The Supernatural in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Supernatural in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Supernatural is described as something that is unable to be explained by science or laws of nature or of relating to, or seeming to come magic, or a god (Merriam-Webster). In Beowulf the supernatural presents instelf in it’s monsters. Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and the Dragon, all mythical creatures that only exist in tales of fiction. Beowulf also possess another element of the supernatural. The juxstapositon of a strong christian world view against those from the past who were well known pagans. In turn Beowulf positions the monsters in the work as biblical descendants of Cain.

In Sir Gawain and Green Knight, supernatural plays a simlar role. The Green Knight is presented as a supernatural being from the start. He is able to move even after his beaheading. The evil sorcerer Morgan le Fay also possess magic abilities. Turning Sir Bertilak into the Green Knight to strike fear into Arthur’s queen and his Knights. Finally, the supernatural appears in the constant shapeshifting that appears thorughout the literary work. Beowulf and Sir Gawain and Green Knight possess similar qualities that lie in the Supernatural.

Beowulf is the tale of a young Geat warrior who travles to Heorot Hall inorder to help King Hrothgar battle the evil Grendel, a terrible demon that attacks the Hall at night. The first adversary in Beowulf is no mere man, but a supernatural being, who is angered by the creation of God. Grendel is an ogeresque creature who is descended from Cain. “Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark … telling with th mastery of man’s beginnings. ”(Greenblatt, 43, 86-91). Notice that the supernatural elements in Beowulf intermingled with the religious ones. A constant juxtaposition of christian imagery against pagan themes.

As we continue through the novel we find that Grendel is impervious to any blade or other edged weapon. “that no blade on earth, no blacksmith’s art could ever damabge their demon opponent. ”(Greenblatt, 58, 801-802). This ability is unnatural to any mortal being which perpetuates the idea of the supernatural presences in this literary work. This ablility is similar to that of the Green Knight in Sir Gawain and Green Knight. The Pearl Poet’s Sir Gawain the Green Knight, a tale about the arrival of a strange green knight at the christmas dinner of King Arthur’s court.

The Green knight seems to grab all the attention as he makes his entrance. “All those standing there gazed, and warily crept closer… so the folk there judeged it phantasm or magic… and stunned by his words they sat there stock-still. ” (Greenblatt, 190-191, 237-243). The only explanation they can give is that he must be somekind of apparation. His ghostly figure seems to arrest all the attendees, for they fear his supernatural presence. The Green Knight challenges King, Arthur, to the beheading game. He agrees and brings the axe down on the Green Knight’s head. For he holds up the head in his hand…and the mouth uttered these words, which you shall know. ” (Greenblatt, 195, 444-447). What human can survive the removal of his head? Only those who possess supernatural abilities. Although there is one element that sets both Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight apart from eachother. Magic appears in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight when Morgan le Fay, A woman who delves in the arts of magic. She is responsible for changing Sir Bertilak into the Green Knight in hopes of striking fear in the Queen and the Knights of King Arthur. She guided me in this guise to your great hall To put pride on trial, and to test with this trick …with his head in his hand before the high table. ” (Greenblatt, 236, 2456-2462). The ablility to shapeshift is another expression of the supernatural in this tale. Many of the shape shifting seems to be a reflection of the different personalities the characters possess. It represents the many different facets of a humans personality. One minute we are calm and collected and the next wild and out of control. Lord Bertliak is known to be civilzed, but when he becomes the Green Knight he is aggressive.

In Beowulf magic is instead used on items and not people. The treasure that is protected by the dragon is cursed inorder to keep it from falling in the wrong hands. “The huge cache, gold inheretied from an ancient race, was under a spell—and in his eyes worthy—to open hoard. ” (Greenblatt, 3051-307). Once again, pagan and Christian elements blending, the “spell” keeps them from obtaining the spell hat keeps men from harming the hoard. The supernatural is something that Is unexplainable by human understanding. It seems that the two works possess similar qualites when it comes to the supernatural.

They both possess monsters or creatures that have supernatural ablilites that are unharmed by weapons. Differ when themes of Christianity and Paganism are subjected to one another in Beowulf or Shapeshifting in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.? Bibliography “Supernatural. ” Merriam-Webster. com. Merriam-Webster, n. d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/supernatural Greenblatt, . The Norton Anthology English Literature. 9th. 1. United States: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2012. Print.