Gawain and the Grinch: Two Lessons for Christmas

As a child, I was never much of a fan of the books of Dr. Seuss.  I found the illustrations rather scary and the language slightly inexplicable.  I was much more likely to be discovered engrossed in a tale of Arthurian legend, and the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a particular favourite.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight starts with a winter festival, one that is interrupted by the Green Knight’s unexpected appearance and challenge to Sir Gawain.  During the course of the story, Gawain is repeatedly tested with regard to his bravery, his honesty and his moral virtue, not least by Lady Bertilak.

Lord Bertilak challenges Sir Gawain that he will give Gawain everything he catches during his daytime hunts if Gawain will give to him everything he gains during the same period of time.  On every occasion that Lord Bertilak goes out hunting, Lady Bertilak comes to Gawain’s room and attempts to seduce him, a proposition, which Gawain resolutely refuses.  When Lord Bertilak returns from his hunt and asks Gawain to give him everything he has gained, he promptly plants a kiss on Lord Bertilak’s cheek in acknowledgement of what he had gained from Lady Bertilak.

Christmas lesson: it is better to give than it is to receive.

It has only been in later life that I have come to appreciate that an equally valid Christmas lesson can be found amongst the writings of Dr. Seuss.  In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch is a Scrooge-like creature who sets out to ruin Christmas for the residents of Whoville by stealing all their presents and decorations.  However, much to the Grinch’s annoyance, Whoville continues to celebrate Christmas regardless of it material losses.

Christmas lesson: it is not all about the money.

© Fergus Longfellow


Fergus Longfellow is not expecting many gifts this Christmas.

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