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.
Recent discoveries have made it practically certain that there existed, prior to the extant romances, a collection of short episodic poems, devoted to the glorification of Arthur's famous nephew and his immediate kin (his brother Ghaeris, or Gareth, and his son Guinglain), the authorship of which was attributed to a Welshman, Bleheris; fragments of this collection have been preserved to us alike in the first continuation of Chretien de Troyes Perceval, due to Wauchier de Denain, and in our vernacular Gawain poems. Among these "Bleheris" poems was one dealing with Gawain's adventures at the Grail castle,where the Grail is represented as non-Christian, and present s features strongly reminiscent of the ancient Nature mysteries.
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.
The succeeding age saw the Arthurian story popularized, through translations of the French romances, as far afield as Germany and Scandinavia.