First Armour, age 2
The Birth and Naming of a Knight
Gawain is a Welsh name meaning "white hawk." Sir Gawain, after whom I am named, was one of the Knights of the Round Table, and is most famous for his encounter with the Green Knight. A 14th century English poem (excerpted later on this page) tells of how one Christmas Eve, a Knight of uncanny green hue rides into the court of King Arthur, and presents the assembled company with a challenge: that the Green Knight will abide a stroke from his own axe, if his challenger will abide a similar stroke one year hence. Sir Gawain answers the challenge, and cleaves the Green Knight's head from his body; whereupon the Green Knight takes up his own head and rides off, first admonishing Sir Gawain to journey to the Green Chapel the next Christmas to keep his end of the bargain. Sir Gawain is ultimately saved from beheading by learning from the Green Knight's wife the secret of the Knight's invulnerability -- a green girdle (or belt) -- and by wearing the girdle himself when his turn comes to abide the axe-stroke.
Sir Gawain's horse, in the Arthurian stories, is named Gringolet. At South Coast Plaza, where my parents and I often shop, there is a carousel, each horse of which bears the name of one of King Arthur's knights. Needless to say, I make a point of riding my "own" horse (a black one) whenever we visit there.
Practicing Chivalrous Skills on the "Fun Ride," age 5
The Joys and Strengths of a KnightThree of my greatest loves are music, history, and building.
I have been pointing out details in orchestral music since I was less than two years old, and since age two, I have been able to listen to the soundtrack CD of a movie I have seen once, and tell what is happening in the movie at any given point in the music (this includes grown-up movies like Much Ado About Nothing and Sense and Sensibility). John Williams is my favourite soundtrack composer. I enjoy classical music, and have been known to correct my parents as to whether a piece is by Mozart or Beethoven. Lest you think that I am too high-brow in my tastes, I also like drumming and dancing to rock-and-roll music and singing the songs from Muppet Treasure Island.
I am home-schooled, and history is my favourite subject. Appropriately given my name, I especially like Medieval history. Recently after Mom read to me from a book about castles, I remarked, "When you read to me about other times, I feel like I am living in those times." I am also particularly interested in the American Civil War.
Since acquiring my first construction toy at age three, I have been creating complex structures. My parents say that watching me build is like watching Mozart compose a symphony -- no scratch-outs, because the music is already finished in his head. Below are pictures of some of my creations.
A Flag for a Fortress, age 4
Symphony in Logs, age 4
Trojan Horse, named by Gawain (bottom), and Other Structures, age 5
An Excerpt from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien, which tells of the arming of GawainHe remained there that day, and in the morning got ready,
asked early for his arms, and they all were brought him.
First a carpet of red silk was arrayed on the floor,
and the gilded gear in plenty there glittered upon it.
The stern man stepped thereon and the steel things handled,
dressed in a doublet of damask of Tharsia,
and over it a cunning capadoce that was closed at the throat
and with fair ermine was furred all within.
Then sabatons first they set on his feet,
his legs lapped in steel in his lordly greaves,
on which the polains they placed, polished and shining
and knit upon his knees with knots all of gold;
then the comely cuisses that cunningly clasped
the thick thews of his thighs they with thongs on him tied;
and next the byrnie, woven of bright steel rings
upon costly quilting, enclosed him about;
and armlets well burnished upon both of his arms,
with gay elbow-pieces and gloves of plate,
and all the goodly gear to guard him whatever betide;
coat-armour richly made,
gold spurs on heel in pride;
girt with a trusty blade,
silk belt about his side.
When he was hasped in his armour his harness was splendid:
the least latchet or loop was all lit with gold.
Thus harnessed as he was he heard now his Mass,
that was offered and honoured at the high altar;
and then he came to the king and his court-companions,
and with love he took leave of lords and of ladies;
and they kissed him and escorted him, and to Christ him commended.
And now Gringolet stood groomed, and girt with a saddle
gleaming right gaily with many gold fringes,
and all newly for the nonce nailed at all points;
adorned with bars was the bridle, with bright gold banded;
the apparelling proud of poitrel and of skirts,
and the crupper and caparison accorded with the saddlebows:
all was arrayed in red with rich gold studded,
so that it glittered and glinted as a gleam of the sun.
Then he in hand took the helm and in haste kissed it:
strongly was it stapled and stuffed within;
it sat high upon his head and was hasped at the back,
and a light kerchief was laid o'er the beaver,
all braided and bound with the brightest gems
upon broad silken broidery, with birds on the seams
like popinjays depainted, here preening and there,
turtles and true-loves, entwined as thickly
as if many sempstresses had the sewing full seven winters in hand.
A circlet of greater price
his crown about did band;
The diamonds point-device
there blazing bright did stand.
Then they brought him his blazon that was of brilliant gules
with the pentangle depicted in pure hue of gold.
By the baldric he caught it and about his neck cast it:
right well and worthily it went with the knight.
And why the pentangle is proper to that prince so noble
I intend now to tell you, though it may tarry my story.
Is is a sign that Solomon once set on a time
to betoken Troth, as it is entitled to do;
for it is a figure that in it five points holdeth,
and each line overlaps and is linked with another,
and every way it is endless; and the English, I hear,
everywhere name it the Endless Knot.
So it suits well this knight and his unsullied arms;
for ever faithful in five points, and five times under each,
Gawain as good was acknowledged and as gold refinéd,
devoid of every vice and with virtues adorned. So there
the pentangle painted new
he on shield and coat did wear,
as one of word most true
and knight of bearing fair.
First faultless was he found in his five senses,
and next in his five fingers he failed at no time,
and firmly on the Five Wounds all his faith was set
that Christ received on the cross, as the Creed tells us;
and wherever the brave man into battle was come,
on this beyond all things was his earnest thought:
that ever from the Five Joys all his valour he gained
that to Heaven's courteous Queen once came from her Child.
For which cause the knight had in comely wise
on the inner side of his shield her image depainted,
that when he cast his eyes thither his courage never failed.
The fifth five that was used, as I find, by this knight
was free-giving and friendliness first before all,
and chastity and chivalry ever changeless and straight,
and piety surpassing all points: these perfect five
were hasped upon him harder than on any man else.
Now these five series, in sooth, were fastened on this knight,
and each was knit with another and had no ending,
but were fixed at five points that failed not at all,
coincided in no line nor sundered either,
not ending in any angle anywhere, as I discover,
wherever the process was put in play or passed to an end.
Therefore on his shining shield was shaped now this knot,
royally with red gules upon red gold set:
this is the pure pentangle as people of learning have taught.
Now Gawain in brave array
his lance at last hath caught.
He gave them all good day,
for evermore as he thought.
Battle Stance, age 5
Excerpts from the Chronicles of one Gawain Roderick Anderson, a Knight
A True Knight Delighteth in Musick: Age 5 months. I smile at the opening horns of the soundtrack to Kenneth Branagh's Henry V.
A True Knight Hath an Hearty Appetite: Age 7 months. Dad hides Mom's Mother's Day gift from me -- a bewrapped and beribboned box of chocolate-covered cherries -- in my crib on Mother's Day eve. When at Dad's urging Mom comes into the nursery to find her gift the next morning, the ribbon is half-off the box and an envelope labelled "Mom" is in my mouth.
A True Knight is Well Read: Age 8 months. I make my first independent selection from Mom and Dad's bookshelf -- The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot.
A True Knight Performeth Acts of Chivalry: Age 1 year. At Kids R Us, I crawl under a clothing rack to retrieve a bottle for a little girl who has dropped it.
A True Knight Knoweth the Times in which He Liveth: Age 1. Mom, hearing voices, comes out of the bathroom to find me sitting on the couch, with the TV remote control in my hand, watching C-Span.
A True Knight Joyeth in His Creation: Age 2. Mom, speaking to me of my second birthday, tells me that Gawain R. Anderson was one of God's better ideas. I reply, "Amen!"
A True Knight Recognizeth his own Dark Side: Age 2. I put a big pot on my head, and walk around chanting, "Darth Vader."
A True Knight is Valiant even in His Weakness: Age 2. I throw up in the night due to flu. Afterward, when Mom and Dad are changing my sleeper, I, clad only in a diaper, take up my new toy sword and begin fighting imaginary dragons.
A True Knight Expresseth Himself in Song: Age 2. I begin to sing more or less on key while strumming my child's guitar. My latest compostion contains the lines, "sit still in church," and "bear catching fish."
A True Knight Acknowledgeth Signs of Authority: Age 2. Mom, who has just washed her hair, has a burgundy towel wrapped turban-wise around her head. Apparently thinking of a mitre, I pat the towel and ask, "That's a bishop?"
A True Knight Prayeth Even for Humble Things: Age 2. Tonight I say a prayer for Jesus to bless my feet, my legs, my knees, my hands . . . and my butt.
A True Knight Putteth Himself in the Way of Danger for the Sake of a Lady: Age 2. While frolicking around a koi pond, a little girl loses her balance and catches herself on me. As a result, she remains dry, but my face lands in the water and my shirt gets soaked.
A True Knight Keepeth Vigil through the Watches of the Night: Age 3. One evening shortly before bedtime, Mom and Dad buy me my first construction toy (tinkertoys). At 3 a.m., they are awakened by a noise coming from my room. They enter to find that I have gotten out of bed, and have retrieved the tinkertoys from my closet and am building with them.
A True Knight is Skilled in the Telling of Tales: Age 3. I tell my first story, beginning, "Once there was a man in the world." As the story continues, the following details emerge: the man was handsome, tall, had black hair and black eyes and was wearing a black shirt. He was in a garden eating beans, rice, and squash, after which he had an unspecified snack. Then he went to work and got on the computer.
A True Knight Knoweth an Apt Metaphor: Age 3. While brushing my teeth, I tell Mom that my teeth are a portcullis and my tongue is a drawbridge.
A True Knight Engageth in Speculations Philosophical: Age 3. I ask the question, "Is it possible to paint a tree?"
A True Knight Knoweth an Apt Metaphor, Further Illustrated: Age 3. I refer to my dog, Strider, as "a harp string."
A True Knight is Generous: Age 3. My godmother, Karen, visits from Georgia, and I sleep with her on our sleeper sofa. In the morning Dad asks me if it was special, and I reply, "You want to sleep with her next time?"
A True Knight Hath an Hearty Appetite, Further Illustrated: Age 3. Upon arriving home from a play, I exclaim, "I'm so thirsty, I could drink pig's milk!"
A True Knight Is Not Afraid of Tears: Age 3. Mom reads to me in my children's Bible (Revelation) that there will be no sorrow in Heaven. Perhaps prompted by her explaining to me yesterday about "happy tears," I say of those in Heaven, "They might cry because they love Him."
A True Knight Knoweth an Apt Metaphor, Further Illustrated: Age 3. Observing that the Pooh Bear at the bottom of my drinking cup is taking a milk bath, I say that I am the bathtub drain.
A True Knight Speaketh in Grand Style: Age 4. While making a tinkertoy sword, I tell Mom that "I am fashioning a weapon."
A True Knight is Not Violent Except when Needful, and Seeketh to Know the Reasons for His Faith: Age 4. While talking about Raiders of the Lost Ark, I mention a scene in which someone has blood on them. Dad asks which scene I mean, and I answer, "I don't want to talk about it. I don't like blood -- except the blood of Christ." I then proceed to ask, "Why do we drink that?"
A True Knight Taketh Interest in the Ways of the Stranger: Age 4. I ask the unexpected and challenging question, "How do you say 'broccoli' in Spanish?"
A True Knight Journeyeth Far and Wide: Age 4. Tonight on my bed-rocketship, I take Mom, Dad, and my dog, to a series of planets -- the blue planet, the red planet, the white planet, Krypton, Forton, Taker, Thomper, Bearton, Poacher, and Monger.
A True Knight Studieth the Tactics of the More Experienced: Age 4. After watching a movie of Kidnapped, I inquire, "Why did Alan Breck go hedge to hedge?" (He was taking cover.)
A True Knight Understandeth His Motivation: Age 4. I walk into the kitchen where Mom is cooking, a green pillowcase over my head and another enclosing my legs. "I don't really feel like an asparagus, so I need to take off this asparagus costume," I tell her.
A True Knight is Willing to Instruct Others: Age 4. Having given Mom a good morning kiss, I suggest, "You can move your mouth when you kiss. They do that in movies sometimes."
A True Knight is Industrious: Age 4. I explain that I am trying to make the hole I am digging in the back yard dirt "big enough for God's hand to fit in."
A True Knight is Discerning: Age 4. The radio station we are listening to in the car vaunts itself as "L. A.'s finest rock." When the next song begins playing, I announce, "This is not fine."
A True Knight Studieth the Past and Applieth What He Learneth: Age 4. Mom reads to me in a history book about Babylon. I proceed to dub bologna sandwiches "Babylonian sandwiches."
A True Knight is Brave In Hard Circumstances: Age 4. Mom and Dad are wondering whether to take me to my ice-skating class, as I have been flu-ish. I inform them that "kids are good at drinking their throw-up back down."
A True Knight Understandeth the Deeper Mysteries: Age 4. I see the movie Dragonheart -- it is my first experience of noble sacrifice. I weep and weep over the dragon's death. The movie implies that the constellation Draco is a kind of heaven for dragons, and I wonder aloud whether "the twin one" (Gemini) is a heaven for twins. Mom explains that Heaven isn't really in the stars, but that since God made the stars, their glory tells us something about what Heaven is like. I reply, "Maybe all the stars are a symbol of the glory of the one God."
A True Knight is Willing to Instruct Others, Further Illustrated: Age 5. I give Dad "how to play in the dirt" lessons.
A True Knight Hath Proper Caution: Age 5. I warn my parents, "Hold onto your gravity, or you might float!"
A True Knight is Compassionate: Age 5. I unwittingly propose a sequel to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? when I ask, "Do androids have hiccups?"
A True Knight is Truthful Even in the Face of Punishment: Age 5. I play unwisely in the bathtub and flood the bathroom floor. When from the next room Mom and Dad call, "What happened?", I yell back, "Water!"
A True Knight Rejoiceth in His Creation, Further Illustrated: Age 5. Having heard my parents recently rave over a 1989 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon, I exclaim, "The world is an '89 Cab!"
A True Knight Hath Concern for Those of Tender Years: Age 5. I comment of my one-year old friend Gino's antics in church, "He's as cute as a straw, but when he starts talking, he'll have to learn to be quiet."
A True Knight is Unsatisfied with Incomplete Answers, but Seeketh for the Prime Cause: Age 5. Gawain: How do people get chickenpox? Mom: From other people with chickenpox. Gawain: No -- how did the first person get chickenpox?
A True Knight Does Not Weary of Stating the Obvious, When Necessary: Age 5. I ask Mom a couple of rather gruesome questions, such as "What happens if you stick a needle in your heart?" and "What happens if you touch blood?" Mom, mystified (and grossed out), asks, "Where do these questions COME from?"; to which I reply, "My brain!"
A True Knight Observeth Details and Applieth Logic to Them: Age 6. While watching The Adventures of Mowgli, I notice that the title character when an adult appears to be wearing the same loincloth he did as a child. My comment --"It must be stretchable underwear."
A True Knight Hath Passions as Deep as the Sea: Age 6. Talking of a new female friend in relation to one I had met earlier, I say, "Melissa that I met up at the lake was ripped from my thoughts by Nora."
A True Knight Knoweth an Apt Metaphor, Further Illustrated: Age 6. While looking at the night sky, I say, "I feel like the sky is a deadly ocean, and all the stars are ships sailing on journeys to other ships that have been wrecked."
A True Knight Honoureth his Father and Mother: Age 6. I comfort Mom with the words, "I love you, Mom. If someone steals me, I'll still remember you."
A True Knight Hath an Hearty Appetite, Further Illustrated: Age 6. I swagger up to Mom, wearing my "special forces" beret and brandishing a Lego weapon. "Give me a double beer with eight ice cubes," I tell her.
A True Knight Seeth into the Soul: Age 7. While watching two teenage couples cuddling, I observe, "It's easy to tell which ones are the girls. The girls have long hair and bright eyes."
A True Knight is Discerning, Further Illustrated: Age 7. I hear a jazz piece on the radio, and comment thus on its improvisational nature: "Why can't they just make it up first and see if it sounds good?"