338 The European Sky -God.
The British equivalent of Cuchulain is Gawain.^ And an interesting parallel to the whole episode of Cuchulain and Curoi is furnished by the old English poem Syr Gawayn and the Grene Kriyght published by Sir Frederic Madden in 1839- from a MS. apparently written in the reign of Richard II. The poem is thus summarised by Miss J. L. Weston ^ :
' On a New Year's Day, while Arthur is keeping his Christmas feast at Camelot, a gigantic knight, clad in green, mounted on a green horse,* and carrying in one hand a holly bough, and in the other a "Danish" axe, enters the hall and challenges one of Arthur's knights to stand him " one stroke for another." If any accept the challenge he may strike the first blow, but he must take oath to seek the Green Knight at a twelve-months' end and receive the return stroke. Seeing the gigantic size and fierce appearance of the stranger the knights hesitate, much to Arthur's indignation. Finally Gawain accepts the challenge, and, taking the axe, smites the Green Knight's head from the body. To the dismay of all present the trunk rises up, takes up the head, and, repeating the challenge to Gawain to meet him on the next New Year's morning at the Green Chapel, rides from the hall.
Faithful to his compact, Gawain, as the year draws to an end, sets forth amid the lamentations of the court to abide his doom, which all look upon as inevitable. He
was it a case of the union of the champion with the goddess of a sacred tree ? Ibor the guardian of Lug, Cuchulain's father, and Ibor the brother of Emer, Cuchulain's wife, bore a name that denoted ' a yew ' (D'Arbois H epopee celtiqiie p. 511, Les Celtes p. 52).
^ Miss J. L. Weston The Legend of Sir Gawain London 1S97 pp. 17, 28, 30, 63 f., 92 ff., 100 f., no.
-Sir F. Madden Syr Gawayne London 1839 p. i ff.
' Miss J. L. Weston Sir Ga'vain p. 86 ff.
- For the green horse cp. the story of Ciaban (S. H. O'Grady Silva Gadelica
ii. 198 ff.).