The Buried Giant

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Sir Gawain Character Analysis

Sir Gawain is both the nephew and a dedicated knight of King Arthur. As one of Arthur’s closest friends, Sir Gawain was entrusted with the responsibility of both overseeing Merlin as he cast a spell on Querig’s breath to make everyone forget the past and staying in the area to serve as Querig’s protector. Sir Gawain, unlike those around him, does remember the past and. Therefore, he’s aware that by protecting Querig he is also protecting the peace that exists between Britons and Saxons, as well as King Arthur’s false reputation as a wise and just leader. Sir Gawain meets Axl, Beatrice, Wistan, and Edwin while they are on their way to the monastery where Father Jonus lives. Sir Gawain tells them that he is going to kill Querig, and Wistan tells him that he is on a quest to do the same. Sir Gawain insists on being the one to do it and tells Wistan to give up his plan, but he does this just so he won’t have to get into a swordfight with Wistan, who is much younger and stronger than Sir Gawain is. Sir Gawain also tells Lord Brennus where Wistan is at the monastery so that soldiers will be sent to stop him, but this fails and Wistan gets away. Sir Gawain decides to go back up the mountain where Querig is, knowing Wistan is on his way there. On the way, Sir Gawain meets back up with Axl and Beatrice and they are there to hear Sir Gawain reveal the real history of Querig and King Arthur. Wistan and Sir Gawain then have a duel and Sir Gawain is slain trying to protect Querig.

Sir Gawain Quotes in The Buried Giant

The The Buried Giant quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Gawain or refer to Sir Gawain. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Buried Giant published in 2015.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Even so, sir, isn’t it a strange thing when a man calls another brother who only yesterday slaughtered his children? And yet this is the very thing Arthur appears to have accomplished.”

“You touch the heart of it just there, Master Wistan. Slaughter children, you say. And yet Arthur charged us at all times to spare the innocents caught in the clatter of war. More, sir, he commanded us to rescue and give sanctuary when we could to all women, children and elderly, be they Briton or Saxon. On such actions were bonds of trust built, even as battles raged.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker), King Arthur
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“What are you suggesting, sir? Skulls? I saw no skulls! And what if there are a few old bones here? What of it, is that anything extraordinary? Aren’t we underground? But I saw no bed of bones, I don’t know what you suggest, Master Axl. Were you there, sir? Did you stand beside the great Arthur? I’m proud to say I did, sir, and he was a commander as merciful as he was gallant. Yes, indeed, it was I who came to the abbot to warn of Master Wistan’s identity and intentions, what choice had I? Was I to guess how dark the hearts of holy men could turn? Your suggestions are unwarranted, sir! An insult to all who ever stood alongside the great Arthur! There are no beds of bones here!”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, King Arthur
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

“We need not quarrel, Master Axl. Here are the skulls of men, I won’t deny it. There an arm, there a leg, but just bones now. An old burial ground. And so it may be. I dare say, sir, our whole country is this way. A fine green valley. A pleasant copse in the springtime. Dig its soil, and not far beneath the daisies and buttercups come the dead. And I don’t talk, sir, only of those who received Christian burial. Beneath our soil lie the remains of old slaughter. Horace and I, we’ve grown weary of it. Weary and we no longer young.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, Horace
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

“What do you suggest, mistress? That I committed this slaughter?” He said this tiredly, with none of the anger he had shown earlier in the tunnel, but there was a peculiar intensity in his voice. “So many skulls, you say. Yet are we not underground? What is it you suggest? Can just one knight of Arthur have killed so many?” He turned back to the gate and ran a finger along one of the bars. “Once, years ago, in a dream, I watched myself killing the enemy. It was in my sleep and long ago. The enemy, in their hundreds, perhaps as many as this. I fought and I fought. Just a foolish dream, but I still recall it.” He sighed, then looked at Beatrice. “I hardly know how to answer you, mistress. I acted as I thought would please God.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman (speaker), Beatrice, King Arthur
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

“So many skulls we trod on before coming out to this sweet dawn! So many. No need to look down, one hears their cackle with each tread. How many dead, sir? A hundred? A thousand? Did you count, Master Axl? Or were you not there, sir?”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
Gawain’s First Reverie Quotes

“These cursed Saxons. Why fight on this way with only Death to thank them for it?”

“I believe they do so for sheer anger and hatred of us,” he says. “For it must be by now word has reached their ears of what’s been done to their innocents left in their villages. I’m myself just come from them, so why would the news not reach also the Saxon ranks?”

“What news do you speak of, Master Axl?”

“News of their women, children and elderly, left unprotected after our solemn agreement not to harm them, now all slaughtered by our hands, even the smallest babes. If this were lately done to us, would our hatred exhaust itself? Would we not also fight to the last as they do, each fresh wound given a balm?”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker)
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

“Master Axl, what was done in these Saxon towns today my uncle would have commanded only with a heavy heart, knowing of no other way for peace to prevail. Think, sir. Those small Saxon boys you lament would soon have become warriors burning to avenge their fathers fallen today. The small girls soon bearing more in their wombs, and this circle of slaughter would never be broken. Look how deep runs the lust for vengeance! […] Yet with today’s great victory a rare chance comes. We may once and for all sever this evil circle, and a great king must act boldly on it. May this be a famous day, Master Axl, from which our land can be in peace for years to come.”

“I fail to understand you, sir. […] This circle of hate is hardly broken, sir, but forged instead in iron by what’s done today.”

Related Characters: Axl (speaker), Sir Gawain (speaker), King Arthur
Page Number: 213-214
Explanation and Analysis:

Yet I was a good knight who performed his duty to the end. Let me say so, and he will see I do not lie. I will not mind him. The gentle sunset, his shadow falling over me as he moves from one side of his vessel to the other.

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), The Narrator / The Boatman
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“I accuse you of nothing. That great law you brokered torn down in blood! Yet it held well for a time. Torn down in blood! Who blames us for it now? Do I fear youth? Is it youth alone can defeat an opponent? Let him come, let him come.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, Wistan
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

“Will you not understand the acts of a great king, sir? We can only watch and wonder. A great king, like God himself, must perform deeds mortals flinch from! […] Who calls me a coward, sir? Or a slaughterer of babes? Where were you that day? Were you with us?”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Axl, King Arthur
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

“A dark man he may have been, but in this he did God’s will, not only Arthur’s. Without this she-dragon’s breath, would peace ever have come? Look how we live now, sir! Old foes as cousins, village by village. Master Wistan, you fall silent before this sight. […] Her breath isn’t what it was, yet holds the magic even now. Think, sir, once that breath should cease, what might be awoken across this land even after these years! Yes, we slaughtered plenty, I admit it, caring not who was strong and who weak. God may not have smiled at us, but we cleansed the land of war. Leave this place, sir, I beg you.”

Related Characters: Sir Gawain (speaker), Wistan, King Arthur, Querig, Merlin
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

“Foolishness, sir. How can old wounds heal while maggots linger so richly? Or a peace hold for ever built on slaughter and a magician’s trickery? I see how devoutly you wish it, for your old horrors to crumble as dust. Yet they await in the soil as white bones for men to uncover.”

Related Characters: Wistan (speaker), Sir Gawain, Merlin
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Buried Giant PDF

Sir Gawain Character Timeline in The Buried Giant

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Gawain appears in The Buried Giant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...agrees with this and then hazards a guess that the knight is none other than Sir Gawain . The knight confirms that he is, and that King Arthur had been his uncle.... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Having become friendly with each other, Wistan asks Sir Gawain to look at Axl, who is about as old as Sir Gawain, and tell him... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...his king to look into rumors about Saxons being ill-treated by Britons in the area. Sir Gawain says he understands Wistan’s situation perfectly, having traveled in Saxon-ruled land himself. (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Wistan asks Sir Gawain if he receives the same respect as a knight of King Arthur in areas where... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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...and he points out the prosperity of the Saxons in the town they lately left. Sir Gawain also assures Wistan that, although there are wars in other places, Saxons and Britons have... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...and then they hear hooves approaching. The grey-haired soldier from the bridge appears and greets Sir Gawain . Wistan resumes acting like a mute and Edwin stealthily moves closer, but the grey-haired... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...for because they were given to Axl to pay off a debt. The soldier asks Sir Gawain what he knows about them and Sir Gawain confirms that they are “simple creatures.” Even... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
The grey-haired soldier tells Sir Gawain that Wistan is here to slay Querig, which alarms Sir Gawain. Wistan confirms that this... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Turning away from the dead soldier, Wistan tells Sir Gawain that the Saxon king has also received word that Lord Brennus wants to wage war... (full context)
Chapter 6
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Listening to Wistan chop wood, Axl thinks back to their parting from Sir Gawain , who had attempted up until the last moment to make Wistan promise not to... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Beatrice tells Axl this means that everyone’s memories will come back if either Wistan or Sir Gawain can kill the dragon. Still, there is danger that Wistan will not be able to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...them. There is a sudden loud sound and some flashes that make a flame before Sir Gawain announces his presence and tells them he’s relieved to see them. Beatrice asks what he’s... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Axl asks about the monster in the tunnel and Sir Gawain explains that the monks, and even the abbot, “send down here those they wish dead”... (full context)
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...alarmed when she feels her foot hit against what she thinks is a child. Although Sir Gawain tries to keep them moving, Axl uses the candle to look around and sees a... (full context)
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain continues talking loudly despite Axl’s warning until they hear a sudden noise down the tunnel.... (full context)
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Sir Gawain and Axl realize that there is a portcullis that can be raised or lowered with... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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Referring to the skeletons, Beatrice asks Axl if “this beast” really killed so many people. Sir Gawain turns to them and asks if Beatrice is suggesting that he “committed this slaughter,” but... (full context)
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Edwin starts singing again and Axl says it’s because the boy is overwhelmed before asking Sir Gawain why the monks want Edwin dead and if it has to do with the ogre... (full context)
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...Beatrice to pull the rope that opens the gate while Edwin stands and back with Sir Gawain so that when the monster charges at Edwin, Sir Gawain can step out and kill... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
War, Peace, Vengeance, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...themselves in the forest. Axl and Beatrice sit down, but soon notice Edwin is gone. Sir Gawain tells them the boy immediately ran off—he believes Edwin is going back to help Wistan.... (full context)
Gawain’s First Reverie
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain wonders why God had put “dark widows” on his path on the mountain. He wonders... (full context)
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Waking up that morning, Sir Gawain “felt the lingering joys” of having had a good dream about a beautiful woman he... (full context)
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain wonders, “Yet these dark widows, why do they cross our path? Is our day not... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain urges Horace forward, and the widows let them pass, but they chant “coward” at Sir... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
As Sir Gawain watched Edra kill the Saxon, Axl appeared on the battlefield. Axl was without a shield... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain wonders if they had merely been “slaughterer[s] of babes” that day. He reminds himself that... (full context)
Gawain’s Second Reverie
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Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Sir Gawain curses the wind. He knows Horace won’t mind a storm but does mind that a... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Sir Gawain “put a little spur on Horace” and looks around at the trees, which grow oddly... (full context)
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Sir Gawain presses on with Beatrice astride Horace and Axl tugging the goat. Sir Gawain knows the... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Sir Gawain looks out at the landscape while Axl and Beatrice struggle to tie up the goat.... (full context)
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Sir Gawain asks if it’s not possible that Axl’s decision “wasn’t the more godly,” leaving Arthur and... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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...to leave when she is, but Beatrice is reluctant to enter the forest again. Suddenly Sir Gawain calls out, “They’ll soon be upon us!” Axl tells Beatrice they should go to him.... (full context)
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Sir Gawain notes that there had been a shift in what they fought for during the war:... (full context)
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Axl continues trying to get Sir Gawain to let him borrow the horse while Beatrice questions whether Axl really wants to see... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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...with and Wistan decides to tether him next to the goat. As Wistan does this, Sir Gawain keeps a close eye on him, drawing out his sword and watching until Wistan turns... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Denial and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Axl asks that there be “no more disguises between us” and asks Sir Gawain if he is the dragon’s protector, which Sir Gawain confirms is true. Wistan asks if... (full context)
Memory, Truth and Justice Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Sir Gawain indicates that they are close, and the group silently walks on until Sir Gawain asks... (full context)
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Sir Gawain begs Wistan to think about “what might be awoken across this land” if he kills... (full context)
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Sir Gawain asks Axl to use his “fine eloquence” to help him and Wistan leave the place... (full context)
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Wistan stands over Sir Gawain ’s body until Axl calls down, “Bravo, sir,” and tells him that nothing stands between... (full context)