The Ferryman

(Re: Gawain)   Finally, the ferryman arrives.  Now, when you hear about a ferryman in a story, you know you’re on your way to the yonder shore, the realm of the great adventure.  This ferryman is a lovely character.  He says, “There’s a custom here that the defeated knight’s horse is given to me, and this knight has been defeated, and that’s his horse.” 

   “No,” says Gawain, “that’s my horse.  If you want his horse, look at that other one.  But if you’ll accept a knight instead of a horse, I’ll give him to you.”

   “That’s fine with me,” says the boatman.  “Come across.”

That boatman ferries Gawain across to the boatman’s house.  This is a charming scene!  It turns out that this is not only the ferryman but also the guardian of the threshold of the Castle of Marvels.  We’re at the porter’s place to the land of magic.  He has a little daughter Bene, and a son, and this darling family takes Gawain in.    (RG 70

   The ferryman’s presence protects Gauvain from the malice of the man with the wooden leg at the castle entrance, for his is the positive aspect of that same wooden-legged man, that part of the dark spirit of nature which is not one-sidedly opposed to consciousness but which is capable of mediating the opposites and of assisting in the further development of consciousness.  TGL 236