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Characters in David Lowery's The Green Knight adaptation.

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"I'm not ready. I'm not ready, yet."

Played by: Dev Patel

Not a brave warrior nor a honorable lord, and despite being the nephew of King Arthur, Gawain is a man who spends his nights drunk in taverns or visiting brothels. Seeking to gain recognition and status, Gawain foolheartedly accepts the challenge of the mysterious Green Knight to take part in a cryptic game to test one's honor and virtue. Gawain becomes bound to the creature's game, and must now go out on a quest to meet the Green Knight once again to complete their friendly Christmas game.

  • Adaptational Jerkass: The Gawain of legend was known as the "Ladies' Knight" and was the closest thing Arthurian stories had to a feminist (even among the female characters!). This Gawain strings along Essel, and in the dark future literally rips their child out of her arms and then tosses some coins at her to further twist the knife.
  • Bad Future: Gawain has a vision of himself cowardly retreating from the Green Knight's "game" and returning to Camelot, never revealing the truth of what transpired. Gawain is able to assume the throne upon Arthur's death. However, Gawain hasn't become any more wiser or honorable since the start of his quest as a result of his cowardice, which leads to him becoming a despised ruler whose son dies fighting in his wars and is abandoned by all of his family and allies before he symbolically commits suicide via removing the enchanted girdle.
  • Badass Cape: Gawain's bright yellow cloak is easily the most distinctive item in his wardrobe in the film. Inverted in that its color could be a visual metaphor for his fear in confronting his fate and serves as a security blanket along with the green girdle. The cloak also appears to change from yellow to a darker orange hue which matches the fur of the Fox that accompanies him on his journey.
  • Berserk Button: Gawain flies into a drunken rage after a tavern patron heckles him, saying that Gawain's mother is a witch.
  • Composite Character: Some elements of Gawain's more notorious half-brother Mordred are combined into Gawain's character, particularly in the dark future where he becomes Arthur's defacto heir with a 0% Approval Rating. His mother in the original poem is stated to be Morgause, while in this adaptation, Morgan Le Fay is his only present parent who orchestrates the events of the film.
  • Dirty Coward: Throughout most of the film, he is terrified of his death, and desperately clings to the supposedly enchanted green girdle to save his own skin. After seeing a vision of becoming an unjust king by returning without honor, he chooses to accept his death and tosses the girdle aside.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of the chivalrous, Arthurian knight.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The prologue of the film shows a house slowly being engulfed in flames from a nearby window. A knight who happens to be nearby is shown unhitching his horse and drawing his sword to assist the woman who lives there. The camera pans back to inside the building showing Gawain, the "hero" of this story, to be hungover and asleep inside a brothel, and he never even notices the house ablaze.
  • Fatal Flaw: Fear and indecision.
    • Gawain's actions during the Green Knight's challenge speaks greatly to his weakness of character. His motivation to accept the terms of a game he doesn't fully understand is his need for validation from Arthur and his knights. Gawain seems ready to engage the Green Knight in a duel, but is confused by the Knight surrendering and becomes noticeably twitchy and scared. Gawain nervously decapitates the Knight, and becomes frozen with fear once the creature simply picks up his head and says he'll see the young man in a year.
    • Gawain seems to be on the verge of tears and completely helpless when he is apprehended by the trio of bandits led by the scavenger he was previously somewhat callous with. Gawain proceeds to plead with the bandits to leave him unharmed, and doesn't seem to do much physical resisting as they bound and gag him and ransack his belongings.
    • In a dark vision of the aftermath of Gawain's quest, the young, wannabe knight returns to Camelot, concealing the truth of what happened at the Green Chapel, and is shown to never take off the girdle his mother gave him. Gawain is able to ascend to Arthur's throne after his death, but he proves to be an ineffectual ruler who abandons Essel after she gives birth to his son to marry a noblewoman of higher status and starts pointless wars which lead to the death of his son. In the final moments of his vision, Gawain has been deserted by all of his supporters and decides to remove the girdle as his kingdom crumbles around him.
    • Subverted in that once the glimpse into the future ends, Gawain calmly removes the green girdle and then tells the Green Knight that he is ready to receive the Knight's blow. The Knight seems to be pleased with Gawain, and the movie ends ambiguously with Gawain's fate up in the air.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • After the Fox calls out Gawain for counting on the girdle to save his skin from the Green Knight's axe, Gawain attempts to cleave the animal, which flees from the scene, with Gawain screaming that he never asked for the Fox to be there in the first place.
    • Majorly in a possible outcome for the story, Gawain watches as Essel gives birth to their son only for his subjects to take the child from her arms, leaving her only a handful of coins as she helplessly crawls after Gawain, who leaves wordlessly.
  • Race Lift: A character with origins in Welsh myth played by an Indian actor. David Lowery has stated that his interest in casting Dev Patel came from seeing photoshoots of Patel making him look regal and attractive.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: He's played by the 6'2", dark-haired, Indian Dev Patel, and is often shot with flattering angles, a variety of gorgeous lighting choices, and intricate costumes.
  • Tragic Keepsake: In his vision of the eventual fall of Camelot under his command, Gawain keeps the circlet crown worn by his and Essel's son after he is mortally wounded fighting Gawain's battles.
  • Uncertain Doom: The movie abruptly ends before we see if the Green Knight does take his head.
  • Unfit for Greatness: Unlike the Sir Gawain of the original poem, Gawain seems to make every possible bad decision and doesn't seem to have the slightest idea of what being chivalrous means. Though the aspiring knight has his moments of showing his capacity to help those who ask him, such as the ghost of Winifred, Gawain is still shown to not have fundamentally changed during his journey, and ends up chickening out when the Green Knight prepares to finish their game. Gawain is shown returning to Camelot never revealing what transpired at the Green Chapel, which haunts him greatly during his reign as king and causes him to rule unjustly. Subverted, when it is revealed that Gawain seems to have been experiencing a vision of a possible future and realizes that submitting to death at the hands of the Green Knight is the better outcome for his story.

    The Green Knight
"O Greatest of Kings, indulge me in this friendly Christmas game."

Played by: Ralph Ineson

The mysterious eponymous being, appearing to be some sort of pagan golem conjured or sent via dark sorcery. The Green Knight rides into King Arthur's court during his Christmas feast to propose a friendly but cryptic game to any man brave enough to risk their own life.

  • Affably Evil: If you can even call him evil. Despite being the main antagonist, this is only a role he plays in the narrative as a whole, and he's nothing but polite to those he meets, even when he's planning on cutting off their head.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In the story, it is clearly defined that Morgan le Fay is responsible for his existence and manipulating events, but here it is less clear. Just why he challenges Arthur (and by extension Gawain) and what he really is are left ambiguous. The spirit of Winifred claims the mysterious being is someone Gawain knows, and in the original tale the Knight ends up being Lord Bertilak, but this is never further elaborated on in the film.
  • Big Bad: Takes this role in the story, though as mentioned above, how evil he truly is remains up for debate.
  • Decomposite Character: Downplayed. Unlike the original story, he and the Lord are not shown or said to be the same person, but there are (very few) hints that they could be, however.
  • Plant Person: He appears to be a humanoid tree.


Played by: Sarita Choudhury

Arthur's sister, Gawain's mother, and a sorceress.

  • Ambiguously Evil: Unlike the original story, in which she was a straight villain, it's never made clear exactly what she's up to here. She may have wanted to harm her son by sending or creating the Green Knight, but she may have just wanted to teach him a lesson or even to ensure that he would succeed Arthur — it all depends on why she summoned him (and whether the Green Knight really intends to take his head at the end).
  • The Chessmaster: Downplayed. Unlike the original story, her role as the mastermind is left more vague, where in the legend she's explicitly said to be pulling the Green Knight's strings and masquerading as the blind woman in the Lord and Lady's manor house. Here, she is shown to summon the Green Knight via a mystic ritual, but everything beyond that is left to interpretation.
  • Composite Character: She keeps up the tradition of conflating Morgause and Morgan, but this is perhaps the first time this has been done to Gawain's benefit, whereas it's usually Mordred who is the one with the added relationship to Morgan.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Possibly. It's far more ambiguous than in the source material, but given who she is implied to be, she could still be seen as the true villain of the story.
  • Lady of Black Magic: A distinguished noblewoman who in her spare time conducts black magic rituals to manipulate events.
  • No Name Given: She's never referred to as either Morgan le Fay OR Morgause, but she takes the place of BOTH characters in the story.
  • Race Lift: A character with origins in Welsh myth being played by an actor of mixed Indian/English ancestry.


Played by: Alicia Vikander

A lowborn woman who is in a relationship with Gawain.

  • Canon Foreigner: There is no such character in the original tales. In classic legend, Gawain's most noteworthy love interest is a witch named Ragnelle.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Implied. Gawain wakes up the night after sleeping with her in what appears to be a brothel, and when he promises her riches in place of making a real commitment to her, she replies that she already has his gold.
  • Morality Pet: While Gawain is suggested to be stringing her along, Essel is a sincerely kind person who encourages him to pursue goodness rather than greatness. Deciding to reject her in the Bad Future is the first sign that he's selected a bad path.

    King Arthur

Played by: Sean Harris

The King of England and Gawain's uncle.

  • Adaptational Wimp: In the story that inspired this movie, Arthur was still young and headstrong. This Arthur is aging, seemingly ill, and portrayed as almost frail.
  • Cool Uncle: Played with. While he's very nice to Gawain, inviting him to sit by him at the Round Table even though Gawain himself doesn't think he deserves it, he also remarks that he has regrets that he wasn't more involved in Gawain's life and feels he wasn't the best uncle he could have been.
  • Retired Badass: Arthur has clearly accomplished a lot through battle, but he's getting old now and knows that he can't fight the Green Knight himself.

    Queen Guinevere

Played by: Kate Dickie

The Queen of England, Arthur's wife.

  • Adaptational Heroism: Not that the original was a villain, but here her and Arthur's marriage is portrayed as much more solid, and there's no hint of the Lancelot affair. Even in Gawain's dark future vision, Arthur and Guinevere die in each other's arms. She's also very encouraging to Gawain.

    The Scavenger

Played by: Barry Keoghan

A thief Gawain encounters on a battlefield.

  • Ambiguously Gay: He cradles Gawain's head, gently presses their foreheads together, and calls him "MY brave knight".
  • No Name Given: He's never named, and referred to simply as the 'scavenger' in the credits.
  • Survivor Guilt: He's mostly Laughing Mad but he is almost driven to tears when he mentions that his two brothers died in the battlefield he is now scavenging and that he would've joined them had his mother not stopped him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: He steals Gawain's sash and horse, Gryngolet, both of which are eventually returned to Gawain through other means without the Scavenger present, and rides off saying he will finish Gawain's quest, but he is never seen again except in Gawain's dream.


Played by: Erin Kellyman

A spirit who Gawain encounters when he tries to find a place to rest.

  • Canon Foreigner: St. Winifred's well is mentioned in the original tale, but nothing else like this encounter is included.
  • Ethereal White Dress: She appears to Gawain in a gauzy flowing white gown, highlighting her existence as a spirit.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: She's expecting an honorable knight to help her, but instead she gets the cowardly, dishonorable Gawain.

    The Fox

Voiced by: Patrick Duffy

A mysterious animal who accompanies Gawain on his travels.

  • Ascended Extra: It's barely a character in the original story, and certainly didn't talk.
  • Bond Creature: It travels with Gawain through strange, mystical lands. It seemingly tries to protect him from the giants, and attempts to dissuade him from confronting the Green Knight.
  • Composite Character: Takes on the role of the servant who escorts Gawain to the Green Knight's forest who encourages Gawain to flee.
  • Narrator All Along: It speaks once, just before Gawain makes it to the Green Chapel, revealing it to be the opening narrator.
  • Suddenly Voiced: It randomly starts talking to discourage Gawain from fulfilling his quest.

    The Lord

Played by: Joel Edgerton

A friendly but strange nobleman Gawain encounters.

  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the original tale, he only insists on binding Gawain to the "equal exchange" rules, and Gawain doesn't seem to mind kissing him. In this film, he heavily intimidates and harasses Gawain, and his kiss is portrayed as verging on sexual assault.
  • Ambiguously Bi: While he and Gawain did kiss in the original tale, it was a chivalric tradition more than anything else, while here the Lord seems genuinely romantically interested in Gawain.
  • Decomposite Character: Downplayed, but it's never said that he and the Green Knight are the same character (as they are in the original tale), but there are some small hints that they are.
  • The Fair Folk: He and his wife seem to be this: their strange awareness, their existence in some fantasy otherworld, their vague connections to the Green Knight, the unnatural animals that the Lord hunts, and so on. There definitely seems to be something more to them than merely being eccentric nobles.
  • Remake Cameo: Edgerton previously played Gawain in King Arthur (2004).

    The Lady

Played by: Alicia Vikander

The Lord's wife who takes an interest in Gawain.

  • Adaptational Jerkass: She goes from being a fairly mild vamp in the original tale to an aggressive sexual harasser in the film, intimidating and bullying Gawain into a sexual relationship with her.
  • Expy: For Essel. One of the last things Essel says to Gawain was that she wishes to be his "lady" and be treated like a noblewoman. Essel is played by the same actress as the Lady, who also has a romantic/sexual connection to Gawain, but she is a noblewoman of the highest order.
  • The Fair Folk: Like her husband, she shares many qualities with stories of the fae in old Celtic myths.
  • Incest Subtext: Though she obviously represents Essel, played by the same actress no less, she also presents Gawain with what appears to be the same green sash his mother made for him but claims she made it herself. This is just before they sleep together, and the sightless woman (who in the story is the same character as his mother) is in the room when it happens.
  • The Vamp: Played up even more here than the original tale; she aggressively pressures Gawain into sex with her.

    The Sightless Woman 

Played by: Helena Browne

A silent blindfolded woman who appears with the Lord and Lady.

  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Like with the Lord and the Green Knight, her status as Morgan le Fay in disguise is never stated outright, but it is implied by the blindfold Gawain's mother wears during the ritual that begins the "game".
    • Also her presence is never acknowledged by the Lord and Lady, the Lord introduces his wife to Gawain but fails to do the same with this woman despite her sitting right next to the Lady. She's never named and no one ever talks directly to her.
  • The Voiceless: She never speaks a word.

    The Giants 

Frightening, gargantuan humanoids who appear to Gawain in a fog.

  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • They appear just after Gawain eats the mushrooms indicating they may be just hallucinations, but given the other supernatural phenomena in the story, they might equally be very real as well.
    • The motive of the giant who reaches out for Gawain. He had just asked if he could ride on her shoulder, so it's possible she was attempting to acquiesce to his request, but when he cowers in fear she appears to change her mind.