When the source of the name was forgotten its meaning was not unnaturally misinterpreted, and gained for Gawain the reputation of a facile morality, which was exaggerated by the pious compilers of the later Grail romances into persistent and aggravated wrong-doing; at the same time it is to be noted that Gawain is never like Tristan and Lancelot, the hero of an illicit connexion maintained under circumstances of falsehood and treachery.
Here the Grail, the chalice of the Last Supper, is at the same time, as in the Gawain stories, self-acting and food-supplying.
Another account is given in the prose Lancelot, but here Gawain has been deposed from his post as first hero of the court, and, as is to be expected from the treatment meted out to him in this romance, the visit ends in his complete discomfiture.
The most important and interesting group is that connected with Perceval, and he was regarded as the original Grail hero, Gawain being, as it were, his understudy.
Most unfortunately our English version of the romances, Malory's Morte Arthur, being derived from these later forms (though his treatment of Gawain is by no means uniformly consistent), this unfavourable aspect is that under which the hero has become known to the modern reader.
Wace, however, evidently knew more of Gawain than he has included in his translation, for he speaks of him as Li quens Walwains Qui tant fu preudom de ses mains (II.
As authority Thomas cites a certain Breri, who has now been identified with the Bleheris quoted as authority for the Grail and Gawain stories, and the Bledhericus referred to by Giraldus Cambrensis as famosus ille fabulator.
The explanation of the very perplexing changes which the character of Gawain has undergone appears to lie in a misunderstanding of the original sources of that character.
On receipt of the tidings of Mordred's treachery, Gawain accompanies Arthur to England, and is slain in the battle which ensues on their landing.
At the same time the majority of the short episodic poems connected with the cycle have Gawain for their hero.