Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Þer hales in at þe halle dor an aghlich mayster,
On þe most on þe molde on mesure hȝe;
Fro þe swyre to þe swange so sware and so þik,
And his lyndes and his lymes so longe and so grete,
Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were,
Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene,
And þat þe myriest in his muckel þat myȝt ride;
For of bak and of brest al were his bodi sturne,
Boþ his wombe and his wast were worþily smale,
And alle his fetures folȝande, in forme þat he hade,
ful clene;

For wonder of his hwe men hade,
Set in his semblaunt sene;
He ferde as freke were fade,
And oueral enker-grene.

British Library Cotton MS Nero A. X

Corbel, Bamberg Cathedral

Corbel beneath the Bamberg Horseman, Bamberg Cathedral
13th century

Depending on where you stand, the eyes seem to be looking directly at you.

Corbel beneath the Bamberg Horseman, Bamberg Cathedral 13th century
photo credit: Johannes Otto Först

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Poitiers, Poitiers, France

Poitiers Cathedral, Choir stall, North side, #19

Presbytery of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

ca. twelfth–thirteenth centuries, Norman and Romanesque. Image credit: Wordandsilence1979.

The Green Man in Art and Literature

The foliated head, often called a Green Man, appearss in art and literature beginning in the Medieval era. Look for him (and sometimes, her) on corbels, roof-bosses, choir stalls, and sometimes, in poems and stories. The following books and decorative items include Amazon affiliate links.

Kathleen Basford. The Green Man. D. S. Brewer; Revised ed. edition (1998).


“The Green Man, the image of the foliate head or the head of a man sprouting leaves, is probably the most common of all motifs in medieval sculpture. Nevertheless, the significance of the image lay largely unregarded until Kathleen Basford published this book - the first monograph of the Green Man in any language -and thereby earned the lasting gratitude of scholars in many fields, from art history and folklore to current environmental studies. This book has opened up new avenues of research, not only into medieval man’s understanding of nature, and into conceptions of death, rebirth and resurrection in the middle ages, but also into our concern today with ecology and our relationship with the green world. It is therefore a work of living scholarship and its publication in paperback will be greatly and justly welcomed.”

Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, eds. Charles Vess, Illustrator. The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. Firebird, 2004.


“One of our most universal myths is that of the Green Man—the spirit who stands for Nature in its most wild and untamed form. Through the ages and around the world, the Green Man and other nature spirits have appeared in stories, songs, and artwork, as well as many beloved fantasy novels, including Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Now Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, the acclaimed editors of over thirty anthologies, have gathered some of today’s finest writers of magical fiction to interpret the spirits of nature in short stories and poetry. Folklorist and artist Charles Vess brings his stellar eye and brush to the decorations, and Windling provides an introduction exploring Green Man symbolism and forest myth. The Green Man is required reading—not only for fans of fantasy fiction but for those interested in mythology and the mysteries of the wilderness.”

Carolyne Larrington. The Land of the Green Man: A Journey through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles. I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd; Reprint edition (October 30, 2017).


“Beyond its housing estates and identical high streets there is another Britain. This is the Britain of mist-drenched forests and unpredictable sea-frets: of wraith-like fog banks, druidic mistletoe and peculiar creatures that lurk, half-unseen, in the undergrowth, tantalising and teasing just at the periphery of human vision. How have the remarkably persistent folkloric traditions of the British Isles formed and been formed by the identities and psyches of those who inhabit them? In her sparkling new history, Carolyne Larrington explores the diverse ways in which a myriad of imaginary and fantastical beings has moulded the cultural history of the nation.“

Kingsley Amis. The Green Man. NYRB Classics; Reprint edition, 2013.


Maurice Allington has reached middle age and is haunted by death. As he says, “I honestly can’t see why everybody who isn’t a child, everybody who’s theoretically old enough to have understood what death means, doesn’t spend all his time thinking about it. It’s a pretty arresting thought.” He also happens to own and run a country inn that is haunted. The Green Man opens as Maurice’s father drops dead (had he seen something in the room?) and continues as friends and family convene for the funeral.

Maurice’s problems are many and increasing: How to deal with his own declining health? How to reach out to a teenage daughter who watches TV all the time? How to get his best friend’s wife in the sack? How to find another drink? (And another.) And then there is always death.

The Green Man is a ghost story that hits a live nerve, a very black comedy with an uncannily happy ending: in other words, Kingsley Amis at his best.

J.R.R. Tolkien, translator. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Pearl; [and] Sir Orfeo. Del Rey, 1988.


This book includes Tolkien’s own translation of the 15th century Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which contains a green man figure as a key part of the story.

Norton Critical Edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


”This long-awaited Norton Critical Edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight includes Marie Borroff’s celebrated, newly revised verse translation with supporting materials not to be found in any other single volume.

  1. The text is accompanied by a detailed introduction, an essay on the metrical form, the translator’s note, marginal glosses, and explanatory annotations to assist readers in the study of this canonical Arthurian romance.
  2. ’Contexts‘ presents two French tales of Sir Gawain and a passage from the Alliterative Morte Arthure, also translated by Marie Borroff, as well as three selections from the original Middle English poem.
  3. ’Criticism‘ collects ten interpretive essays on the poem’s central themes. Contributors include Alain Renoir, Marie Borroff, J. A. Burrow, A. Kent Hieatt, W. A. Davenport, Ralph Hanna III, Lynn Staley Johnson, Jonathan Nicholls, Geraldine Heng, and Leo Carruthers.
  4. A Chronology of important historical and literary dates and a Selected Bibliography are also included.“

Green Man Bamburg corbel sculpture


Hand made in the USA by in designer Cast Hydrostone, with an aged stone faux-finish.

Autumnal Greenman Plaque


Measurement: DIA: 5.5; crafted in resin; also available in Spring and Summer versions.

Handcrafted Green Man Leather Journal


100% genuine leather journal, handcrafted by artisans from India. The dimensions are 7 x 5 x 1.2 inches, with 2oo pages of blank, unlined paper, waiting for your words.

Green Man Bookend Set


Bookend set made of poly resin, hand painted and polished. The bookends are each 6" tall.