Gawain is one of a select number of the Round Table to be referred to as one of the greatest knights and closest companions of King Arthur. He is often portrayed as a formidable, courteous, and also a compassionate warrior, fiercely loyal to his king and family. As such he is a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor, and is also known as "the Maidens' Knight". Gawain appeared in the earliest Arthurian literature as a model of knightly perfection, against whom all other knights were measured.
While Gawain is the Knight of The Round Table who was most often written about, his character was viewed differently by the French as compared to the English and the Scotts. In Middle English poetry, Gawain was generally regarded as a brave and loyal knight. Perhaps his most important single adventure was that described in a fine, anonymous 14th-century poem, Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight. It describes how Sir Gawain, accepts a challenge from a mysterious "Green Knight" who challenges any knight to strike him with his axe if he will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts and beheads him with his blow, at which the Green Knight stands up, picks up his head and reminds Gawain of the appointed time. In his struggles to keep his bargain, Gawain demonstrates chivalry and loyalty until his honor is called into question by a test involving Lady Bertilak, the lady of the Green Knight's castle.