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December 2017


Dear Abbot Pennings,

I’m curious, why are we the Green Knights?

Aleksandra Kaminski '19


Dearest Aleksandra,

Your question delights me, most particularly as I was recently reminded of the answer myself, when I was perusing our collection of student handbooks. In the useful volume from the academic year 1971-72, my attention – and my poetic imagination – was caught by this carefully typewritten entry:

“The term ‘The Green Knight’ was first used by Alfred Lord Tennyson in one of his stories of the Knights of the Round Table: ‘Gawain and the Green Knight.’ The name was adopted to all athletics teams and the student body of St. Norbert College in general at the suggestion of Father Anselm M. Keefe shortly before World War II.

“The ‘Green Knight,’ however, was meant to be more than just a name for athletics teams. It was meant to be representative of St. Norbert himself, for the man who founded the Norbertine order and for whom St. Norbert College is named was himself a knight, possessing the qualities of chivalry, courage and reverence, which went with the title.”

Dear me, I fear our conscientious student author’s learning may only have taken him or her so far, since I believe Tennyson’s poem alluded to the Green Knight myth of much earlier date, recounted in works of the 14th century, indeed. All the same, this little excursion into our own history has given me a taste to return to my own well-read volume of the Victorian poet laureate. Perhaps that will be my bedtime reading – along with another of these most fascinating handbooks.   

Responses to “Ask the Abbot” questions are penned by St. Norbert College staff in the name of Abbot Bernard Pennings, who founded St. Norbert College in 1898. 

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