As a knight who must live my life in accordance with a strict moral code in order to hold myself to the high standards of chivalry that King Arthur mandates for his knights, I find fables interesting. Though these little stories oftentimes seem to be simple, the morals contained within them are often important truths that even, or perhaps especially, all knights would be well served to remember. A fable that I came across recently, seemed to be of particular interest to my own situation.
In the tale, a poor rooster searches for food in a dung heap, but finds precious jewel hidden within it. Rather than keep this valuable prize, the rooster deems it to be of little use to himself as it cannot be eaten, and discards it. You may wonder how in the world I find this brief story to be of particular interest to me when many other fables have more noble morals attached to them. You see, the piece of Jasper found by the fowl cannot help but remind me of my own green girdle.
Before you dismiss this notion as mere silliness, consider this, in the moral at the fable’s conclusion, listeners are informed that Jasper “makis ane man stark and victorious,/ Preservis als fra cacis perrillous./ Quha hes this stane sall have gude hap to speid/ Of fyre, nor fallis him neidis not to dreid” (Henryson 123-126). Is this not startlingly similar to what I was told of the green girdle? As I feared for my life, the wife of my host told me that the girdle would provide me a means of surviving since I would be unharmed as long as I wore it. In this fable, it seems that Jasper is of a similar protective property.
Long have I struggled with feelings of shame for accepting, and then concealing the green girdle, which I still wear, not for protection, but as a reminder. Though I have since been absolved by my host Bertilak for my transgression, I remained troubled by it. I cannot help it for I have always tried to remain strictly within the bounds of chivalry and have done my best to live my life with the utmost courtesy. In this tale, however, the fowl is called a fool for leaving such a powerful object behind. This mirrors the words of my host when he told me that I could not be blamed for taking the girdle as I “wanted to live” (Gawain Fitt IV 2368). It is suggested that the fowl should have acted as I did and accepted the protection of an amulet such as the Jasper. Although I remain shamed by my behavior, I cannot help but take some comfort in the form of this fable as an additional assurance that I may not have acted entirely in the wrong.