Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/354

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

340 The Etiropean Sky-God.

was cognisant of his wife's dealings with Gawain ; the three strokes equalled the three trials of his guest's fidelity, and, had not Gawain proved partially faithless to his compact by concealing the gift of the lace, he would have escaped unharmed. The name of the Green Knight is Bernlak de Hautdesert, and he had undertaken this test of Gawain's valour at the instance, and by help of the skill, of Morgan le Fay, who desired to vex Guinevere by shaming the Knights of the Round Table.

Gawain returns to court, tells the whole story, con- cealing nothing, and all the knights vow henceforward to wear a green lace in his honour.'

Miss Weston institutes a careful comparison of this poem with other extant versions of the same tale.^ Some of these contain variant details deserving notice : e.g. in the German Diu Krone Gawain's host lives in a turning castle, the battlements of which, with one exception, are surmounted by human heads ; and similarly in the French romance La Mule sans Frein the giant who challenges Gawain has a castle surrounded by poles supporting human heads. Now in classical mythology, as I have elsewhere^ shown, the practice of hanging heads over the doorway is characteristic of the oak-king,^ and appears to be a modification of a still more primitive practice — that of hanging the heads on the sacred oak.^ On this showing the Green Knight, who is plainly identical with Gawain's host, would be aptly com- pared with Virbius. Indeed, when dealing with Virbius himself, we noted the fact that his name was ' referable

^ Miss J. L. Weston Sir Gawain p. 88 ff.

2 Classical Review xvii. 269 ff.

' Sithon (Nonn. Dion. 48. 224 f. ) : Oinomaos (Apollod. epit. 2. 5, Philostr. Jun. imagg. 9. 3 and the works of art cited in Classical Review xvii. 271 f. ) : Euenos (schol. //. 9. 557). Cp. Folk-lore xv. 377 f., 382.

  • Phorbas (Philostr. Sen. imagg. 2. 19) : Thoas (Botticher Baumkultus

p. 540 fig. 31). Cp. Folk-lore xv. 376 f., xvi. 323 n. i.