundit readers to know that he hasn’t been impacted by feminism at all:

I haven’t been affected at all. I was raised to treat ladies with respect and courtesy, to keep my hands to myself unless openly invited, and not to shit where I eat. For the last 18 years of my career I supervised 8 women directly and never had one problem with them. In fact when I retired they embarrassed the heck out of me with the way they hugged and cried.

His message is that if you are a good boy like him feminists will be nice to you.  All of those other men must have had it coming.  The men who lost their jobs due to baseless allegations nevertheless deserved to be fired.  Likewise the fathers Dr. Helen referenced deserved to be kicked out of their kids’ lives, and their sons deserved to grow up without a father.

But even more sickening than his inability to feel empathy for other men is the subtext of pleading for praise from mommy.  See, I’m not like those other men!  Aren’t I a good boy mommy?

Posted in Disrespecting Respectability, Dr. Helen, Instapundit, Miserliness, Traditional Conservatives, Turning a blind eye, Ugly Feminists | 98 Comments

He’s a bully.

The British tabloids are out for blood after a video surfaced of an army bayonet instructor yelling at a female recruit. The headline in the Sun reads: Bully army corporal reduces female recruit to tears in harrowing training video

Harrowing video has emerged of a female army recruit being reduced to tears by a bully corporal

The soldier is ordered to come towards her senior, before being hit with a barrage of abuse

The Sun quotes a “former senior army officer” who explained that yelling at recruits is “old school”, and a thing of the past in the UK’s modern feminist friendly army:

“Army training is rightly tough. There’s nothing wrong with being plunged in puddles and the like, but this is over the top,” he said.

“There are very strict guidelines in place these days. It is all about positive encouragement now, more ‘come on you can do it’.

“The aggressive, degrading verbal abuse in this clip is way out of line with modern practice.”

He added: “That way of doing things is very old school. New research shows that encouraging soldiers is far more effective.

“This aggressive yelling is not how things are done these days.”

The bad old days the unnamed officer is referring to appears to have been as recent as 2011, based on the publication date of this video:

Compare the above with the video the Sun was responding to:

According to the Daily Mail, the Corporal who filmed the incident did so in violation of the rules.  However, this is not the true source of the outrage.  The true source of the outrage is the Corporal being unchivalrous and making a woman cry.  This weak man is screwing feminism up!  Again from the Sun:

He then orders the woman to show him her war face, and to trudge out of the water to stab a dummy enemy as he tells her: “you’re not a killer.”

At one point he lies to her, telling her she has finished the exercise only to order her back into the water.

She bursts into tears as he mocks her for crying.

H/T Oscar

Posted in Chivalry, Feminist Territory Marking, Military, The Sun, Weak men screwing feminism up | 166 Comments