Perceval Arrives at the Grail Castle - History
Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the Penguin 1991 edition translated by William W. Kibler 1991, copyright 1991. Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary. Some of the notes derive from various web sources
Overall Impression: This is an incomplete work telling the story of Perceval and Gawain, which is not nearly as elaborate or well-developed as the Wolfram version Parzival (references below in the form [Wolfram= Ither] indicate the name Wolfram uses for the same character].
Continuations: This work breaks off in mid-sentence possibly due to the death of the author. Many authors attempted to complete and extend the work, the so-called Continuations. "The most common pattern, found in six manuscripts, is to have Chrétien's The Story of the Grail followed by the First Continuation (also known as Pseudo-Wauchier or Gawain Continuation [late 12th Century]), the Second Continuation (also called the Wauchier de Denain Continuation or Perceval Continuation [last decade of 12th Century]), and the Manessier [Third] Continuation [written 1214-1227]. In two other manuscripts, the Gerbert de Montreuil Continuation [1226-1230] is intercalated between the Second Continuation and Manessier."
Introduction includes an homage to Count Philip of Flanders (the author's patron after 1181).
Perceval grows up in the Waste Forest [in NW Wales or possibly near river Doon in Scotland], raised alone and in ignorance of knighthood by his mother. 5 knights arrive and he marvels at their appearance, thinking they are God. They describe their knightly furnishings. One has been recently knighted by King Arthur, who is staying in Carlisle.
His mother [unnamed, Wolfram=Herzeloyde] is distraught to learn he has met the knights, and tells him of his father, the knight Gahmuret, how he was wounded, lost his wealth, was came home. Perceval's 2 brothers became knights and died in combat, and Gahmuret died of grief. But Perceval can only think of becoming a knight, and leaves his mother with her reluctant blessing. She advises him to assist any lady in need, to serve ladies and maidens.
In an encounter with an unnamed damsel [Wolfram=Lady Jeschute] in a vermilion and striped tent, Perceval forces kisses from her and forcibly takes her ring, misinterpreting his mother's advice. The woman's lover [unnamed, Wolfram=Duke Orilus de Lalander] returns, and accuses her of infidelity, resolving to punish her by making her go naked and on foot. He is also heading toward King Arthur's. King Arthur has fought and defeated King Ryon. He is at Carlisle, a castle above the sea [the true Carlisle is in Cumbria, NW England].
Perceval encounters the knight in red armor (Red Knight, Wolfram=Ither), who has laid claim to Arthur's land, and sends Perceval to bear a message to Arthur.
Perceval comes into Arthur's court, refuses to dismount, hurriedly asks to be knighted (but does not seem to wait for this to be done), and asks to be granted the armor of the Red Knight. The handsome but evil-tongued seneschal Kay mocks him, challenging him to get the Red Knight's armor, and Arthur rebukes Kay. A maiden (the queen's handmaiden, unnamed) laughs for the first time in 6 years, and Kay strikes her and also the court jester (who has prophesied "This maiden will not laugh until she has seen the man who will be the supreme lord among all knights."
Perceval returns to the Red Knight, demands him armor, and quickly kills him with a javelin through the eye. He is advised by Yonet and takes the knight's armor and horse--Yonet receives Perceval's own horse. He sends Yonet with Arthur's stolen cup and a message to Arthur. The jester prophecies that Perceval will avenge the kick Kay gave him.
Perceval rides away and comes to a castle by a river and the sea. He encounters a gentleman in ermine, Gornemant of Gohort, and they converse. Perceval asks for lodging, and Gornemant [Wolfram=Gurnemanz] begins to teach him how to conduct himself as a knight. Perceval expresses concern about his mother, whom he saw faint as he was leaving her. The next morning, Gornemant gives him clothing and a sword, conferring on him knighthood. Gornemant advises Perceval to not be too talkative or prone to gossip, to find a maiden or woman whom he can console, and to go to church, and not to claim publicly that he was taught by his mother. Perceval departs to find his mother.
He encounters another castle, Biaurepaire, by the sea. There he finds a charming maiden Blancheflor [Wolfram=Condwiramurs] whose followers are weakened by hunger and famine. She is Gornemant's niece. At night she comes innocently into the sleeping Perceval's bedroom and gets into bed with him, embracing him. She relates there will be an imminent attack by Anguingueron, the seneschal of the evil knight Clamadeu of the Isles [Wolfram=Clamide], and that they have previously attacked and carried away many of her men. She will kill herself before allowing herself to be taken to Clamadeu. Perceval promises to help Blancheflor and asks only for her love in return. She stays the night with him in bed. The next morning, Perceval does battle with Anguingueron, whom he fells but spares after Anguingueron begs for mercy. Perceval orders him back to Arthur's court to serve the maiden that Kay struck. Clamadeu learns his seneschal has been defeated. Perceval does battle with 20 of Clamadeu's knights and wins the day. Clamadeu's adviser suggests he wait it out and let the starvation inside have its effect. But a ship with wheat and provisions arrives. At last Clamadeu does battle with Perceval and is forced to beg for mercy. He also is sent back to Arthur's court to the maiden whom Kay struck. Clamadeu also releases all his prisoners. The two defeated knights appear before Arthur and his queen [unnamed]-they are staying now at Disnadaron in Wales. The two knights tell of their defeat by Perceval, and the jester again rejoices that he will be avenged. Arthur expresses regret that Kay drove Perceval away. The knights Girflet and Yvain [not the same as Gawain] hospitably escort the 2 new arrivals away.
Perceval departs Blancheflor, determined to find his mother. He encounters monks and nuns from the town, and speaks of his mother to them.
At a river, he sees 2 men in an anchored boat fishing [one of whom is the Fisher King, Wolfram=Anfortas]. Perceval is unable to cross, and the Fisher King offers him lodging for the night. Perceval climbs up a cleft in the rock to the top of a hill where he arrives at a splendid castle with tower and hall. Inside, he sees a nobleman with graying hair seated on a bed, the lord of the castle (the Fisher King) who is unable to rise to greet him. A squire enters carrying a sword with engraved blade, and announces that the lord's niece has sent it to him-the lord gives the sword to Perceval. Another squire enters carrying a white lance on whose tip blood oozed and flowed down onto the squire's hand. Perceval refrains from asking about this lance, recalling Gornemant's admonishment. More squires bring in candelabras. A maiden brings in a grail held in both hands [for Chrétien, it is a serving dish], and the room becomes brightly illuminated [presumably because of the contents of the grail]. Another brings in a silver carving platter. The grail is made of gold and set with precious stones-it and the platter are carried to another chamber. Perceval fails to ask who is being served by the grail. They dine at an ivory table. The grail returns borne in the opposite direction. Later that night, the Fisher King excuses himself and has to be carried off to his bedroom, and Perceval again fails to ask what ails him. The next morning, Perceval discovers that the hall is deserted and everyone has left. As he rides over the drawbridge, the drawbridge mysteriously raises up on its own.
He encounters a maiden [his cousin, Wolfram=Sigune] weeping beneath an oak tree. She holds a dead knight [Wolfram=Schianatulander], whose head has been cut off by another knight [the Haughty Knight of the Heath] that morning. She marvels that he stayed with the Fisher King. She says the Fisher King was wounded in a battle by a javelin through both thighs and is still in much pain, and that he seeks diversion from his pain by fishing. She rebukes him for not asking why the lance bled or what is done with the grail or who was being served by the grail and silver platter, saying he would have brought great succor to the king if he had. Perceval says as a guess that his name is Perceval the Welshman, but she renames him Perceval the wretched. She says much suffering will now befall him instead of what could have happened. She says she is Perceval's first cousin, was raised with him for many years, and that his mother is dead. Perceval offers to pursue her lover's killer. She warns him that the sword he was given could shatter in his moment of need, and that Trabuchet [Wolfram=Trebuchet] alone could fix it.
Perceval departs and soon encounters a weary palfrey [woman's horse] ridden by a wretched girl with torn clothing and lacerations. She recognizes Perceval as the man who stole the ring and kisses from her, and warns him that the Haughty Knight of the Heath will kill him just as he has earlier that day killed another knight. The Haughty Knight of the Heath arrives and tells his tale of how he suspects the Welshman lay with her. Perceval confesses he was the man, is challenged to a fight, and defeats the knight. He informs him of her faithfulness to him, and demands they both go to Arthur's court and the damsel that Kay struck. The couple rides on and comes before Arthur at Caerleon [SE Wales]. Arthur frees him from his imprisonment and turns him over to his nephew Gawain [Wolfram=Gawan]. Arthur does not know Perceval's name, and resolves to set off from Caerleon in search of Perceval. Later, Perceval is near Arthur's camp, and is lost in thought on seeing 3 drops of wounded goose blood on the snow, which reminds him of his beloved Blancheflor. Sagremor informs Arthur that they have found a knight asleep on his horse. Sagremor challenges Perceval, and is defeated. Kay also challenges him, and breaks his collar bone and arm, just as the jester had foretold. The king takes pity on Kay and has the physician attend him. Gawain offers to go to watch how Perceval behaves and to bring him back through more diplomatic means. He approaches Perceval, and Perceval learns from him that it was the seneschal Kay whom he defeated and on whom he had wanted to have his vengeance. They become friends, and Perceval introduces himself as Perceval the Welshman. Gawain says Perceval has fulfilled the prophecies of the jester and the maiden. Perceval comes before the court, and addresses the maiden, saying he will always come to her aid. They return to Caerleon.
They encounter a damsel [Wolfram=Cundrie la sorcière] on a tawny mule and having a beard and humpback. She taunts Perceval for not asking the needed questions at the Fisher King's hall. She is on her way to the Proud Castle. Gawain resolves to help the maiden besieged on the peak of Montesclere. Perceval however resolves to not rest until he has learned who was served by the grail and why the lance bled.
[Here begins a long tale of Gawain's pursuits only partially summarized]: Guinganbresil [Wolfram=Kingrimursel] enters before Arthur and says Gawain killed his lord, insults him and challenges him to a fight. Gawain agrees to fight in 40 days before the king of Escavalon. Gawain departs. Meliant of Liz [Wolfram=Meljanz] has challenged Tiebaut of Tintagel [Wolfram=Prince Lippaut] though raised in his household like a son-he seeks the hand of the elder of Tiebaut's daughters [unnamed, Wolfram=Obie]. She is haughty and headstrong and has demanded he challenge her father to a tourney. Gawain meets a vavasour Sir Garin in Tintagel's castle. The maiden's sister, the Maiden with the Small Sleeves [otherwise unnamed, Wolfram=Obilot] is mistreated by her older sister. Meliant de Liz wins the early jousting. The sharp tongued sister mocks Gawain. The vavasour defends Gawain to Tintagel against the slanders. The young daughter clasps Gawain's legs and asks him to defend her against her sister, who has hit her. She asks him to bear arms for her in the upcoming tourney, and he accepts the charming girl's request, agreeing to be her knight. Her father agrees for her to give him a sleeve to wear as a token of her love. Gawain jousts with Meliant and defeats him. He presents the horses he has won to the young girl, the vavasour's wife, and the vavasour's daughters [unnamed].
Gawain departs and comes upon a castle, where a youth invites him to go to meet his sister [unnamed, Wolfram=Antikonie]. He is left alone with the maiden, and they immediately speak of love and begin kissing. A vavasour discovers them, recognizes Gawain, and we learn that Gawain had killed her father [Wolfram=Kingrisin]. Gawain has Excalibur at his side and resolves to defend himself against the attack which the vavasour threatens. She prepares to assist him in the fight. Gawain defends himself against the onslaught of men. Guinganbresil, an adviser to the king, arrives and chastises the men for prematurely beginning a fight he himself had taken promised to have with Gawain. He suggests the fight be postponed a year, and that Gawain go in search for the lance of the Fisher King-Gawain accepts this quest, swearing to it over a reliquary. The vavasour foretells that the lance will be used some day to destroy the kingdom of Logres.
[Perceval tale resumes]: Perceval has gone 5 years without entering a church, and has sent 60 defeated knights to Arthur's court. He encounters knights and ladies on the trail, penitential. They criticize him for bearing arms on Good Friday. One pilgrim blames the Jews for the death of Christ. They have gone to see a holy hermit, and Perceval wants to do the same. With their directions, he arrives at the hermitage, tells the hermit [Wolfram=Trevrizent] of his years of wandering, and the encounter with the grail and the lance. The hermit, Perceval's uncle, tells him how his mother had died from sorrow at his departure, a sin which requires repentance and which caused him to fail to ask about the grail. The man who is served from the grail [Wolfram=Titurel, grandfather of Anfortas and father of Frimutel] is the hermit's brother, brother also to Perceval's mother, and he believes the Fisher King is the man's son. He says the grail is holy and sustains the holy man because it carries a single consecrated host [Christian symbol of communion]-he has lived on this host for 12 years. Perceval agrees to undergo penance and take a limited diet with the hermit, acknowledging Christ and taking communion.
[Gawain tale resumes]: Gawain escapes the tower. He comes eventually on a damsel who is in grief over a wounded knight [Greoreas, Wolfram=Urians]. The knight warns him not to proceed further into Galloway, but Gawain in undeterred. He comes to a castle and finds a haughty maiden [unnamed, Wolfram=Duchess Orgeluse de Logrois]. She wants him to fetch her palfrey, and to do this he leaves his horse with her. The townspeople warn him about her. He returns and she speaks haughtily to him. On returning to the injured knight, he bandages him using the damsel's wimple. The knight asks Gawain to give him the horse of an approaching hideous squire, but in the confusion that follows the knight springs up and rides off on Gawain's horse Gringalet, having fooled Gawain in the process. The knight recounts a previous episode when Gawain had tormented him. The haughty sharp-tongued maiden agrees to follow Gawain, who now rides the nag that the squire rode.
They ride until they arrive at a river with a castle on the other side. Gawain sees a knight coming on his horse Gringalet, and the maiden says the knight is nephew of Greoreas, sent to kill him. Gawain fights and defeats the knight, but the maiden and his horse have disappeared--the boatman [Wolfram=Plippalinot] has laid claim to it. However, he agrees to accept the injured knight as prisoner instead. The boatman warns Gawain about the "maiden", who is worse than Satan. Gawain accepts his invitation to come to his home.
The next morning, Gawain asks about the castle in the distance. The boatman tells of numerous guards, 2 queens [Arnive and Igerne], and a lovely daughter there, and that the hall is protected by enchantment. The inhabitants are awaiting a knight who will come to protect them and restore their inheritances, etc. Reluctantly the boatman escorts Gawain to the great hall. The peg-legged man at the entrance. The hall holds a great bed with bedposts decorated by carbuncles, but the boatman warns him about it. Gawain sits on the Bed of Marvels, and bolts and arrows fly toward him through the windows, which he dodges. Then he is attacked by a lion, but succeeds in fending it off. He has passed the test and conquered the hall, and is invited by the boatman to remove his armor.
A beautiful maiden [Clarissant, his sister, Wolfram=Itonje] appears, says her queen sends greetings and will consider him their rightful lord. She presents him an ermine robe. The boatman warns him that if he becomes the lord of the castle, he will never be able to leave again. The maiden, granddaughter to the queen [Wolfram=Arnive, wife of Utepandragun, mother of Arthur], tells the queen how Gawain has changed in attitude, and the queen comes to him. She does not yet know his identity. She asks him about the sons of King Lot [his father], and he relates that Gawain is Lot's eldest son. He tells her what he has been warned, and she confirms that no knights have ever emerged or stayed alive there. That night he sleeps in the Bed of Marvels. In the morning, Gawain asks the queen who the haughty woman is, and she warns him about her. She grants to him permission to leave the castle during the day, and he asks her not to ask his name for 7 days.
Gawain rides to the river and crosses with the boatman. He encounters the haughty damsel escorted by a knight [Wolfram=Turkoite (Florant of Itolac)] who immediately attacks Gawain but is defeated by him. The maiden now asks Gawain to undertake a task, which the ladies in the castle know will place him in great danger. She asks him to jump a deep fjord on his horse-but his horse cannot span the gap and he must climb up the steep bank after falling in the river. He encounters a lone knight (Guiromelant, Wolfram=Gramoflanz) hunting. They talk, and the knight says he won the maiden by defeating her lover in combat, killing him, but that she had left him-he says she is called the Haughty Maid of Logres. Gawain asks him about the castle, but he suddenly is suspicious, though eventually convinced Gawain tells the truth. He says the white-haired queen [Wolfram=Arnive] is mother of Arthur, wife of Utherpendragon. The second queen is Igerne, wife to Lot, mother of Gawain. Guiromelant says Lot killed his father, and Gawain confesses he is Gawain. Guiromelant insists on fighting Gawain to seek vengeance for his father, and suggests he have Arthur gather his court to witness it. Gawain agrees.
He leaps the water, returns to the haughty maiden. She confesses how she hated Guiromelant, how he had caused her such pain by killing her lover. She agrees to do Gawain's bidding, and they return to the castle. All are glad to see him return safely. Gawain presents to his sister Clarissant a ring from Guiromelant, and she confesses her love for him, though they have only seen each other in the distance across the river. The queen who is Gawain's mother Igerne still does not recognize him. Gawain secretly sends a squire to fetch Arthur, telling the squire that he is Arthur's nephew Gawain, and that Arthur will witness the fight with Guiromelant. The squire arrives at Arthur's court.
Characters [ edit | edit source ]
Major Characters [ edit | edit source ]
Perceval-One of the protagonists of the story. Perceval's family history is built upon knighthood, though each have faced defeat. His family wealth was lost after the death of Uther Pendragon and maiming of his father. He leaves home after meeting a band of knights, and encounters a maiden in a tent, The Red Knight, Gornemant of Gohort, Anguingueron, Clamadeu, The Fisher King, The Proud Knight of the Moor, King Arthur, and his hermit uncle.
King Arthur-King Arthur is the son of Uther Pendragon and Queen Igraine, and is introduced in this text as a distressed king after being offended by The Red Knight. Arthur is the uncle of Sir Gawain, the work's second protagonist. After gaining three defeated knights (Clamadeu de Isles, Anguingueron, and the Proud Knight of the Moor), he decides he must find Perceval to show his appreciation and leaves Carlion.
Sir Kay-The seneschal to King Arthur. He is described as handsome, but speaks rudely to others throughout the text. After he told Perceval to take the armor of The Red Knight, he slaps the Laughing Maiden, an action Perceval vows to avenge the slap given. Through much of the beginning, Perceval sends defeated knights to Arthur to remind Sir Kay of this vow. Sir Kay is the second knight to charge at Perceval as he contemplates the blood on the snow, and receives a broken collarbone when Perceval lashes back.
The Fisher King-A king wounded in the thighs. Because he cannot hunt or do many other activities, he is brought to a river to fish. The King brings in the lance and grail many times to Perceval, in what is revealed later as an attempt to recover from his injury, should Perceval have asked about the lance and grail. The King is Perceval's second uncle on his mother's side, and his father (Perceval's grandfather) takes from the grail.
Sir Gawain-Though not present when Perceval first appears in King Arthur's court, Sir Gawain becomes a second protagonist in the text. Sir Kay notes that Gawain's gentle language helps him through conflicts and he doesn't necessarily need to use combat. Gawain announces he will save the maiden at Montesclaire, but is soon after accused of the murder of Guinganbresil's lord and has to clear his name. In a decision meant to resolve the accusation, he is sent to look for the bleeding spear by the King of Escavalon. He is a nephew to Arthur, brother to Agravian the Proud, son to the second queen of The Rock of Canguin, and uncle to Clarissant. His main squire is Yvonet.
Minor Characters [ edit | edit source ]
The Laughing Maiden-Handmaiden to the Queen and has not laughed in six years. As foretold by the jester in the court of King Arthur, she will not laugh again until until she sees the best knight in all the land. She finally laughs upon seeing Perceval, and Sir Kay's frustration causes him to slap her.
Maiden of Belrepeire-Niece to the nobleman, Gornemant of Gohort, whom gave Perceval support. Her town Belrepeire is under siege by Anguingueron and later attacked by Clamadeu of the Isles. Possibly named Blancheflor.
Guinganbresil-Enters King Arthur's court and greets all but Gawain. He claims Gawain killed his lord unfairly, and challenges Gawain to clear his name. Reappears in Escavalon and, with Gawain, arranges a resolution for the treason charges.
Sir Tiebaut of Tintagel-Challenged by Meliant de Lis to a tournament. Tiebaut was originally friends of Meliant's father, and after the death of his father, Meliant was sent to live with him. His daughter is loved by Meliant, but she refuses to marry a squire and demands he fight for her in a tournament. Gawain allies with him in the tournament.
The Maid with Little Sleeves-younger daughter of Tiebaut. Slapped and offended by her older sister after an argument comparing Gawain and Meliant de Lis. Gives Gawain a sleeve to wear in the tournament.
King of Escavalon-Handsomest Knight seen in a hunting party. He invites Gawain to stay at Escavalon and meet his sister that later becomes enamored with Sir Gawain. After the attack on the tower by the people of Escavalon, he decides to defend Gawain. Advised by a wise old man on how to deal with Guinganbresil's challenge to Gawain. Perhaps coincidentally, one of Perceval's brothers served under the previous King of Escavalon.
The Hermit-Perceval's uncle. He is described as a very religious character he reunites and instructs Perceval about his religion after five years of paying no attention to it. The Hermit is brother to both Perceval's mother and The Fisher King.
Greoreas-Discovered to be badly beaten and begs to have confession with a nearby chaplain before he dies. He is given an herb to restore his strength. Asks Gawain to steal the horse of an approaching squire, and help his love mount her horse. As Gawain is distracted, he takes his horse out of revenge for being punished for the rape of a maiden. It is uncertain if the woman he is with is the same maiden. Later sends his nephew on the stolen horse to kill Gawain.
Queen Ygerne-One of the two queens of The Rock of Canguin. After the death of Uther Pendragon, she brought money to make the manor and live in the country. Also brought a lady she cares about, the second queen. It is later revealed that she is indeed King Arthur's mother.
Gawain's Mother-The second queen of The Rock of Canguin. She is called both daughter and queen by those in the castle. Her identity as Gawain's mother and marriage to the late King Lot is later mentioned. Clarissant is her daughter.
The Proud Woman of the Nogres-Has a reputation of causing evil to befall all she follows. She decides to follow Gawain until something unfortunate happens to him. Works with the Proud Knight of the Passage with the Narrow Way after desperately escaping Guiromelant's affection.
Guiromelant-Found on other side of the Perilous Ford. He loved the evil maiden, but she loved someone else. Guiromelant killed the companion she had to win her, though she still would not care for him. Owns the town Orqueneseles and considers Clarissant his love. He expresses hatred for Sir Gawain because the father of Gawain, King Lot, killed his father and a cousin of his. Challenges Gawain to combat during King Arthur's Pentecost court for vengeance.
Though Chrétien did not complete his romance, it provided a strong impact on both Arthurian Literature and literature in general. Perceval contributed to the notion of the grail, as well as future iterations that made the grail "Holy." The grail in Perceval contained the power to sustain the life of Perceval's uncle for years purely on the consumption of [[[eucharistic host]]], potentially influencing the grail's future "Holy" status. Ε] Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, is based directly on Chrétien's poem. Ζ] When comparing Wolfram's Parzival to Chretien's Perceval, one may notice that Chretien focuses on knighthood with religious implications while Wolfram primarily focuses on knighthood. Η] Another text inspired by [Perceval] the Welsh Peredur, son of Efrawg, one of the Three Welsh Romances associated with the Mabinogion. ⎖] ⎗] In 1978, French filmmaker Éric Rohmer directed an adaptation titled Perceval le Gallois. T. S. Eliot cited the story of Percival, particularly the scene depicting his encounter with the Fisher King, in his poem The Waste Land.
There is a broad topic range that writers may cover when discussing Perceval, the Story of the Grail.
In a brief article by Roy Bennett Pace, he analyzes a particular scene in Perceval and questions the origins of the translations. ⎘] He notes that only Chrétien's edition of the text mentions explicit details, and subsequent translations in Welsh and German lack the small details Chrétien adds. These additions being in each translation aside from the French is the core of his argument, and Pace ends with the assertion that the French text "can not be the 'original' from which the other writers drew."
Arthur C.L. Brown's article contests the notion that Chrétien's intentionally made the grail holy within his text. ⎙] Brown argues that the grail itself is not associated with mass until Perceval is speaking with his uncle. Focusing further on this scene, he notices the word "oiste" written twice, and is certain it is the latin word "hostia." He expresses doubt about the word and believes both that it is the result of a translator that was predisposed to associating the grail with holiness, and that assocations were not made by Chrétien himself. Brown reinforces his argument with mention of a 1530 copy of the prose, which has mention of the grail as "worthy," not "holy."
The article History Revenged: Monty Python Translates Chrétien De Troyes's Perceval, or the Story of the Grail (Again) by Murrell is a comparison of the ideas shared between Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Perceval, the Story of the Grail. ⎚] Murrell states that both works were written during cultural upheval and narrate the learning process. It is superior to even translations, as Monty Python's version "articulates and demonstrates so adeptly the problems of communicating white navigating the multiplicity of discourses" and is "more accessible" as a result. Ideas in the works themselves parallel, since King Arthur himself is not an unquestioned authority and both cut off abruptly at the end.
The Grail Question: An Annoyingly Useful Discernment Tool
Hello, beautiful creatures. Let&rsquos talk some more about discernment, with some help from my very favorite legendary 12th century Grail knight&hellip from Wales, no less!
In Chrétien de Troyes&rsquo Arthurian romance Perceval, le Conte du Graal (French: Perceval, the Story of the Grail), the young and naïve Perceval sets out from his native Wales and becomes a Knight of the Round Table. As Wikipedia tells it:
Returning home to visit his mother, he comes across the Fisher King, who invites him to stay at his castle. While there he witnesses a strange procession in which young men and women carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabra. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or &ldquograil&ldquo, passing before him at each course of the meal. Perceval, who had been warned against talking too much, remains silent through all of this and wakes up the next morning alone. He finds his mother is dead, then Arthur asks him to return to court. But before long, a loathly lady enters the court and admonishes Perceval for failing to ask his host whom the grail served and why the lance bled, as the appropriate question would have healed the wounded king.
&ldquoWhat do these things mean? And whom do they serve?&rdquo These are the questions Perceval failed to ask for fear of seeming rude, the questions which would have healed the king and the land.
They are, I think, the questions we should all be asking ourselves, and each other.
Perceval arrives at the Grail Castle in Chrétien de Troyes&rsquo &ldquoPerceval, le Conte du Graal,&rdquo from an illuminated manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Let us avoid the well-intentioned mistake of Perceval, who walked among wonders but failed to ask what they were, or why they were. Let us instead practice discernment, as we&rsquove discussed before, and be mindful of the things we do: as individuals, as members of a family, as part of a tradition, as participants in the dizzyingly diverse world of Pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners. Rather than simply accepting things as they are because we don&rsquot want to &ldquorock the boat,&rdquo let us ask why they are as they are, and who is served by them being as they are. Likewise, rather than simply blurting out whatever notion comes into our heads, let us ask ourselves why we want to say it, and what we hope to accomplish by doing so. Let us ask ourselves what these things mean, and who they serve.
In other words, let us ask ourselves to what end we do the things we do.
You Mean That Literally, Don&rsquot You?
I do indeed. No, really! Let&rsquos practice:
Do you want to take on students? To what end?
Do you want to initiate someone into the tradition passed down to you? To what end?
Do you believe teachers and students can be sexually involved with one another, or should never be sexually involved? To what end?
Are you teaching people magic over the phone, or the Internet? To what end?
Do you want to write a blog, teach a class, publish a book? To what end?
Do you want to charge money for teaching people? To what end?
Don&rsquot just stop with the first answer. Keep going, recognizing that each answer holds another question nested within itself.
Let&rsquos say you want to teach. To what end? To pass knowledge on to the next generation. To what end? So the lore you received will be carried on. To what end? So that your tradition won&rsquot die out. To what end? To preserve a particular means of connecting with the gods, with nature, and with one another. To what end?
And so on. Use the inquisitive mind, the knife of reason, to peel away the layers of each answer, cutting away justifications and assumptions to reveal the next question and, ultimately, the truth that lies at the very heart of the question. Before long, you&rsquoll find yourself questioning every assumption, every belief, every article of faith&hellip and that&rsquos a good thing. Faith is a perfectly fine thing, but if we are honest in our practice of experiential spirituality, we have to be willing to examine that faith. We have to ask ourselves what we believe, and what that belief is for.
We may find, once we&rsquove delved deeply enough, that what we actually believe is at odds with what we think we believe, and that what we want is at cross purposes with what we believe we want.
Being Careful with Our Discernment&hellip and Our Knives
I advise against trying to use this as a lens on other people&rsquos actions or practices, though. It&rsquos like arguing with a sock puppet it might be kind of entertaining, if you like that sort of thing, but ultimately it&rsquos neither interesting nor useful. Actually posing the question to those other people themselves is more likely to get interesting and useful results&hellip assuming they&rsquore willing to be asked, and to answer. There are at least two difficulties with this approach, though.
The first is that, oftentimes, people aren&rsquot ready to face their core motivations, and if you force them to confront the reality that they&rsquore doing something they know in their heart-of-hearts to be shady, skeevy, or stupid, they&rsquore liable to become cross with you. Plan accordingly, and remember the adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.
The second difficulty is that some people already know their core motivations, and they&rsquore comfortable with them, even if you aren&rsquot. Such folk simply cannot be reached this way, because they occupy a cognitive reality isn&rsquot tangent to yours. For instance, someone who sees magic as a resource to be exploited and monetized is operating from a world-view fundamentally different from that of someone who sees it as part of a quasi-secret tradition of familial kinship and lore, or as a set of tools for the spiritual liberation of all humanity. These positions are intrinsically at odds with one another, and won&rsquot resolve neatly and tidily just because we&rsquove asked some pointed questions.
Putting Myself Under the Knife
Some of you reading this may be asking, &ldquoOkay, sure, that&rsquos all well and good, Misha, but what about your motives and your discernment? To what end are you writing this blog?&rdquo
That&rsquos a fair question. As I wrote in my belated introduction, one of the primary aims of this blog is to discuss the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with magical and spiritual practice, and the ways in which these are all expressions of otherness, of outsider culture.
To what end? To put my academic training in gender and sexuality to use in analyzing what we do as devotees and practitioners of esoteric spiritual paths.
To what end? To examine how those of us in the Pagan, polytheist, and occult communities engage&mdashor don&rsquot engage&mdashwith our own gendered, sexual lives, and with those around us.
To what end? To make our p-word communities kinder, more inclusive, more accepting places for those of us under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and to make it clear to folks under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella that our p-word communities have space for them.
To what end? That all of us&mdashstraight and queer, cis and trans and otherwise&mdashcan find a way to live our authentic lives, as the truest expression of our gendered, sexual, spiritual selves.
Perceval and Gawain — Medieval Grail Romances in BBC’s “Merlin: The Eye of the Phoenix”
With the airing of its first episode in 2008, The British Broadcasting Company’s “Merlin” not only ignited a renewed interest in Arthurian legend among viewers, but by extension resulted in a fresh public enchantment with elements of both Medieval literature and Celtic lore. The influence of both of these is evident in virtually every episode, but is especially artfully demonstrated in Episode 8 of Season 3, titled “The Eye of the Phoenix.” The episode incorporates elements of two Medieval quest stories, Perceval or the Story of the Grail, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The episode chronicles Arthur Pendragon’s quest to prove his fitness to become King of Camelot, as well as the roles of his two companions on the quest – the sorcerer Merlin, and a would-be knight of Camelot, Gwaine. Through the unfolding of the quest, elements of setting, characterization, Celtic symbolism, and Christian iconography are clearly traceable to these two original Medieval works that undergird the foundation for the Arthurian literary tradition.
In the episode’s opening scene, Arthur is cloaked in linen, much as a saint seeking to transcend the physical body, and he enters and kneels in the castle throne room. He falls into deep meditation as he seeks to discern what the nature of his upcoming quest will be. Symbols of royalty and the somber air of the throne room convey the importance of Arthur’s contemplation, and serve as reminders that he is not simply the Prince of Camelot and its future king, but that he is also a knight bound for further spiritual and physical testing. Hours seem to have passed when Arthur emerges and seeks out his king and father, Uther Pendragon, to reveal to the breathless company flanking the king what quest the future monarch has chosen:
“I can see but one path, Sire. I am to enter the realm of the Fisher King,
and find the golden trident spoken of in the Legend of the Fallen Kings.”
His father’s response, delivered with apparent anxiety and sobriety, lends credence to the seriousness of Arthur’s choice of quest, and to the importance of its completion to Arthur’s future position as King of Camelot:
“You do understand, that if you are to prove yourself worthy of the throne,
you must complete this task alone…and unaided.”
Much as a bridegroom taking a vow of fidelity to a bride, Arthur accepts the conditions and nature of his quest, uttering, “I do.” The scene is thus truly “set” for Arthur’s mission, and all the dangers inherent in his acquiescence. He dons the mantle of the “grail knight” of Arthurian Medieval literature, as seen in such poetic epics as Perceval and Sir Gawain. Such tales celebrated the chivalric ideal that is portrayed in Merlin, tales which Arthurian scholar Maria Stromberg describes as calling “up from the mythic past the shadows of archetypal figures” (Para 1). While the sobriety of Arthur’s quest appears at first to be the crux and purpose of “The Eye of the Phoenix,” the episode will soon center on and include a character who is the flip-side of the ideal portrayed in Arthur, but as beloved in his namesake literary tradition…that of Gwaine.
Fearful of the dangers Arthur will face crossing the Perilous Lands of the Fisher King’s realm, Merlin, wizard and guardian to Arthur, seeks the advice of Gaius, the series’ sage and royal physician. Gaius answers Merlin’s questions about the identity and nature of the Fisher King, a character first introduced in Chretien de Troyes’ tale Perceval or the Story of the Grail. Gaius’ description of the Fisher King echoes that of tales like Perceval, in which the wounded king is an archetypal character shrouded in mystery, and “within the framework of the Grail motif…perhaps the most abstract and enigmatic” (Univ. of Idaho Para 1):
“Legend has it that the Fisher King was wounded in battle. The wound festered,
and the infection spread not just through his body, but through his lands as well.
His mighty kingdom was reduced to a wasteland, and it has remained that way
to this very day.”
“Chretien reports that the wound was inflicted with a spear thrust through the
thighs……the waste land ultimately springs from an old Celtic belief in which
the fertility of the land depended on the potency and virility of the king the
king was in essence espoused to his lands.” (Univ. of Idaho Para 14)
Merlin heeds Gaius’ description of The Perilous Lands, and tries in vain to deter Arthur from his quest. He becomes all the more concerned upon Arthur’s departure, when he sees the prince wearing a bracelet given to him by Morgana, who claims it to be a talisman of good fortune on his journey. Arthur accepts it without reservation, donning the bracelet like a false gauntlet, unaware of the true purposes of Morgana – the series’ personage of the Morgan La Fey of Sir Gawain and other Arthurian romances. The bracelet, an object of rare value and beauty, bears the wings of a phoenix—a symbol of resurrection in Medieval heraldry. But set in its center is the gem-like “Eye of the Phoenix,” which has been enchanted so as to draw the life force from its wearer. Heeding Gaius’ advice that he will “need help” to protect Arthur, Merlin rides on horseback from the walls of Camelot, presumably in search of just that.
Arthur, entering the Fisher King’s blighted realm alone, is immediately drawn into one of the classic arenas of battle for the questing knight seen in poems like Perceval and Sir Gawain: the battle with the natural world. The evidence of the land’s suffering as emblematic of its monarch’s decrepitude is evident in every frame of Arthur’s quest, as it was in Perceval’s journey through the Fisher King’s “Wasted Lands”. Stromberg describes the land through which Perceval, and now Arthur journey, as suffering under “the languor affecting the Fisher King,” caused by a wound that is “not confined to the Fisher King’s immediate person but further constitutes a blight on his realm” (Para 12).
“…a wound between his legs,/that maimed him./His vast lands, his great
wealth,/which his valor had earned him/all fell into ruin.” (Perceval or
the Story of the Grail, 436-441)
As the gem of Arthur’s bracelet begins to glow, he succumbs to fatigue and staggers into a forest clearing. He makes camp, alone and exposed, and sleeps briefly until bandits attack him and he is forced to fight through almost paralyzing exhaustion. He barely defeats his attackers, killing them just as the bracelet glows again and he succumbs to its draining power. The bracelet here takes on a new facet, so that clearly it is no longer an object of beauty formed from the earth beneath Arthur’s feet, but a talisman corrupted by Morgana’s – Sir Gawain’s Morgan La Fey’s – powerful magic:
“She is acquired of deep learning, hard-won skill, many of the masteries of
Merlin – for she has at times dealt in rare magic.” (Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight, Fytte IV:19)
Merlin enters a countryside tavern, and immediately locates his friend – the finest fighter in the Five Lands, Gwaine – being launched by angry tavern patrons across the surface of a table. Like his literary progenitor Sir Gawain, Merlin’s Gwaine is as “characterized by his irascibility and impulsiveness” as Arthur is responsible and serious (Univ. of Idaho, Para 12), and like the Gawain of Anglo-Saxon grail epics, is crafted by writers who “deliberately developed ambiguity in…characters to show a human condition that is closer to life than any idealized creation could be…” (Stromberg Para 2). He and Merlin escape the tavern and certain further violence by leaping from the roof, and they head toward the Fisher King’s realm in search of Arthur. At this point in the episode, Arthur, Merlin and Gwaine have all fully entered into the “heroic journey away from the community into uncharted territory,” and the “range of unusual experiences” that draw readers and viewers alike into the heart of the chivalric quest (Johnston Para 1-3).
Gwaine will not encounter the giant Green Knight of his predecessor, but as he and Merlin happen upon a bridge near the borders of the Perilous Lands, they are greeted by a lame dwarf who appears magically from the mists rising from the river it spans. The same dwarf, hours earlier, had greeted Arthur and named him “courage,” advising him that he would need two more companions: strength and magic, to complete his quest. The bridge, an Anglo-Saxon heraldic symbol of governance and authority (Snells 5), is clearly under the guardianship of the “little giant,” who is fashioned after the club-footed “Grettir the Strong” of Icelandic Celtic lore. Grettir lets Arthur pass, but not without noting the bracelet on the young knight’s wrist and mocking the “honorable” intentions of its giver. Like the green girdle given to Sir Gawain by Lady Bertilak, Arthur continues on in naivete of the true nature of Morgana’s gift, and its power to sabotage his quest.
Grettir recognizes Merlin and Gwaine as respective bearers of the Celtic-treasured “magic” and another revered Anglo-Saxon virtue,“strength.” Indeed strong but equally impulsive, Gwaine perceives Grettir as a threat and draws his sword. The dwarf turns the weapon into a bouquet of flowers, playing the trickster role much as the Green Knight/Bertilak did in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His conjuring is a humorous twist on the “beheading” challenge of Sir Gawain, and the ironically diminutive figure establishes just who is – and who isn’t – in charge of the dual natural and magic realm:
“I only wish to see the Fisher King’s lands restored and prosperity reign again.
Until your mission is complete, this can not happen.”
“I mean no harm to either of you, and I’ll thank you to mean no harm in return.”
In another twist on the classic grail saga, Merlin is confused by the bridgekeeper’s assertion that he has more than a happenstance role to play in Arthur’s quest, saying “It’s not my mission, it’s Arthur’s.” Grettir’s rejoinder of “If that’s what you choose to believe,” is a reminder of the juxtaposition of Celtic lore and chivalric ethos at the root of the grail romance. As Gwaine enters the bridge, Grettir quietly tells Merlin that “the Fisher King has waited many years for this day. Do not deny him what he wishes.”
Like the Wasted Lands of Perceval, and the blighted hillside in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the landscape of the Perilous Lands continue to threaten not just Arthur’s quest, but his life. He staggers into a slough, and is pulled under by weakness and the weight of his armor. He uses his sword to grapple with a vine overhanging the swamp, and pulls himself onto solid ground and again succumbs to the stupefying fatigue brought on by the enchanted bracelet. He later awakens, and scales a pile of boulders and views the iconic Dark Tower that is the destination on his quest, only to find that nature once again threatens in the form of wyverns circling the Fisher King’s castle. He must again simultaneously fight off the beasts and exhaustion with his sword as he makes a desperate last run for the castle, unaware that Merlin and Gwaine – strength and magic – have arrived right behind him.
Merlin pursues Arthur into the tower, to find the prince no longer able to withstand the bracelet’s spell, and about to be attacked by wyverns. Merlin, in the role of Celtic wizard and Dragon Lord, commands the beasts away from the unconscious Arthur and removes the cursed bracelet from his wrist. Arthur awakens immediately and berates Merlin for supposedly ruining his quest, unaware that without him, nature and hostile magic would have destroyed not only his quest, but through the bracelet and the wyverns, truly consumed him. Gwaine skewers a wyvern who has returned to attack Merlin and Arthur, and grins while poking it with his sword, cementing his star status as a Medieval hero in his own right.
The trio enter the Dark Tower, happening upon what appears to be a throne room just as a wall of crumbled stone seals Merlin off from Gwaine and Arthur, leaving him alone in the seemingly empty tower. But he is not alone, and like Perceval did in the Story of the Grail, Merlin finds the crippled Fisher King sitting on a patinaed gold throne, unable to move. While he is still robed in his royal garments, the king’s skin is ashen and glass-like, clinging tightly to his bones. He sits motionless, his breath labored, draped in the cobwebs suggestive of the ages he has been kept alive despite his mysterious malady. He holds the golden trident Arthur seeks in his frail grip, but it is Merlin who is revealed to be the person whose destiny is connected to his own as the ancient monarch weakly whispers the young wizard’s Druid name:
Fisher King: “So, Emrys. You’re here at last.”
Merlin: “So you are still alive.”
Fisher King: “For now.”
True to the Medieval grail story tradition, Christian and Celtic lore share space in the story’s narrative, as the Fisher King explains to Merlin that rather than being a party to Arthur’s quest, that in fact it is Arthur and Gwaine who are part of his. Merlin asks what it is the Fisher King desires, to which the king answers, “I want an end to my suffering.” The Fisher King reveals to Merlin that he has waited “for the time of the Once and Future King,” the Christ manifest in the character of Arthur, saying, “that time is dawning, and my time can come to an end….this is why you were brought here. This is not Arthur’s quest, it is yours.” The king drops the trident, explaining that the object of Arthur’s search is not the true treasure required for the redemption of Albion. He takes a glass vial, housed inside seven wooden columns, from the folds of his robe and holds it out to Merlin. Like the Christian Holy Spirit and seven lampstands that illuminate the Jewish temple, the vial of water from the Lake of Avalon holds the key to the salvation of Camelot in its darkest hour…a time for which only Merlin, and his pure heart and magic, are equipped:
“Water from the Lake of Avalon. I’ve kept it safe these years, waiting for
the right person to claim it, and that is you. You are the one chosen.”
“Albion’s time of need is near, and in that dark hour you must be strong,
for you alone can save her. Your powers are great, but you will need
help. And that is what I am giving you.”
Merlin steps forward to receive the vial, and the king tells him, “When all seems lost, this will show you the way.” He demands a gift in return for the one he has given Merlin, to which Merlin sorrowfully replies, “I have nothing to give.” The king stands in spite of his infirmity, and gestures for Merlin to kneel. Merlin then realizes that the only thing in his possession, the bracelet Morgana had intended to kill Arthur, has been transformed by Providence into a gift of compassion…that the Fisher King “might die his preordained death” (Univ. of Idaho Para 36). He places the bracelet on the king’s outstretched arm, and true to the heraldic meaning of the phoenix icon, resurrection, the king’s physical life ends, and his spirit is released (Snells 5).
By its very nature, Medieval literature was “often guided by Christian teaching,” and crafted to be “read for moral profit” (Decameron Para 1). “The Eye of the Phoenix” ends with the trio of protagonists arriving at Camelot’s border, and each one’s archetypal, and more importantly, moral nature is revealed in their parting statements. Merlin, the wizened young guardian of the Christ-King Arthur, affectionately upbraids Gawain for his roaming lifestyle, “You can’t keep living like that.” Gwaine, the grail knight who somehow always manages to uphold “the virtues of Arthur’s court…in the unexpected situations to which he has been exposed” (Stromberg Para 11) insists “Yeah, but it’s fun trying.” Arthur, in possession of the Fisher King’s trident, a Medieval emblem of maritime dominion (Snells 5), assures Gwaine he will remember and reward his friendship and aid. Watching from her bedchamber in the castle, Morgana, like Morgan La Fey in numerous Sir Gawain tales, is enraged by the safe return of the knight whose quest she sought to foil.
It would be too easy to call the influence of Medieval grail romances on the Merlin series “obvious.” A deeper examination of episodes like “The Eye of the Phoenix” reveals a level of scholarship and faithfulness to folklore and literary tradition that is a rarity in the post-modern era. It is the continued relevance of tales like Perceval’s through the Wasted Lands of the Fisher King, and Sir Gawain’s knightly and everyman virtues in the face of danger and temptation, and the willingness of writers and other artists to continue testing “the mutable nature” of the Medieval grail romance (Univ. of Idaho, Para 15) that make BBC’s Merlin such a treasure to the literary-minded viewer.
De Troyes, Chretien, and Kirk McElhearn, Translator. Perceval, or the Story of the Grail. N.p.: McElhearn.com, 2001. PDF.
Johnston, Ian. “On Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Malaspina University-College: Liberal Studies Lecture. British Columbia,
Nanaimo. Dec. 2001. Web.
Jones, Julian, and Jake Michie. “The Eye of the Phoenix.” Merlin. Dir. Alice Troughton. BBC. 4 Mar. 2011. Television.
“Medieval Attitudes Toward Literature.” Decameron Web. Italian Studies Dept., Brown University, 12 Mar. 2010. Web.
Morris, William, and Eirikr Magnusson, trans. Grettis Saga. N.p.: n.p., 1900. Icelandic Saga Database. Web.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Luminarium Anthology of English Literature. Trans. W. A. Neilson. Aniina Jokinen, n.d. Web.
Snell, Melissa. “Symbolisms of Heraldry,” About.com Education: Medieval History. About.com, 1-5. Web.
Stromberg, Maria. “The Test of the Ideal in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Lost Country. Fall 2013: n. pag. Web. 3 May 2014.
Perceval Arrives at the Grail Castle - History
Sir Percival's Worthy Approach
T here are numerous tales of the Holy Grail, but the most famous focuses on a young hero named Sir Percival.
Percival was raised away from court in a secluded forest by a mother who wanted to shield him from the ways of chivalry. Her husband and two sons were killed in battle, and she was committed to keep her youngest ignorant of all things having to do with knighthood.
Percival was thus raised in a natural innocence that made him look foolish to those more worldly. He had no idea what a knight was. When he chanced upon three knights passing through the forest, he looked at their mail armor and thought it their skin. Surely they must be angels, as my mother described!
He approached the knights and made a fool of himself, asking questions that the knights thought obvious. After a while, they wished him well and left. He ran back to his mother, who reluctantly explained that these men were knights, and described them in vile terms. Her intent to dissuade her son fell on deaf ears. Percival declared in no uncertain terms that he wanted to become a knight. His mother finally relented, and she sent him on his way to King Arthurs court to claim his knightly inheritance.
Percival reveals his foolishness as he travels, but finally makes his way to King Arthur. By killing one of the kings worse enemies with a hunting javelin, he takes the red armor of the fallen and continues on his way to destiny.
A kindly knight by the name of Sir Gornemont takes Percival under his wing and teaches him the skills of combat and requirements of chivalry. Since Percival had a habit of asking too many questions, Gornemont told him to restrain his inquisitiveness and use less words.
Percival leaves his mentor and wins the heart of a noble damsel named Blacheflour. After doing so, he decided to visit his mother.
It was on this journey home that he found the mysterious Grail Castle, and met the Grail King, also known as the Fisher King. This noble lord suffered from a wound to his genitals which left him crippled and in pain.
While attending a feat at the Grail Castle, Percival was amazed when everything came to a reverent stop, allowing a procession to pass through the room. A girl was part of this procession who carried a cup that glowed with a strange light. A lad followed who carried a white lance. From the tip of the lance fell drops of blood, as if the weapon itself were bleeding. Some say there were other hallows as well. A book, or a platter, a broken sword or image of a head.
Percival was astounded by what he saw. As they left the hall, he had to bite his tongue to stop himself from asking about it. He did this so as not to appear rude, as his mentor had warned him.
He slept in the Grail Castle that night. When he awoke in the morning, the people were all gone. He saddled his horse and left. Upon leaving, the Grail Castle disappeared.
He learned from a hideous woman that by not asking about the Holy Grail, he had failed his more important test. If he had asked, the Fisher Kings wound would have been healed. She also told him that his journey home was for nothing. His mother had died soon after he had left her from a broken heart.
Percivals grief could not have been greater. He traveled in search of the Grail Castle in order to help the Fisher King, and encountered adventures that proved his worth as a knight. Word got back to King Arthur about this nameless Red Knight and his many great deeds.
He eventually rediscovered the Grail Castle and was welcomed once again. As the procession moved before him, he looked to the Fisher King and asked: What is the secret of the Grail? Whom does it serve?
With that, the Fisher Kings wound instantly healed. Percival learned that this king was actually his uncle. By passing this initiation, Percival would take his place as the next Grail King.
The story is rich with symbolism.
Like Percival, we have been raised in a dark forest culture that disregards what it means to be a man. We might stay there as innocent fools for the rest of our lives, our potential wasted. But then, if we are lucky, we feel the call of chivalry, and respond. We leave the tangled forest on our own, and find our way to King Arthurs table, where inspiration and the promise of knighthood is granted.
We go off to learn what it means to be a man. We learn from kindly mentors, if we find them, or from books or friends or common sense. Once the fire for authenticity is started in our hearts, it is not easily quenched. We learn from our adventures, and hopefully find true love.
According to this story, proving ourselves is only the beginning of our quest. We are called to confront what can only be called Mystery, represented by the Holy Grail. Discovering it, or seeing it, is not enough. We have to ask about it. We have to make inquiries. This is the only way to properly respond to Mystery. We relate to the ineffable not by claiming it, or controlling it, or describing it with guesses. We relate by approaching it, fearlessly, with an open mind and a desire to learn. We invite its question mark into our lives, and insert it into all our conclusions. Just be recognizing its existence, we better fulfill who we are in a universe we cannot explain.
Percivals questions healed the wound of the Fisher King. The wound represented our cultural manhood. It wasnt Percivals wound. It belonged to the sovereign of the land, what was referred to as the Wasteland. The inherent message? When male values are perverted, neglected or wasted, the world is decimated, and by the hands of men. We see this everywhere we look. From pollution to war, to crime and global warming, we create our own hell on earth, and cant seem to stop it.
The story of Percival suggests that the answer is found in us, expressed though chivalry, compassion and opening our minds to truth.
Chivalry-Now calls upon us to heal the concept of manhood that has been crippled for generations. It calls us to get in touch with the compassion of our souls, and open our mind to possibilities for improvement.
It does this by calling us to encounter life as a quest for truth, personal growth and setting things right.
Perceval Arrives at the Grail Castle - History
In Arthurian tradition the Holy Grail appears in many forms but the image most popular with people today is that of the Chalice of the Last Supper. This image comes from Arthurian Romance of the 12th and 13th centuries based on Robert de Boron's History of The Holy Grail (Le Roman de l'Estoire dou Graal) where the objects of the Grail procession are identified as relics of the Passion.
The First Grail Romances
Robert de Boron's account was the third of three key texts that had a major influence on the tradition of the Grail we know today. The first known literary account of the grail was produced by Chretien de Troyes writing around 1180 AD. Chretien is credited with writing five Arthurian Romances, his last, Perceval, or le Conte du Graal, the Story of the Grail, was his last last work and, for whatever reason, left unfinished. In Chretien's original work he simply described the object as 'a grail' (un graal), a serving dish. Chretien describes the Grail as part of a mysterious procession that started with a squire carrying a lance bleeding from its tip, then two squires entered with candelabras of 10 candles each followed by a maiden carrying a 'grail' from which such a brilliant light radiated from it, so bright that the light of the candles faded like the stars when the sun or moon are rising. 1 Alternatively, the light may have been coming from the maiden herself. 2
Chretien tells us little else about the mysterious objects of the grail procession, omitting to tell us it is the cup of the Eucharist and at no time connects it to the relics of the Passion. Surely the attraction of Chrétien's grail was that neither he nor his audience knew exactly what it represented yet both seem to realise the importance of witnessing the procession. A suspected later interpolation into the Conte du Graal adds that the grail sustains the Grail King with a single mass wafer. The same hand is probably responsible for naming the lance as the weapon used by Longinus at the Crucifixion that pierced Christ's side in the First Continuation. 3
|Grail Maiden - Arthur Rackham 1917|
When he finally arrives at the Grail Castle, Perceval seeks initiation into the Brotherhood of the Gral. His initiation occurs in two stages: on two occasions he will appear before the Gral the first time he will fail the trial.
Wolfram describes a procession similar to Chretien's account where the bleeding lance and the Gral with the addition of ivory trestles and glass vials in which balsam was burning, are paraded in front of him by twenty four maidens. Then the twenty-fifth maiden enters bearing the Gral, whereas in Chretien she is unidentified, Wolfram tells us this is the princess of perfect chastity, Repanse de Schoye, and again as in Chretien, she radiates a brilliant light: “her face shed such refulgence that all imagined it was sunrise.” 5
Later, Parzival is told about the Gral, how a warlike company of Templars, the Brotherhod of the Gral, dwell at Munsalvaesche (the Grail Castle). They are nourished from the Stone, the lapsit exillis, who's essence is pure. No matter how ill a mortal may be he cannot die for a week after seeing the Stone. The Gral is nourished by a Dove from heaven on every Good Friday which delivers a small white Wafer to the Stone that it leaves there. 6 In a Christian context this may be interpreted as a reference to the former practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in dove-shaped receptacles (columb) suspended by chains from the canopy of the altar.
According to Chretien and Wolfram the Grail clearly possesses some religious significance, the procession is an initiation rite, but it is not to linked to the Christian rite of the Eucharist .
The Christianisation of the Grail
Robert de Boron wrote two poems at the beginning of the 13th century the Joseph d'Arimathe and the Merlin, the latter work surviving only in fragments the first writer to make a connection between the legend of Joseph of Arimathea and the Matter of Britain. These two works are thought to have formed a greater opus, Le Roman de l'Estoire dou Graal, with the Perceval forming the third and final part. It is likely that de Boron's final work is represented in the Didot Perceval, thought to have been written between 1190 to 1215 AD. The Didot Perceval survives in two quite dissimilar texts in two manuscripts known as the Didot (Paris) and the Modena variants. In both manuscripts containing the prose Perceval it is preceded by a prose version of the poem Joseph d'Arimathie by Robert de Boron and by a prose Merlin, a re-handling of the poem by de Boron. The prose Perceval may be the work of a continuator of the two compositions of Robert de Boron and may bear some resemblance to the lost original.
The Joseph d'Arimathie provides the first history of the Grail but does not mention the bleeding lance but it appears later in the Didot Perceval which follows Chretien in the Grail Procession: “Just as they seated themselves and the first course was brought to them, they saw come from a chamber a damsel very richly dressed who had a towel about her neck and bore in her hands two little silver platters. After her came a youth who bore a lance, and it bled three drops of blood from its head and they entered into a chamber before Perceval. And after this there came a youth and he bore between his hands the vessel that Our Lord gave to Joseph in the prison. ” 7
Later in the tale the Fisher King explains the mystery of the Grail to Perceval: “Dear grandson, know that this is the lance with which Longinus struck Jesus Christ on the cross, and this vessel that is called the Grail, know that this is the blood that Joseph caught from His wounds which flowed to the earth. ” 8
|The Attainment of the Grail - Sir Edward Burne-Jones 1895-96 (Wikimedia Commons)|
The supposed ‘ritual uncleanness’ of women during these times led to many prohibitions in Church Law and it was strictly forbidden to have women serving near the altar within the sacred chancel and they were prohibited from entering behind the altar rails during the liturgy. Only men and boys could serve at the altar. The presumed ‘ritual uncleanness’ of women entered Church Law at the time of the flourit of the Grail Romances especially through the Decretum Gratiani (1140 AD), which became official Church law in 1234 AD, a vital part of the Corpus Iuris Canonici and remained in force until 1916.
Women could not distribute communion, teach in church, baptise, wear sacred vestments and they certainly could not touch sacred objects. It was not until 1983 that canon 230 of the Code of Canon Law allowed local ordinaries to permit girls and women to serve the altar and touch sacred objects. If Chretien's grail had been intended as the Chalice of the Last Supper the Grail procession in his tale would have been regarded as Liturgical Abuse. In making the Grail an object of Christian veneration de Boron had no choice but to change the gender of the Gail bearer to a male.
de Boron's work was the inspiration for the Grail Romances that followed and spawned the huge Vulgate Cycle. He was the first author to provide a complete history to the Grail and the first to give a Christian dimension to the legend, relying heavily on the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. According to de Boron, the Grail was the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper and then used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch the Holy blood at either the Crucifixion or the Deposition. While imprisoned Joseph was sustained by the Grail and the true meaning of the cup was revealed to him by Christ himself. Joseph's family then brought the Grail to the vaus d'Avaron, the valleys of Avaron, in the west, interpreted by later writers as Avalon and subsequently identified with Glastonbury. The mention of Avalon has fuelled the argument that de Boron wrote his work after the monks of Glastonbury had discovered the grave of Arthur and Guinevere in the Abbey grounds in 1191 the inscription on the burial cross confirming that the place was indeed Avalon. 9
The legend of Joseph of Arimthaea was generally known at the time with various rhymed French versions in circulation, whereas the Gospel of Nicodemus was used by Gregory of Tours in the 6th century and later translated into Anglo-Saxon, French, English and German in the 12th and 3th centuries. 10 Joseph of Arimthaea was particularly venerated at Moyenmoutier in Lorraine in north east France, across the Vosges mountains from Montbeliard and the nearby village of Boron, the apparent birthplace of Robert, which may have influenced his selection of material. 11
At one time the Abbey of Moyenmoutier claimed to possess the relics of Joseph of Arimthaea. According to the early 13th century Chronicles of Senones during the time of Charlemagne (king of the Franks 768 - 814 AD), Fortunat, patriarch of Grado, made a pilgrimage to the East and brought back the body of Joseph of Arimathea from the Holy Land to the monastery of Moyenmoutier. At a later date, but before the end of the 10th century, the body of Joseph was taken away by 'strange monks.' 12 Although this is a late tradition it may have contributed to the persistence of the Glastonbury tradition whose monks were suspected of the crime. 13
In Chretien's story de Boron seems to have recognised elements of the Grail procession as relics of the Passion the Holy Lance of Loginus and the Chalice bearing Christ's blood as the cup of the Last Supper. Yet it is doubtful that this is what Chretien intended for his unfinished story of the grail. Key to de Boron's thinking must have been the recognition of the Grail Maiden bearing the chalice in the Grail Romances as Ecclesia a figure depicted in Christian iconography as the person holding the chalice and catching the Holy Blood at the Crucifixion in illuminated manuscripts, for which, as we have seen above, he substituted a youth. There is evidence that the Grail legend, at least in the form of the Chalice at the Cross, was known in the Rhine regions from at least the early 6th century. 14
The First Grail Maiden
Ecclesia usually appears with Synagoga in Crucifixion scenes from the early 9th century. Ecclesia is shown receiving the Holy blood in the chalice on the 9th century ivory cover to Henry II's early 11th century book of Pericopes. Ecclesia is said to represent the new church as the Virgin, Mary The Church, and is often depicted in Crucifixion scenes with a blindfoled female companion who's head is bowed standing on the opposite side of the cross bearing a broken lance and holding law tablets that are slipping from her grasp. This figure is said to depict Synagoga, the Synagogue, the Jewish Church that turned its back on Christ at the Crucifixion.
|Detail from cover of the book of Pericopes 820-830 AD|
The Gellone Sacramentary, dated 790-804 AD, has a Crucifixion scene showing a bleeding Christ without any earthly attendants, a scene which does not appear to have any precedents and was done perhaps to avoid distracting from the scene on the opposite page. This page (folio 144r) represents a head with long hair, forming the top of an initial I for the section of Te igitur that begins Inprimis quae which asks for blessing on the church. In this context the head may represent Ecclesia.
The 8th century Gellone personification seems to be without precedent and predates both the 9th century Utrecht Psalter and the Drogo Sacramentary, the latter showing an unmistakable depiction of Ecclesia catching Christ's blood in a chalice which is possibly the earliest depiction of this theme.
In the Utrecht Psalter depiction of Psalm 115 is the first in the West of Christ hanging dead on the cross. To the left are Mary and John, to the right a mysterious male figure in a loin-cloth holding a paten with bread in his right hand and in his left the chalice held to Christ's side. These images are unique to the Ultrect Psalter, Other psalters of the period such as the Stuttgart Psalter, c.820 AD, do not show this.
The unidentified figure receiving blood in the chalice appears only in the illustration to Psalm 115, folio 67 recto illustrating Psalm 115 verse 4: "I will take the chalice of salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord" which was recalled during the Mass liturgy. This may be the earliest extant use of this image and earlier than the first depiction of Ecclesia at the Crucifixion scene and is the only scene in the Psalter with an overtly Eucharistic reference, connecting the chalice to the cup of the First Mass. 15
It is therefore without doubt that the maiden collecting Christ's blood in a chalice at the Crucifixion is intended as the Chalice of the Eucharist and in this Robert de Boron saw the Grail Maiden of Chretien's Conte du Graal. But what is the significance of the Grail bearer being a virgin?
The Virgin and the Grail
Representations of the Virgin Mary holding a chalice are to be found in the Pyrenees mountains of north west Spain. Some fifty years before Chrétien de Troyes wrote the first known story of the Grail, images of the Virgin Mary with a simple bowl (called a “grail” in local dialect) containing radiant red blood appeared in St Clement, Taull, and eight churches in the Spanish Pyrenees. Historian Joseph Goering argues that they were the original inspiration of the Grail legend, in his view these wall paintings are "the historical origins of the Grail." 16
In early 12th century Catalonia the church of St Clement was visited by the master painter who made beautiful frescoes of Christ in Majesty and seated with the apostles is an enigmatic representation of the Virgin Mary holding a Grail, a shallow bowl exuding radiant light, perhaps so hot she covers her hand with her cloak. Other churches in the Catalonia region had similar pictures (and in one case, a damaged statue) with this Grail motif that is found nowhere else in Christendom. The first was commissioned at St Clement in 1123 AD, these paintings bearing testament to the existence a local tradition, or cult, some fifty years before the earliest date for Chretien's Conte du Graal. To add to the mystery of the Grail, in these paintings the lips of the Virgin (Sancta Maria) are shown stitched together as if sealed to safeguard some great secret. 17
|St Peter (with keys) and St Mary with radiant vessel.|
Detail from the main apse of St Peter of El Burgal.
In can be of little coincidence that the Grail romances appeared just as Eucharistic devotion was gaining favour at the same time as the recovery of relics of the Passion from the Holy Land became the driving theme of the Crusades.
In addition to its use at the Last Supper, the cup of the First Mass, the Holy Grail was said to have been used to catch the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion. The “Chalice at the Cross” motif that had emerged at the end of the first millennium showing the Chalice in the hands of Ecclesia as the first representation of the Grail Maiden was in existence several hundred years before the first Grail Romances were written.
Salah ad-Din: Worthy Knight of the Holy Grail?
From the Latin gradalis and old French greil or graal meaning cup, dish, platter or cauldron the Holy Grail is a complex literary symbol which evokes many different responses. It is usually found embedded in allegorical tales which draw freely from several different traditions. Being thus "overdetermined" with no single meaning or "signified" holding the day the story of Perceval (de Troyes), Parzival (Eschenbach), or any retelling such as the later "Quest for the Holy Grail" (contained in the 13th century Vulgate Cycle and attributed to the pseudonymous "Walter Map") will inevitably produce myriad differing interpretations.
The Grail motif was first deployed by the mediaeval French poet Chrétien de Troyes(c. 1180) and was meant, evidently, to remind readers of the cup of the Eucharist as used in the Roman Catholic mass. The cup/grail in his Perceval contains a wafer host meant to depict the sacrament which re-enacts the Last Supper and so taps into the heart of the Christian message. There has been an unconscionable amount of ink spilled over the centuries, and even today, in an attempt to refine the Catholic Church's position on the meaning of the Eucharist, it's central sacrament. Of the early "pre-Grail" theologians St. Bonaventure stressed the piety required to receive the Holy Communion and St. Augustine opined that before taking the host "you must be enlightened as to what you have received".
In this sense, de Troyes was evidently giving literary form to the pre-existing Christian notion of an ideal spiritual state free from sin. His character of Perceval, for example, throughout the "Quest" displays his impertinence and immaturity on several occasions. He takes the ring from the maiden and grabs a kiss without her leave in addition to galloping forth to tackle the Red Knight while ignoring the remonstrations of Arthur. In fact, he is "not worthy to receive" the cup/grail at the first time of asking, the refrain familiar to all Roman Catholics.
So, finding the Grail is in a sense finding the true message of God, which is of course, finding oneself and living a worthy chivalrous life - the French chivalric romances of the 12th and 13th centuries being permeated with moral pointers and lessons on how to lead the "good life" - which, as much as anything, explains their enduring charm.
De Troyes has also synthesised many pre-existing elements from mainly Celtic folklore and myth and refashioned them for his own ends. The notion of the health of the king being tied to the land is largely the subject of Frazer's great anthropological study "The Golden Bough". It is a recurrent motif found the world over, most notably with the rituals of renewal associated with the new harvest as illustrated in the worship of the old corn gods such as the Roman Demeter.
These themes are also revisited in popular culture though with an occasional variant. We recall that in John Boorman's "Excalibur" (adapted from Thomas Mallory's "Le Morte D'Arthur" c.1485) Arthur presses his knights to seek the Grail on account of the deterioration of the land and the famine that stalks the country. Here, it was Arthur himself who had to drink from the Grail, and when he done so of course, fertility was restored. Elsewhere, the third installment of Raiders of the Lost Ark centred on the Grail - but this time it was supposed to deliver eternal youth. Our villain drank from the most splendid cup adorned with all manner of jewels thinking it must surely be the Grail only to find himself turned instantaneously into a writhing pillar of dust. Naturally, the real Grail was a non-discreet shabby vessel which, duly identified by our hero, was quaffed and the liquid therein had his bullet wounds magically healed on the spot.
However, in de Troyes Perceval, the castle, the magic cauldron and the hero who starts off as bumbling and selfish are all elements that seem to be drawn freely from the much earlier story of Peredur found in the Welsh Mabinogion. The magic cauldron, it needn't be said, has a rich lineage in Celtic myth and folktale. The Dagda's cauldron was one of the four magical possessions of the Tuatha De Danaan - producing an inexhaustible supply of porridge (among other things). Bran of the Mabinogion has a cauldron that resurrects dead warriors and the Welsh hag Cerridwen has a like vessel that produces a brew of 'inspiration and enlightenment'.
What is more interesting perhaps is how these varied elements (Christian tradition, Celtic myth and pagan/animist ritual) are woven together by de Troyes and expertly used to pass comment on the great issue of the day - the Crusades in the Middle East.
The poem will be read aloud at court but also at festivals and other public gatherings and so there will be an attempt to cater for the pre-existing popular folk tales - many of which would have arrived in Brittany and further afield along with the displaced "Celts" after the Anglo-Saxon upheavals in Britain during the 5th century. There is an evident need to proselytise here and "sell" the story of the Crusades and so the story of Perceval and the quest for the Holy Grail will function much like a mediaeval army recruitment video. If Perceval, the lowly Welshman, can become a Knight and contribute to the cause, then surely any one can.
On the other hand, some commentators have suggested that the allusion to the Eucharist may have been useful to the Plantagenet king Henry II in his bid to conquer Ireland. He had cited heretical Celtic practices within the Irish church as a means to achieve the all-important nod from Rome. However, the Papal bull for Ireland's conquest, as requested by Henry, Laudabiliter, was issued in 1155 with Strongbow's Norman invasion eventually coverinmg the years 1167-72. We have firm dates for the composition of Perceval - 1180 to perhaps 1182/3 - so it would seem to place it outside the required timeframe. If this were the true intention behind the work - to combat heretical practices - then his benefactors would surely have pulled de Troyes from working on his other Romances which were completed between 1170 and 1180.
Although there is evidence that de Troyes may have trained as a cleric he appears to have been solely employed as court composer under various well-heeled patrons. Also, his conception of "courtly love" was much earthier than the ideals of chastity espoused by the church. He preferred homespun wisdom and the use of the vernacular rather than quoting the Bible at length - unlike the later scribes, who completed the unfinished Perceval by swamping the poem with Biblical quotations. In other words, he isn't at all in the mould of a "God Squad" propagandist intent on bending the faithful to the dictats of Rome. Having said that, he completed his first major work Eric and Enede in 1170 while serving at the court of Marie of France, Countess of Champagne who was the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine who in turn had been the wife of Henry II from 1152. (Gaston Paris has speculated that he was merely employed here as a herald at arms).
But to find the true meaning of the Grail (as conceived by de Troyes) we need to look at the career of his last patron, Phillip II of Flanders, for whom the work was, after all, dedicated. In the poem, knights travel from many lands to heal the wounded king, but only the chosen, the pure etc. can do so. The king is mortally wounded in the leg and so must stay at the castle, while the Fisher King is mobile and can entertain the guests. What is interesting in this tale of the two kings, the one mobile, the other crippled, is that Phillip' s cousin was the leprous Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem from 1174-1185. In fact, Phillip was the closest male relative to Baldwin who would evidently remain childless "barren and infertile", like the land subjected to the plague. The king's leprosy was in fact a closely guarded secret, known only to trusted courtiers.
In 1177, three years before de Troyes had begun work on Perceval, Phillip had gone on crusade to Jerusalem, where he was rebuffed by the haut cour feudal council in his plans to cement certain strategic marriage alliances. This was obviously a period of high intrigue with many wealthy families jostling for position well heeled suitors, knights and sundry connected elites all staking claims to the throne. There seems a good case to be made therefore that Phillip himself was the model for the Fisher King and the wounded king was Baldwin which would leave the significance of the Grail as the right of succession to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Kingdom of Jerusalem (whose land covered roughly the same area now occupied by Israel and "Palestine") was retaken within the decade by Salah ad-Din.
Ironic indeed then, that the great Muslim general should prove, in the end, to be the Knight worthy of the Christian Grail!
Legends Behind the Search for the Coveted Christian Grail
The Holy Grail, a Christian artifact believed to have some mystical powers, has long been at the center of many stories. Cultural lore, particularly in Europe but also in the Americas and even Asia and Africa, is rife with stories about the object and stories of people who embarked on dangerous quests to find it. Perhaps the most recent of those quests was the one undertaken by the fictional characters Robert Langdon, Sophie Neveu, and Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code.
Each generation seems to bring a renewed fervor for the Holy Grail, as well as a new interpretation of what the grail is and the legends behind it. Consider Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a funny account of a grail search that preceded the more serious Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Plenty of other books, movies, and documentaries have garnered public attention as they have tried to bring to light some of the mysteries surrounding the Holy Grail.
A scene from the movie Monty Python where King Arthur must find the grail. Mental Floss.
16. There&rsquos More Than One Holy Grail
When people talk about the Holy Grail, they tend to believe that or at least speak as if, they are talking about one particular artifact. However, there are numerous ideas of what the Holy Grail even is. If you ask Dan Brown or fans of The Da Vinci Code, you will hear that the grail is not an object but the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ (a claim that has been widely debunked by scholars). Other pop culture references &ndash notably Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as well as numerous other shows, movies, and novels- don&rsquot second-guess the idea that the grail is a cup.
Even among those who believe that the Holy Grail is a cup, there are different ideas as to which cup exactly it is. Grail enthusiasts who want to begin their own &ldquoquests for the Holy Grail&rdquo must start their journeys by determining what exactly the grail that they are referring to even is. Only then can they begin their search by narrowing down the number of legends and learning which, if any, may have historical merit and therefore contain clues as to where the grail is if it exists at all.
Book 16 Parzival becomes Lord of the Grail
[It is c. May.] Anfortas is kept alive by the Grail against his will and in great suffering--his knights will not have pity on his distress because of the inscription that had appeared on the Grail predicting eventual relief by a second coming of Parzival. Anfortas repeatedly screams, and the stench of his wound must be ventilated from the room. He is treated with a variety of exotic remedies. Parzival arrives in Terre de Salvaesche guided by Cundrie la sorcière. The templars receive him with joy and take the party to Munsalvaesche and the great hall. Anfortas begs them to arrange for him to die. Parzival asks "Uncle, what is it that troubles you?", the essential question that heals Anfortas with the Lord's help. He emerges from his sickness and Parzival is declared the new Lord of the Grail and King.
Condwiramurs rides to Munsalvaesche, guided by Duke Kyot and others, while Parzival rides out to see Trevrizent. After meeting with Trevrizent, he rides on to meet his wife. Parzival arrives to find his wife asleep in bed with her sons--Parzival has been faithful to her all this time, and he spends the morning with her. His son Kardeiz is crowned king of Waleis, Norgals [from North Wales?], etc. They eat by the bank of the Plimizoel river. Parzival asks about the hermitage where Sigune was living, and riding there he finds Sigune dead. He has her buried in the same coffin that holds the body of her beloved Schianatulander. They return to Munsalvaesche. Loherangrin is afraid of Feirefiz.
Feirefiz meets Repanse and falls in love with her, forgetting Secundille. The Grail is brought forth, carried by Repanse. Feirefiz cannot see the Grail, says Titurel, since it cannot be seen by a heathen. Feirefiz agrees to baptism if it will help him in love, and he agrees to renounce Jupiter and also Queen Secundille--afterwards he can immediately see the Grail.
Writings appear on the Grail, stating that any templar whose name is asked by a foreign people that he is aiding should help them no longer. Anfortas is ready to renounce wealth and the love of women, and refuses to leave with Feirefiz. In 12 days, Feirefiz departs with Repanse his wife and Anfortas escorts him for a while on his journey back to Joflanze. There he finds that Arthur has returned to Camelot (Schamilot). He eventually rejoins his army and learns from Cundrie la sorcière that Queen Secundille has died (Anfortas is relieved eventually to hear this). Feirefiz returns with Repanse to India--she gives birth there to Prester John and Feirefiz spreads the word about Christianity. Anfortas lives out his years jousting for the Grail but not fighting for women.
The story of Loherangrin is briefly recounted: He weds the princess of Brabant at Antwerp after being brought by a swan. He tells her never to ask his name. But she eventually breaks her pledge out of love, and though they have had children together, he must depart. The swan brings him a little boat and he reluctantly returns to the Grail.
Kyot has furnished the right version of the story, not Chrétien de Troyes. Parzival has ended in the blessed place for which he was intended.
The author closes "To good women, if they are sensible, I am all the more worthy--in case one of them wishes me well--now that I have completed this story. If it was done for a woman's sake, she will have to speak sweet words to me."