All Things Green Man & The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Fall – Gawain and the Green Knight

‘Fall’. 2016. Pencil and gouache on board. Private Collection. © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

‘Fall’. 2016. Pencil and gouache on board. Private Collection. © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

As Yuletide approaches I always seem to find myself drawn back to the wonderful poem Gawain and the Green Knight. The poem was written by an unknown author in the late 14th Century, but was only rediscovered two hundred years ago and published for the first time in 1839.

The story begins as the court of King Arthur is celebrating the feast of Christmas. The door burst open and the formidable figure of the gigantic green skinned and green haired Knight rides into the great hall clothed all in green on a green horse. He issues a grisly challenge to Arthur and his Knights and asks if anyone amongst them is “bold both of blood and brain”, and will dare strike him one stroke for another, “I will give him as a gift this axe, which is heavy enough, in sooth, to handle as he may list, and I will abide the first blow, unarmed as I sit. If any knight be so bold as to prove my words let him come swiftly to me here, and take this weapon, I quit claim to it, he may keep it as his own, and I will abide his stroke, firm on the floor. Then shalt thou give me the right to deal him another, the respite of a year and a day shall he have. Now haste, and let see whether any here dare say aught.”  Gawain begs Arthur to allow him the honour of taking the challenge and so begins Gawain’s magical quest.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage. Clive has very kindly given me permission to reproduce one of the images on our blog each month and the one above seemed perfect for December.

 You can find more information on Clive’s website:

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