Knights and Fighting 

I've just finished reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Of course, not knowing middle english all that well, I read it in modern English translation. Overall, it is an interesting tale that I had not read before. Now I need to think about all of the elements that include the natural (and possibly supernatural world). The color green seems significant, but besides all of the traditional formalism and symbol interpretation I could do, allow me to say that I am awed by the amount of blood and death that frequently appears in these texts from the middle ages.

The thing that I keep thinking about was how this poem seems designed to show how to be a good soldier. For example, loyalty to the King, even when carrying out absurd quests is more important than protecting one's own life. I suppose the Knight would say it was for a good cause, but I really don't see it. Of course, in Gawain and the Green Knight, this sort of loyalty is rewarded by divine approval, so the death that seems so eminent does not occur. But I wonder about the Knights who admired this story and died trying to emulate the standard of honor it conveys.

I wonder if the action movies of today are meant to do the same thing in our modern wars. For example, when Arnold blows away forty or so "bad guys" and looks supercool doing it, especially when it occurs with a Rock-and-Roll soundtrack, I wonder if the result partially teaches young men how to act as soldiers in battle. I read in some books that the icon of John Wayne, the ultra-masculine cowboy shoot 'em up hero, was an image that some soldiers in the Vietnam War had to confront when faced with the fear of combat. I'm not too sure what I really think of all of this, but it is something to think about, and sometimes helps to put it in modern contexts.

19 October 2005
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