A24’sThe Green Knightis a story that is deeply layered with pagan tales, Christian poems, and the ever-constant battle of man versus nature. There is a lot of meaning behind this Arthurian lore that leaves us a bit confused about what is really happening, and, like any great film, it is easy to misinterpret the details of the story.
Trying to figure out the meaning of every detail in The Green Knight is a challenge, but there are some details we have to talk about that will change the way you watch the film.
StoryDive was able to break down the historical and cultural meaning behind the pentangle, the five-pointed star, and how it plays into the larger theme in The Green Knight. Check out his full breakdown of the film below.
What is the pentangle?
The world of The Green Knight and the poem that the film is directly adapted from, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, are defined by the codes of behavior of man and nature. One of the symbols that carry the morality of the Christian knights and their notion of chivalry is found in Gawain’s shield. The pentangle represents the five virtues of knights: courtesy, generosity, chastity, fellowship/friendship, and piety.
This code of chivalry shapes the values and actions of Sir Gawain and any other character who comes into contact with the symbol. The ideas of chivalry derive from the Christian concepts of morality, and how chivalry promotes spiritual ideals in a world that lacks spirituality.
The pentangle on Gawain's shield.Credit: Medievalists.com
How is the Green Knight connected to the pentangle?
The Green Knight is one of the few pagan gods who has found a place within Christianity. The Green Knight, also known as the Green Man, symbolizes nature and a being that bridges the human world with the environment. He is a god that represents life, death, and rebirth—just like nature itself. Gawain, on the other hand, represents human civilization.
The contrast between the two is apparent from the first moment they meet. The Christmas game played between the two showcases the vicious relationship between man and nature: man reaps nature and benefits from its wealth until nature reaps man. It is within this game that the Green Knight is testing Gawain’s five knightly virtues.
Of course, Gawain fails when his knightly virtues are tested. In the end, Gawain faces the Green Knight while wearing a sash that protects Gawain from death. Although he is protected by the sash, the Green Knight attempts to return the blow that Gawain gave to him at the start of the film, but Gawain flinches. This sash and Gawain flinching are both in direct defiance with the final virtue, piety.
Only after the Green Knight shows Gawain a vision of his future filled with shame does Gawain accept his piety and allow the Green Knight to deliver the blow which will end his life. By accepting this final virtue, Gawain can revive his Christian values that promote a healthy, spiritual relationship with nature. Gawain ends the cycle of hatred that man and earth created by accepting the will of the maker.
'The Green Knight'Credit: A24
The Green Knight uses small symbols to carry out the undertone of Christan beliefs mixed with pagan beliefs throughout the film. While Gawain is pretty unfaithful to the pentangle for most of the film, the Green Knight seems to accept Gawain’s devotion to Christianity and nature itself by returning a fatal blow.
There are many more symbols to uncover in this film, but none are as important as the pentangle. The five points are why the Christmas game exists, and why Gawain seems to be devoted to his travels. Having a symbol that retains the overall story is greatly effective and can keep your project alive forever without even saying a single word.
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite detail from The Green Knight is!