The earliest tales of the Grail quest had Perceval as the hero.
The first tale of the Grail was written by Chretien de Troyes, called Le Conte du Graal (“The Story of the Grail”) or Perceval le Gallois. Unfortunately, Chretien never finish his story, due to his untimely death, where he stopped at mid-sentence. Several other writers continued where he left off, these works were known as the Grail Continuations. I will retell Chretien’s tale, and more briefly of other tales.
The next most important contributor to the Grail legend was Robert de Boron, a French poet who wrote three books, about 1200. Joseph d’ Arimathea and Perceval were concern about the Grail history and the Grail quest. The first book (Joseph d’ Arimathea) was the only book to survive intact, whereas we have only fragments of the second book, called Merlin. The last book (Perceval) is lost. I have retold the complete story of Joseph of Arimathea, under the title – the Origin of the Holy Grail. There is a second version about Joseph that was written in prose, called Estoire de Saint Graal, which is part of the Vulgate romances, but I have ignore this work for the moment.
Since the last book of Boron (Perceval) is lost, most scholars believed that the Didot Perceval may have been a prose adaptation of Boron’s Perceval.
Another important author of the Grail story was the German writer, named Wolfram von Eschenbach. Wolfram wrote a large volume, called Parzival.
By the mid-twelfth century, a new character was introduced into Grail legend. The Vulgate Cycle (or prose Lancelot) comprised of several works. The second work called Queste del Saint Graal (“Quest of the Holy Grail”), where the new hero of the quest was named Galahad, the son of Lancelot, (See Galahad’s Story for the Vulgate version of the quest).
|Le Conte du Graal (by Chrétien de Troyes)|
|Alternative Accounts of the Grail|
Genealogy: House of Perceval (Chretien de Troyes’ version)
|Grail Legend (Background)|
|Origin of the Grail (Boron’s version)|
Le Conte du Graal (“The Story of the Grail”) or Perceval le Gallois was the first story of the Grail to be written. It was written by French poet named Chretien de Troyes, c. 1180. Though the story is incomplete, I have included the entire story, since it provided the source of materials for later authors who used for their version about the adventure of Perceval.
|Perceval’s Early Adventure|
|Avenging the Lady|
|The Quest Begins|
|Lady of the Short Sleeve|
|Postponement of the Duel|
|Castle of Marvels|
Genealogy: House of Perceval (Chretien de Troyes’ version)
|As stated earlier, Chretien de Troyes never had the chance to complete the story of the Grail. Other writers tried to complete the story by beginning where Chretien left off.
Here, two characters were to hold centre stage in story: Perceval and Gawain.
The tale began with Perceval meeting knight. Perceval was a Welsh boy, ignorant of courtly manner and knightly martial art. Perceval lived a sheltered life with his mother, who did not want Perceval to learn anything about knights since her husband and her two older sons were killed. At first, Perceval thought the knight was an angel from heaven, since the armour shined so brightly. Curiously he asked the knight why he wore such armour and carried such strange weapons. Perceval was determined to become a knight, to his mother’s dismay.
(Note that in this tales, neither Perceval’s mother nor his other relatives are given names. In fact, the hero’s name was not revealed until midway through reading the book, when Perceval’s cousin, a damsel outside the Grail Castle, named him.)
Realising that she couldn’t dissuaded her son from leaving, she instructed him that he must pray in a chapel (never been in a church before), as well as how to treat a lady with respect and courteous.
She told her son that a knight who wins a lady’s love, that knight would receive great honour if he’d receive a kiss and a ring from the lady. Perceval misunderstood most of her instructions. When Perceval left his mother, he saw his mother fainted, yet he did not go back to her. Perceval heads toward the castle of King Arthur, hoping the king would make him a knight.
Before night fell he had his first adventure, when he found a tent, thinking this was the church that his mother was talking about. In the tent, he found a damsel. Misinterpreting his mother’s instructions, he forcibly kissed the damsel, thinking that he was earning great honour. Seeing a ring on her finger, he swiped the ring off her finger. Perceval then took the food that belonged to the damsel’s lover.
When Perceval left the sobbing damsel, her lover arrived. Her lover blamed the unfortunate damsel of seducing a stranger. Her paramour started mistreating her. Her lover became known as the “Haughty Knight of the Heath”. The Haughty Knight was determined to find the Welsh boy and cut off his head. (In Peredur (Mabinogion), they were as the knight and damsel of the Pride of the Clearing, but according to Wolfram von Eschenbach in Parzival, they were named Duke Orilus of Lalander and his wife, Jeschute of Karnant.)
Perceval arrived in Arthur’s court, where he met the Red Knight of Quinqueroy, who took the king’s gold cup. No knight at the king’s court had the courage to retrieve the gold cup from the Red Knight, since he had wounded many Knights of the Round Table. (According to Peredur (Mabinogion), the Knight of Quinqueroy was only known simply as the Red Knight, but Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Ither of Gaheviez.)
Perceval came before the king and demanded that the king should make him a knight and give him the red armour like those of the Red Knight of Quinqueroy. Sir Kay, the seneschal in the king’s court, sarcastically told Perceval, that the red armour that Red Knight was wearing belongs to him, and that he should take the armour away from the Red Knight.
Not realising Kay was joking; Perceval immediately went after the Red Knight. Before he left king’s hall, Perceval meet one of Queen Guinevere’s ladies-in-waiting. This lady laughed when she saw Perceval, believing that this lad would make one of the greatest knights. No one had ever seen or heard the lady laugh in six years, until that day. Kay was jealous that the lady’s suggestion that Perceval would be a great knight, slapped the lady in the face, and kicked Arthur’s court fool.
Perceval demanded to the Red Knight to take off the armour on the king’s order. The Red Knight attacked the boy. Perceval killed the Red Knight with one of his javelins. Putting on the red armour on and carrying the dead knight’s weapons, Perceval gave the gold cup to a squire, to return to the king, with a message that he would avenged the lady whom Sir Kay had slapped. The king’s court jester foretold that the nameless new knight would avenge the lady and himself upon Sir Kay, by breaking arm and shoulder blade.
Perceval left the castle, now that he got the armour he wanted. Perceval now wished to return to his mother, but did not know which direction to take, to return home. Perceval met Lord Gornemant of Gohort, who offered him lodging and taught him about courtly manner and some skills on how to use the armour and weapons he carry. Gornemant gave him many advices, including not talking too much, or else people would him for a fool.
This advice would have unfortunate consequences.
|Perceval left Gornemant and found lodging at Biaurepaire Castle belonging to Lady Blancheflor. At this time, Lord Clamadeu’s army, hoping to take the land from Blancheflor, had besieged her castle in Biaurepaire. Biaurepaire had suffered a serious setback. Most of Biaurepaire’s garrison was now prisoners of Clamadeu. Clamadeu also hoped to force Blancheflor into marriage with him, since she was considered to be a great beauty. Perceval promised to help Blancheflor. Blancheflor offered Perceval her love and her land to rule.
First, Perceval defeated Anguingueron in single combat. The hero spared the seneschal in return that he becomes prisoner of King Arthur. Perceval told Anguingueron to carry a message to the lady whom Sir Kay had slapped, that he would avenge her soon. Anguingueron did everything that Perceval had instructed. No one knew Perceval’s name, but he could be identified as the Red Knight. When Arthur heard of his adventure, the king wished that Perceval were here, in his court.
Several days later, Perceval defeated Anguingueron’s lord in single combat, making Clamadeu also a prisoner of King Arthur. Perceval gave the same instruction to Clamadeu, concerning the message to the lady whom Kay had slapped.
Each prisoner Perceval send to him King Arthur, were freed and become members of the fellowship of the Round Table. Once you are given your word to become prisoner, it was considered a sin and treachery to break your oath.
(According to the Welsh romance, Peredur (Mabinogion), the lady’s name is not given, unless she is Angharad Golden Hand. According to Wolfram von Eschenbach in Parzival (1210), she was named Condwiramurs, whom the hero married.)
|Perceval stayed with Blancheflor, until he decided to return home, promising to return to Biaurepaire with his mother if his mother was still alive. Perceval travelled until he took lodging with a man who was fishing in the river. Perceval discovered that the man, who was fishing, was his host, happened to be lord of the castle. It was revealed that the lord was crippled.
His host gave Perceval a magnificent sword as a gift that the host received from her niece with the blonde tresses. Perceval had not seen a finer sword than his maimed gave him.
During his stay he witnessed several strange processions taking place. There was a squire who was carrying a Bleeding Lance, passing Perceval and his host to next room. Two more squires followed the first squire, each squire carrying candelabra. A maiden then followed these two squires, carrying the Grail. The Grail illuminated the room more brightly than all the candles in the room. Another maiden carrying a silver carving platter followed her.
Though, Perceval was curious about the spear that bleed and the Grail, he heeded Gornemant’s warning of not talking too much and kept silence. The grail passed by several times during dinner. Perceval decided to ask his host’s servants about the spear and Grail, rather than asking his host.
However the next day, Perceval woke and found the entire castle seemingly to be deserted. So he dressed and armed himself. The moment he left the castle, the drawbridge was raised. Shout as he may, he could go back into the castle.
Perceval did not went very far, when he encountered a maiden weeping over a headless knight, who was killed by the Haughty Knight. Perceval tried to comfort the girl. Perceval discovered that the castle belonged to the Fisher King. The girl recognised the sword that the Fisher King had given to Perceval. She warned Perceval that the sword would break if he uses the sword. A man named Trabuchet, who lived beside the lake beyond Cotouatre, was the only smith who can only repair the sword.
When the girl found out he did not ask questions about why the lance bleed or who was served from the Grail, she became distressed. Had Perceval asked question about the Lance and the Grail, his host who was maimed, would have being healed, and the land that was devastated around the castle, would have been restored.
When the maiden also heard that his name was Perceval, she revealed that she was his cousin and that his mother had died in grief at his departure (in the Welsh Peredur (Mabinogion), the damsel was Peredur’s foster sister). Perceval promised to avenge the death of damsel’s knight. (Perceval’s name is revealed for the first time in this book. Though, Perceval was not even sure what his name was, but he did tell his cousin, his true name.)
|As he sought to avenge the headless knight, he encountered the same damsel, whom he met in his early adventure. The damsel was dressed in a ragged gown that barely covered her nakedness. She told Perceval to leave before her jealous lover, the Haughty Knight, would killed anyone who try to help her, as he had killed the lover of Perceval’s cousin.
Perceval met the Haughty Knight; they fought one another in a duel, where Perceval defeated his opponent. Perceval spared the Haughty Knight, if he became prisoner of King Arthur. Perceval informed the knight that the damsel had committed no wrongdoing, reconciling the couple.
After receiving the latest prisoners, Arthur decided to find the nameless Red Knight, hoping that Perceval would become member of the Round Table. Unwittingly, they found Perceval, one morning, musing how the blood on snow (from a goose that was wounded by pursuing falcon), resembled the blush of fair maiden (ridiculous and silly).
Sir Sagremor asked Perceval to come before the king. Sagremor’s mistaken Perceval’s musing for deliberately ignoring his command. Offended, Sagremor attacked Perceval, but was unhorsed by the hero. Perceval returning to musing over the blood. Sir Kay told the king that he would bring this knight back by force, if necessary. Not recognising Perceval, Kay attacked the bemused Red Knight. But Perceval’s easily unhorsed Kay, breaking the seneschal’s arm and shoulder blade in the fall (fulfilling the court jester’s prediction).
Sir Gawain brought Perceval back with him without fighting; discovering that this was young man that his uncle (Arthur) was looking for. They became friends. Arthur was delighted to finally getting acquainted with Perceval who had performed marvellous feats of arms in his name. Arthur returned to Caerleon with Perceval. There was celebration after Perceval became a knight of the Round Table.
|However the happiness was short-lived, when the ugliest woman on a mule, rode into Arthur’s court. The woman rebuked Perceval for not asking vital questions about the mystery in the Grail castle. She told him that countless suffering would come upon Britain for his silence.
The woman informed the entire court that anyone who wanted to become the greatest knight in the world should seek out Proud Castle; to rescue and free a maiden who was besieged beneath the peak of Montesclere. This knight would be awarded with a “Sword with Strange Straps“.
However, a knight named Guinganbresil arrived at Arthur’s court, accusing Gawain for killing his lord without issuing a challenge. Gawain had no choice but to put aside the quest for the grail, to answer this serious charge. Gawain had to face Guinganbresil in single combat before King Escavalon, to clear himself of any wrongdoing.
All the knights undertaking the quest departed from Arthur’s court.
|Gawain arranged for his travel, by taking seven warhorses and two shields with him. Seven squires accompanied Gawain. Gawain tried to follow Guinganbresil, but Gawain became involved with a jousting contest between two lords.
Two daughters of Tiebaut of Tintagel were involved in a quarrel over who was a better knight. The older sister who started the quarrel between her father and her lover, she was praising Meliant de Liz (her lover), his looks, prowess and skill in jousting. While the younger sister seeing a nameless knight (Gawain), who was watching the tournament, she thought that he was a much more handsome and better knight than Meliant. The older sister offended by her remark slapped her younger sister in the face.
The older sister lied to her father, telling him that the nameless knight (Gawain), with many horses and shields was not really a knight. She accused Gawain to be a merchant, who trying to avoiding payment of customs, by impersonating a knight. When Lord Tiebaut heard this, he sought out Gawain. The younger sister also hearing her sister’s false allegation also tried to find Gawain.
When Tiebaut realised that his daughter accusation was false, he tried to assist Gawain. Tiebaut’s younger daughter then arrived, and made plead to Gawain as a knight, to defend her honour against her older sister. For his love for her, she asked Gawain to joust against Meliant de Liz the next day. Gawain agreed.
When they left Gawain, Tiebaut found out the causes of his daughters’ quarrel, he realised that his elder daughter was at fault. He got a long sleeve for his younger daughter, and told her to give the sleeve to Gawain as a token of her affection for her champion.
The next day, Gawain gladly received the sleeve of Tiebaut’s youngest daughter. At the tournament, Gawain jousted and defeated the Meliant de Liz. As the winner, Gawain took Meliant’s warhorse, and awarded it to the Tiebaut’s young daughter. Gawain won three other jousts, and awarded the three horses to his host’s wife and two daughters.
|A day after leaving Tintagel, the horse Gawain was riding threw its shoe, causing the horse to limp badly. Gawain arrived at the castle, where he met a young knight, lord of the castle, who was going on a hunt. The young lord not recognising Gawain invited his enemy to stay in his manor. The knight asked his sister to entertain his new guest.
The lord’s fair sister did more than entertain her guest. Being attracted to one another, they started kissing. The knight’s vavasour discovered them kissing. He immediately recognised Gawain. The vavasour accused the lady of treachery. He told her that Gawain was the knight who had killed her father.
The vavasour left them and went into town where he roused a mob. The mayor of the town led the angry mob against Gawain.
Recognising that she would be killed along with Gawain, the lady prepared to help Gawain to defend her and her brother’s manor. Gawain quickly armed himself, but he was without a shield. Gawain strapped a heavy, stone chessboard to his arm – to use as his shield. In this way equipped, Gawain prepared to defend the only entrance to the manor.
Gawain killed the first man who tried to enter through the door. The others retreated, frightened by Gawain skill with the sword, while the lady then pelted the mob with heavy chess-pieces. The mob then threatened to burn down the manor.
Guinganbresil arrived and found out who was staying at his lord’s castle. When the young lord returned from his hunt, discovered from Guinganbresil, that he made his enemy a guest in his own manor. This lord happened to be King Escavalon. Since Guinganbresil promised Gawain, at Arthur’s court, with safe conduct to faced him in a duel, his promises were now broken, when the townsmen attacked Gawain at Escavalon’s castle. As a matter of honour, Escavalon must protect his enemy, since he had personally invited Gawain as a guest. Guinganbresil advised his king that he must postpone the duel between Guinganbresil and Gawain for one year. During the year, Gawain must find either the Bleeding Lance or faced Guinganbresil in single combat.
Escavalon dispersed the mob from his home. Escavalon put Guinganbresil’s proposal to Gawain to postpone the duel. Gawain agreed to the postponement, and began his quest to finding the Bleeding Lance.
|In his quest to find the Grail, Perceval spend five years wandering the countryside, either losing faith with God, or simply just forgotten about Christ, until he met a hermit, who happened to be his uncle.
Perceval learned that his mother was sister of this hermit and the Fisher King. His uncle was aware of his misadventure at the Grail Castle, where he did not ask any question concerning the Grail and the lance. This was considered to be sins and that he should repent.
Perceval stayed with his uncle, trying to renew his faith in God and Jesus.
We don’t hear any more of Perceval in this incomplete book, and returns to Gawain’s adventure.
|Gawain then next came across a damsel weeping over a wounded knight. The knight informed Gawain not to continue on this path, warning of the danger that no knight would return.
Gawain was like any knight-errant, who could not resist adventure despite warning of danger. Gawain decided to continue on his perilous path, until he met another beautiful damsel, within a seemingly deserted castle. The haughty damsel warned Gawain not to travel with her; he would face the possibility of misfortune, shame and dishonour, if not death. Gawain did not heed her warning.
When Gawain went to fetch the damsel’s palfrey, a group of people came out of their homes; they warned Gawain not to travel with the haughty damsel, because she was evil and had caused the death of many knights. Gawain also ignored their warning as he did with the other two damsels.
Gawain returned, with the haughty damsel, to the damsel and the wounded knight, and helped bind the knight’s wound. The knight asked Gawain to give him the nag that was ridden by an approaching squire. Gawain took the nag from the squire when he was rudely rebuffed. As Gawain helped the damsel to her palfrey, the wounded knight stole Gawain’s warhorse, leaving the nag to Gawain.
Gawain discovered that the wounded knight was named Greoreas, whom he had punished once, for raping a maiden. Greoreas’ revenge was to steal Gawain’s favourite warhorse. The haughty damsel laughed at Gawain’s situation. Gawain was left with no choice but to ride the nag.
When he reached a river with a castle on the other side, Gawain and the haughty damsel found a boat. All along the windows, they could see ladies and damsels watching them. Before he could get on the boat, he was attacked by the nephew of Greoreas, who was riding on his stolen horse. Gawain managed to unhorse his enemy and retrieve his horse. The haughty damsel had vanished along with the boat.
Moment later, he encountered a boatman. The boatman demanded Gawain’s horse, but the hero refused. However, Gawain gave the boatman, the nephew of Greoreas as prisoner, in exchange for crossing the river to the castle.
Gawain learned from the boatman that the damsel he was travelling with was no maiden, but an evil woman who lures many brave knights to their death, with their heads severed from their bodies.
Gawain stayed a night in the boatman’s house, before deciding to go to castle. The boatman tried to dissuade him from going to castle, for any knights who enter the castle could never leave it alive. Gawain also learned from the boatman that two queens lived in the castle that was enchanted (or cursed). Gawain insisted on entering the castle and seeing the maidens, who had saw him joust the previous day, or else he would be forever branded as a coward. Reluctantly, the boatman ferried Gawain over the water.
Gawain entered the hall of castle and saw nothing to fear. He saw an unusual, yet beautiful bed, and wished to sleep on it. The boatman warned him against it, for it was the Bed of Marvels, and that he would die the moment he sat on the bed, but Gawain insisted. Not wanting to see the hero die, the boatman left the hall.
Gawain ignored boatman’s warning and sat on the bed. All the windows in the hall flew open. Five hundred arrows and bolts were shot at him, and struck his shield, before the windows closed by magic.
Before he could remove the arrows from his shield, one of the doors flew open, where a lion leaped and attacked Gawain. Gawain killed the lion with a single slice of his sword. He severed the head and forepaws of the lion. The paws remained embedded to his shield.
The boatman happily returned to Gawain, informing the hero that the enchantment on the castle and bed has been broken. Squires and maidens came to welcome and serve him. By breaking the enchantment on the castle, he had become the new lord of the castle.
One maiden, who returned to the two queens, happened to be the daughter of one queen and grand-daughter to the other queen. The princess told the queens that she like the new lord.
When Gawain looked outside of one of the towers, he said he would like to go hunting in the beautiful forest, but the boatman told him he can never the castle. This news upset Gawain. When the princess again saw Gawain, she realised Gawain was upset and angry about something, and informed the two queens.
The older queen went to Gawain, to cheer him up and learned several things about the world outside of her castle. She was particularly interested about Lot’s and Urien’s children, as well as Arthur. Gawain seemed to be happy again while he was talking to the queen.
The next day, while in the tower, Gawain saw the haughty damsel he travelled with, talking to a knight with quartered shield, on the other side of the river. When Gawain asked the queen if she knew who they were, he was told the damsel was evil woman, and the knight with her, like to kill or capture other knights for sports.
Gawain told the queen he would like to talk with this damsel again. The queen became upset and informed him he could not leave the castle. Then Gawain became upset of not been able to leave. They compromised. He was allowed to leave, if he would return before dark. In return, the queen should not ask for his name until seven days from now.
Gawain went outside of the castle. He fought and defeated the knight, making him prisoner of the boatman.
The damsel then tricked into Gawain into crossing the Perilous Ford, saying that the knight (her lover) whom Gawain had just defeated cross the ford quite often for her love. When Gawain left from sight of the people from the castle, they thought the haughty damsel was leading their new lord to his death. The two queens and everyone began to mourn for Gawain.
Since the ford was narrow, Gawain thought he could easily jump across, but his horse landed in the middle of the ford. He would have drowned had his horse not able to swim to the other side of the ford.
On the other side of the ford, Gawain saw another castle, and encountered a knight. The knight told him that he was either very brave or foolishly, for everyone who tried the Perilous Ford, had drowned. Gawain realised the damsel tried to drown him. Gawain learned the damsel was known as the “Haughty Maid of Logres”, known by other versions of the grail stories as Orgueilleuse. While her lover knight with the quartered shield, was known as the “Haughty Knight of the Stone and the Narrow Way”. The Haughty Knight defended the passes to Galloway.
Gawain also found out that the knight he has been talking to was named Guiromelant and that he lived in Orueneles Castle. When Gawain tried to learn about the castle that he stayed in, Guiromelant thought he was lying, since no knight ever leave in the enchanted castle alive. To convince him that he actually stayed in the magical castle, he showed the lion’s paws that were still stuck on to his shield.
Gawain learned a few truths about the castle he was staying in. The older queen was Igraine, mother of King Arthur and grandmother of Gawain. The other queen was Gawain’s own mother. (Her name was not given in the Conte du Graal, but it was Morgawse, however, the First Continuation called her Norcadet or Morcadet. Norcadet or Morcadet was just another name for Morgauwse.) And the princess was Gawain’s own sister named Clarissant, the daughter of the younger queen.
Igraine had come to this after Uther’s death. Igraine had brought her daughter, who was pregnant with Clarissant, to this castle after Lot’s death. Arthur had not seen his mother in more than sixty years, while Gawain had not seen his own mother in twenty-five years. The castle that Gawain had stayed in was called the Rock of Champguin (most likely to be the Otherworld).
Though Guiromelant was in love with Clarissant, he hated Gawain, because Gawain’s father (Lot) had killed his own father, and Gawain had killed Guiromelant’s cousin. Guiromelant wanted to so much to kill Gawain, not realising he was talking to the very man he hated most. Guiromelant asked Gawain when he returns to the castle, to give his ring to Clarissant, hoping the princess would become his sweetheart. Gawain readily agreed.
After Guiromelant answered all of Gawain’s questions, he asked for Gawain’s name. Gawain truthfully told him his name. Guiromelant was angry that he was facing his enemy, but was at the moment unarmed. Gawain preferred not to fight with Guiromelant, if his sister’s return her love to Guiromelant. However, Guiromelant insisted on mortal combat with Gawain. Gawain reluctantly agreed to a duel, one week from now, by bringing Arthur and his court to witness the single combat.
Instead of using the bridge that Guiromelant offered to lead him to, Gawain chose to recross the Perilous Ford. This time, Gawain’s horse successfully leaped across the narrow ford. Gawain returned to the Haughty Maid (Orgueilleuse), her attitude towards him had changed. She asked Gawain for forgiveness since she was attempting to humiliate him and cause his death.
She explained to Gawain, why she treated him and other knights so, because Guiromelant thought he could win her love by killing her first lover in single combat. Orgueilleuse would now follow, respect and obey Gawain, without being insulting and wicked. The hero returned to the castle with the damsel.
When the people saw Gawain returning to the castle unharmed, they stopped mourning and began celebrating for Gawain’ safe return. Gawain gave Guiromelant’s ring to his sister, saying that this was a token of Guiromelant’s love for her.
Igraine and her daughter watched Gawain and Clarissant talk. The younger queen hope that they would one day marry, not realising or recognising that Gawain was her own son.
Gawain sent one of the squires, as a messenger to King Arthur, to come to the Rock of Champguin, to witness the single combat between Guiromelant and himself. While his uncle would come to this place, Gawain hoped to reunite Arthur with his mother and sister.
Gawain’s messenger had just arrived in the city of Orcanie, where Arthur was holding court. Guinevere was talking to Lady Lore when the story ended quite abruptly, in mid-sentence.
As I said earlier, Chretien de Troyes never finished this work about the Grail. It was left for other writers trying to complete the tale. Shortly after Chretien’s death, two writers began writing separate Continuations to the romance of Perceval and the Grail. These were works were known as the Grail Continuations.
If you wish to read one of the Grail Continuations, then the First Grail Continuation continued on the story about Gawain’s adventure. The Second Continuation and the other continuations were more of continuations about Perceval’s adventures. See the next section for the alternative accounts of the Grail.
The following articles are about alternative accounts of the grail romances that have Perceval, or even Gawain, as the hero. There are many variations to the legend of Perceval and the Grail.
|Robert de Boron and the Didot Perceval|
|Diu Krône, see Sir Gawain|
Origin of the Grail (Boron’s Version)
|Several authors tried to complete the story of Grail, where Chretien de Troyes left off, due to his untimely death. These writers wrote what is now called the Grail Continuations.
In Chretien’s Arthurian Romances (translated by William W. Kibler and published by Penguin Classics), the translator provided the plots and brief summaries of the Continuations. I very much doubt that I will find any copy of the Continuations in English, in Australia; therefore I will just tell you what these notes say.
Also, the last two books were definitely influenced by Robert de Boron and possibly by the Vulgate versions, since it was written during or after that time.
It was called Pseudo-Wauchier Continuation or Gawain Continuation, because it was Gawain who became the hero of the Quest. Written in the late 12th century, the story began where Chretien left off, particular about Gawain’s adventures (see Castle of Marvels).
Gawain was trapped in the castle that belonged to his mother and grandmother, who don’t know his identity. King Arthur arrived at the castle to witness the duel between Gawain and Guiromelant. Gawain reunited Arthur with his mother and sister, while he revealed his own identity. Everyone rejoiced at the reunion.
Gawain fought and defeated in Guiromelant, in single combat. Gawain only spared Guiromelant’s life when his sister Clarissant finally decided to return her affection to her brother’s enemy. Arthur married Clarissant off to Guiromelant before Gawain could get Guiromelant to dropped charges against him.
Gawain left Arthur and later found himself at the Grail Castle, where he witnessed the procession of the Grail, like Perceval. However a new element had been added to the legend. Gawain found a man in a bier, with a broken sword. Gawain discovered that the man who mends the broken sword would understand the mysteries of the Grail. But Gawain fell into magical slumber and found himself in a field, the Grail Castle had disappeared.
Gawain went to King Escavalon, since he failed to find the Bleeding Lance. Gawain was to face Guinganbresil, in a trial by combat, since he had been accused of treacherously killed Guinganbresil’s lord. However, Arthur arrived, and resolved the difference between the two knights, by marrying Guinganbresil to Arthur’s grand-daughter.
Arthur then got involved in a siege with Brun de Branlant, a lord who refused to swear fealty to him.
Girflet, who was one of the knights, went on a quest to Proud Castle, where he was captured and imprisoned. Arthur and his knights went to rescue Girflet, and became involved in a series of challenge in single combats. When Gawain won his duel, Girflet was freed.
Gawain then found his way back to the Grail Castle. The hero discovered that the Bleeding Lance was used to pierce Jesus’ thigh at the Crucifixion. Gawain failed to mend the broken sword. Though, Gawain managed to ask the right question about the Grail, but failed to hear the answer, when he fell asleep again. Again he was transported to the countryside; this time, the land was restored and the earth was fertile.
There are few other episodes in this Continuation, which has nothing to do with the Grail, such as the adventures of Caradoc, and Gareth, Gawain’s brother, in the swan boat.
The Second Grail Continuation was called Wauchier de Denain Continuation or Perceval Continuation, because Perceval was again the main character. Wauchier de Denian wrote this work, in the late 12th century.
Perceval met a beautiful maiden, who would return his love, if he retrieves her magic hound and stag’s head, which had been stolen. In this quest, Perceval went through a series of adventure, like those written by Chretien, defeating knights in single combat, and sending them off to Arthur as prisoners. Perceval also fought against Gawain’s son called the “Fair Unknown”, but in this contest, they had fought to a draw.
Perceval also returned to Biaurepaire, the castle where he had met his sweetheart, the Lady Blancheflor. This time he defeated the Handsome Wicked Knight who was besieging Biaurepaire.
Perceval then return home, where he met his sister for the first time. His sister told him how their mother died. Together, they went to see their uncle, the hermit he met in Chretien’s story (see Perceval’s Repentance about meeting his uncle). At Castle of Maidens, Perceval recovered the dog and stag’s head, after defeating a knight named Garsulas.
As Perceval went in search of the maiden who had sent him on this quest, he meet another maiden, who gave him a magic ring that he must take to the Grail Castle, but got sidetracked, where he become involved in a tournament, held in Proud Castle. Perceval fought in disguised, and defeated many of Arthur’s best knights.
Perceval then went on another journey. Perceval was recognised as the greatest knight in the world, when he reached the peak of Mount Dolorous and tied his horse to a magic pillar set up by Merlin.
Perceval entered the Grail Castle for the second time. The hero mended the broken sword by joining the two sections together. The story ended before we could hear of the mystery of the Grail from the Fisher King.
The Third Continuation is also called the Manessier Continuation. This continuation was written by Manessier, c. 1214-27.
The grieving Fisher King had crippled himself with the broken sword blade, because Partinal of the Red Tower had killed his brother.
Perceval defeated three demons. The first demon was a bodiless arm wielding a sword; the second was another demon, who looked like a horse. The last demon looked like Blancheflor. Perceval avenged the death of Fisher King’s brother.
Then Perceval went and healed the Fisher King, who happened to be his uncle. When the Fisher King died years later, Perceval succeeded the Fisher King, and became keeper of the Grail.
When Perceval died, his soul ascended to heaven, taking the Grail with him.
Gerbert de Montreuil wrote the Fourth Continuation between 1226 and 1230.
It should be noted that this Continuation was by then influenced by the works of Robert de Boron and the Vulgate version, since there are references to the Joseph of Arimathea.
Perceval had failed to understand the secrets of the Grail, woke up in a middle of a meadow. The devastated land restored even though he had failed in his test at the Grail Castle. Perceval had the sword given to him by the Fisher King, repaired by the smith named Trabuchet.
Perceval restored Sagremor and Agravain of their sanity, when they went to Mount Dolorous. When Perceval return to Arthur’s court, he sat on the seat that had killed six other knights (commonly known as Siege Perilous). This seat was reserved for the true grail knight. Perceval defeated many famous knights in two tournaments.
Perceval returned to Biaurepaire, where he married his sweetheart, the Lady Blancheflor. However, they never consummated their marriage, because they hoped that by keeping their virginity they could win their places in heaven.
Perceval then raised the siege at Montesclere, thereby winning the Sword with the Strange Belt. Perceval then returned to the Grail Castle, where he restored the Broken Sword. Having achieved this, the secrets of the grail was revealed to him.
|The most important author of the Grail after Chretien de Troyes was Robert de Boron. Below, I have provided some background information about Robert de Boron and some of the adaptations of his work.
Also, if you are interested in the family tree of Perceval, according to both Boron and the Didot Perceval, then you should click on the House of Perceval.
The next most important author after Chretien de Troyes was another French poet, named Robert de Boron. Boron wrote three works: Joseph d’Arimathie, Merlin, and Perceval. It was a trilogy of the Holy Grail. These tales were written in Old French verses, around 1200.
We have Boron to thank for, for connecting the Holy Grail to the cup used by Jesus in the Last Supper and to Joseph of Arimathea. Boron had identified the Grail as a chalice, whereas Chretien said it was a dish and Wolfram von Eschenbach thought it was a stone! You also have to thank him, because it was Boron who first introduced how Arthur became king, when he drew the sword out of the stone or anvil.
The first story is titled Joseph d’Arimathie, and has to do with the origin of the Grail and its first keeper of the Grail, Joseph of Arimathea, and how the Grail was brought to Britain. See the Origin of the Grail. There is a prose version about the origin of Holy Grail, titled Estoire de Saint Graal (“History of the Holy Grail”, c. 1240), which is part of the romances of the Vulgate Cycle.
When the Arhturian romances in Vulgate Cycle were written, someone had decided to rewrite Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie. This Vulgate tale was titled Estoire de Saint Graal (“History of the Holy Grail”, c. 1240), and it included many new characters and adventures that were not included in Boron’s original. Some of the sources for Estoire de Saint Graal come from the two original Vulgate tales: Lancelot Propre (“Lancelot Proper”) and Queste del Saint Grail (“The Quest of the Holy Grail”). See the Origin of the Grail about the Vulgate history of the events.
Boron’s second work was titled Merlin, but only a small fragment had survived. The tale begins with the birth of Merlin and was supposed to have ended with the wizard’s death. The story included the conception and birth of Arthur, how he was secretly raised by his foster parents. It was Boron who introduced Arthur drawing the sword out of the stone and became king. Before Arthur’s coronation, the story ended abruptly, because only the part of Boron’s text on Merlin had survived.
There is a prose version of Merlin, which formed part of the Vulgate Cycle (known as Prose Merlin or Vulgate Merlin); this was written about 40 years after Boron’s trilogy. A third version of Merlin was titled Suite du Merlin (c. 1250), which was a continuation of the Vulgate Merlin. Suite du Merlin formed part of Post-Vulgate Cycle. You will find part of Merlin in the pages of Merlin and the Legend of Excalibur.
The last book of Boron, was titled Perceval (c. 1200), is completely lost, though we are told that the French Didot Perceval (c. 1205) contained many of the scenes from Boron’s version. I can’t attest to this comparison, yet it would be best that you read the Didot Perceval, sometimes known as the Prose Perceval (that if you can get your hands on a copy).
The Didot Perceval doesn’t really fit in with Boron’s trilogy (my opinion), because the wizard Merlin had died at the end of Merlin, but in Didot Perceval, the wizard was still alive after the death of Arthur and Perceval.
Two of these works concerned about the Grail itself, while the middle book called Merlin linked the Grail through the creation of the Round Table by Merlin, particularly the Siege Perilous (Perilous Seat). The Siege Perilous remained empty and was reserved only for the Grail knight, the hero destined to win the Grail.
The Didot Perceval was influenced by the work of Chretien de Troyes’ Conte du Graal, the Second Continuation (late 12th century) and Robert de Boron’s poems (c. 1200). Didot Perceval was supposed to be prose version of Boron’s lost Perceval (c. 1200). Didot Perceval was written probably around 1205, by anonymous writer.
There are two copies of the Didot Perceval that have survived: the ‘D’ manuscript and the ‘E’ manuscript. The copy that I had read in the State Library, belonged to the ‘E’ manuscript. I don’t know if there are any differences between the manuscripts.
Perceval was the son of Alain de Gros and grandson of Bron, the Rich Fisher. Here Bron was also known as the Fisher King. The Fisher King was suffering from a debilitating illness instead of being maimed.
Unlike the Chretien’s Conte du Graal (c. 1185), Perceval’s father, Alain le Gros, was still alive, and it was he who instructed Perceval to set out for King Arthur’s castle to become a knight of the Round Table. Only then did Alain died. Perceval set out for Arthur’s one day, without informing his mother. His mother thinking that his son was killed by some wild beast, died from grief.
The Siege Perilous was first introduced in Boron’s Joseph of Arimathie and Merlin. The Siege Perilous is the only seat left vacated in the Round Table; the seat was reserved for the true Grail knight, who would happen to be the greatest knight in the world. This seat was supposed to represent the seat of Jesus at the table of the Last Supper. Once, one of Joseph’s followers, named Moys (his name is Moses in Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie, c. 1200) thought to seat himself at the Siege Perilous of the Grail Table, but Moys was hurled into the abyss. See the Origin of the Grail, about Joseph and the Grail.
When Perceval sat upon the Siege Perilous, the stone seat was split down the middle. A voice of God or the Holy Spirit, told those in Arthur’s court that an enchantment had fallen upon Logres, until a knight achieve the Grail. Perceval would have being swallowed up in the earth, had Perveval had not being the grandson of Bron or had the naive hero not crossed himself before sitting on the Siege Perilous.
Perceval went to the Grail Castle twice. The first time he came upon the Grail Castle by accident, where he witnessed the Grail, he had failed to ask the crucial question that would have lift the enchantment from Logres and healed his grandfather, the Fisher King. Perceval was not aware that he was already in the castle until he left it in the morning. A damsel rebuked Perceval for not asking the question after leaving the castle, which would have his adventure.
Perceval tried to find the Grail the second time, but failed to find it, until ten years later. During that time, his adventure followed that of the Second Continuation, losing chess game against an invisible opponent, the hunt for the stolen white stag’s head and magic hound. It was Merlin who finally guided Perceval to the Grail Castle.
The second time, Perceval managed to ask the right question, gaining the secrets of the Grail. Perceval told Bron that he was his grandson. Bron taught the secret words concerning the Grail. Seven days later, Bron died; the angels took the aged king’s soul to heaven. Perceval then became the new keeper of Grail and king of the Grail Castle. The devastated and barren land and the Siege Perilous were miraculously restored.
|There are many other authors. Sometimes, the Grail was no longer relevant object sought in the quest. As it was the case with the tale of Le Haut Livre du Graal or Perlesvaus, written between 1200 and 1212. In this tale, Perceval is called Perlesvaus (though the translation that I have, called him Perceval). Lancelot and Gawain played a more active role in the new quest with Perceval.
Perceval was the son of Alain and Yglais, and he has one sister named Dindraine. On his mother’s side, he has three uncles, the Fisher King named Messios (a name that was only used once throughout the book), a Hermit-King named Pelles, and the enemy King of Castle Mortal. See family tree on the House of Perlesvaus.
Usually, at the beginning of the tales of Perceval, Perceval’s mother died, when the hero left his isolated home to become a knight (like Chretien de Troyes’ Conte du Graal), but in this tale Yglais lived as the widowed ruler of her husband’s land, throughout Perceval’s adventures. Several times the hero had to rescue her from invaders. In this tale, the Grail Castle was often referred to as the Castle of the Souls. In this book, he had already visited the Fisher King’s castle and failed to ask questions about the Grail and the Bleeding Lance. His reticence had caused devastation and instability in all the kingdoms of Britain, where knights have to undertake strange adventures, including the quest for the Grail. His failure in the first meeting had also caused the Fisher King to languish in long strange illness. Only by asking the question about the Grail could heal the Fisher King.
The poet seemed to assume that people have already read Chretien’s Conte du Graal. So the Perlesvaus was something like the continuation of Conte du Graal.
The story begins with Arthur’s adventure and then Gawain and later on Lancelot’s adventure is told. Perceval, himself, doesn’t appear in the book, until just less than a third way through the book.
After Arthur’s short adventure, three damsels came to Cardueil. One damsel walk on foot, she was the most beautiful of the three damsels. She held a whip in one hand, driving two mounts before her. Another maiden was dressed like a squire and rode on a white mule, which bore a shield and a hound. While a third maiden rode in a cart that was pulled by three stags and it was filled with 150 severed heads. The Maiden of the Cart would reappear many times in the books, as a guide and instructor to each of the three heroes. She was bald and her right arm was suspended on a sling of gold silk, because she had received a wound from a lance. In one hand she held the head of a king, sealed with silver and a gold crown on its head.
Before they left, the Maiden of the Cart addressed and instructed Arthur that they would leave the shield and hound behind for the Good Knight (Perceval) to take with when he comes to Cardueil. The shield has argent and azure bands, with a red cross on a gold boss. The shield was said to belong to Joseph of Arimathea, and he had used the blood of Jesus to paint the cross on the gold boss.
When the three maidens left Cardueil, they encountered Gawain. The maiden of the cart followed and guided Gawain in some of his early adventures. At the castle of the Black Hermit, the Black Hermit’s knights stole the 150 heads from the cart of the maiden. Gawain watched helplessly, because he could not prevent them from stealing the heads, being no match for the Black Hermit.
In one adventure, Gawain arrived at the castle Kamaalot and assisted Yglais, Perceval’s mother whose castle was under siege. The Lord of the Fens, her enemy, had taken all her other castles and most of her land. Gawain defeated the Lord of the Fens in a duel, but he only won one-year truce for Yglais. The Lord of the Fens would accept no more terms until he fights with Yglais’ son (Perceval).
Gawain’s long adventure to reach the Grail Castle, which culminated with him in two adventures: recovering the Shield of Judas Maccabee, which he kept, and the sword that John the Baptist was beheaded with. Only with this sword, could Gawain gain entry to the Grail Castle. Gawain had to kill a giant, to win the sword. However, like Perceval, Gawain failed to ask the question when he saw the Grail, so the Fisher King continued to suffer. Having failed to ask the questions, Gawain returned to his uncle’s court in Cardueil.
Lancelot was even less successful. Because of his sin as the lover of Queen Guinevere, Lancelot did not see the Grail at all, when he reached the castle. Lancelot had also become involved in a beheading game. Lancelot beheaded one knight, but he must offer his head after one year and one day, to the brother of the knight whom Lancelot had beheaded. This is similar to the Gawain’s adventure with the Green Knight; see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, about the beheading game.
Gawain and Lancelot then become involved in the quest to find Perceval, when Perceval’s sister arrived at Arthur’s castle in Cardueil. Dindraine was searching for her brother, because her mother’s land was under siege, by Lord of the Fens, the kinsman of the Red Knight, whom Perceval had killed and now worn the dead knight’s red armour. (See Chretien’s Conte du Graal, about the Red Knight and Perceval’s early adventures.)
When Perceval finally appeared in the book, he had just recovered from illness. Perceval did go to Cardueil, to fetch the shield and the hound, and departed immediately after on a mysterious ship, without waiting to see his sister.
Gawain does find Perceval in the tournament at Crimson Heath, but Gawain doesn’t recognise him, because Perceval was armed as the White Knight. The winner would take the Circle of Gold (golden circlet), which is actually the crown of thorn that the Romans had put on Jesus’ head, during his Crucifixion. The winner must also avenge the death of Alain of Escavalon (not to be confused with Perceval’s father, who was also called Alain), who is actually the cousin of Perceval, on his father side. The Knight of the Burning Dragon had killed Alain of Escavalon.
Both heroes had fought, and both were considered the two best in the field. But Perceval left immediately without taking the Circle of Gold. Both the damsel and Gawain were distressed when Perceval left. Both damsel and Gawain departed in different direction.
Since Perceval undertook one adventure after another, he found that he was delay from reaching the Grail Castle and healing the Grail King. And this delay would prove to be very costly.
One day, Perceval found Dindraine weeping, because she couldn’t find her brother. When she recognised the shield that he worn, Dindraine was finally reunited with her brother. She informed Perceval that their mother would lose her last castle if he didn’t come and save her. While Perceval set out to rescue his mother from the Lord of the Fens, Dindraine detoured to the Perilous Cemetery, to fetch the sacred cloth. This cloth was needed, if Perceval was to succeed in his adventure.
Before she left the cemetery, she heard a loud voice announced that the Fisher King, her uncle, was dead. More troubling news was that the King of Castle Mortal had captured the Grail Castle and the Grail and other holy relics had vanished, taken by the angels. So Perceval had failed in his quest to heal the Fisher King.
Perceval returned to Kamaalot with his sister, where they were happily reunited with their mother. Perceval confronted the Lord of the Fens; he defeated and captured his enemy. Since the Lord of the Fens had captured his mother’s land and killed so many of her knights, Perceval showed no mercy to his prisoner. Perceval killed the other prisoners he had captured, filling a vat with their blood. Then he hanged the Lord of the Fens, by his feet; his enemy was then plunged into the vat, so that the Lord drowned in his men’s blood.
When he heard news that the Knight of the Dragon had attacked Arthur’s kingdom, Perceval set out once again. Perceval met the damsel who carried the dead body of Alain of Escavalon in her cart. The Maiden of the Circle of Gold had loved Alain; this maiden was also a pagan queen. At this moment, the Maiden of the Circle of Gold’s castle was under siege from the Knight of the Dragon. She warned Perceval of the danger, because on Knight’s shield was a magic dragonhead that can actually breathe fire. Only Perceval could defeat the Knight of the Dragon, because she has the Shield of Joseph of Arimathea that he had taken from Arthur’s castle; the one left behind by the bald-headed Maiden of the Cart.
The Knight of the Dragon attacked Perceval. Though, the dragon-shield sprouted fire at Perceval, he was protected by his own magic shield. Angry that he could not harm Perceval, he hurled fire at the cart, burning the body of Alain of Escavalon. Distressed by this act, Perceval cut off the Knight’s sword hand. Then he thrust his sword into the mouth of the dragon. The dragon was enraged by this attack, so the dragon now attacked the owner of the shield, burning the Knight of the Dragon to a crisp.
The Queen of the Circle of Gold and her people rejoice at the Knight’s death. Since the Queen and her subjects were pagans, they gladly converted to the new religion (Christianity). The Queen had her name changed to Elyza when she was baptised. She rewarded the hero, by crowning Perceval with the Circle of Gold (crown of thorn).
Since the Grail had vanished, Perceval’s new quest was this Crown that he won.
Shortly after this quest was completed, Perceval sought to retake the Grail Castle from his evil uncle, the King of Castle Mortal. Perceval fought his way to the castle, and defeated the knights that guarded the nine bridges.
Perceval won back his uncle’s castle (Grail Castle), and King of Castle Mortal threw himself off the tower and died. Because the Fisher King had already died some times ago, Perceval became the new lord of the Grail Castle. And with Castle Mortal’s death, the Grail, Bleeding Lance and other holy relics returned to the Grail Chapel.
There are many adventures of the three heroes after Perceval had won back the Grail Castle. The most interesting and different event is this.
News arrived that Sir Kay, Arthur’s seneschal, had secretly murdered Loholt, the son of Arthur and Guinevere. Loholt had killed a giant named Logrin. Whenever Loholt kill his oppenent in combat, he had the strange habit of sleeping on top of his dead enemy. When Kay saw Loholt sleeping, he beheaded Arthur’s son and hid his body. Kay then took the giant’s head, to take credit for the adventure. Arthur had unwittingly rewarded his son’s killer with a large fief.
Upon discovery of Kay’s treachery, the seneschal fled to Brittany and took service with Brien of the Isles, Arthur’s mortal enemy. When Arthur was sent on adventure to visit Perceval and the Grail, Brien and Kay invaded Britain with a large force. During the invasion and her husband’s absence, Guinevere had died from her grief over her son’s death, and was buried in Avalon, at the hermitage of Glastonbury. Brien was defeated and captured; Kay being wounded, fled back to Brittany.
Instead of killing Brien, Arthur offered his enemy a position as Arthur’s seneschal. Brien proved he was even more treacherous than Kay. Brien set Arthur against Lancelot, where the foolish king had thrown his friend (Lancelot) in the dungeon. Brien was also in league with King Claudas, a mortal enemy of Lancelot and Lancelot’s late father. Claudas landed and invaded Britain. Many of Arthur’s knights had left the king, because he listened to no one except Brien’s treacherous counsel. Arthur later freed Lancelot, but Brien became his enemy again.
Perceval continued to go out, seeking one adventure after another. He had to rescue his sister from Aristor of Amorave, cousin of the Lord of the Fens. Aristor has the habit of forcing a marriage to a damsel, but after one year of marriage, he would cut ohf her head. Perceval arrived in time to prevent the marriage from taking place. When Perceval cut off Aristor’s head, even Aristor’s own vassals cheered, because he was cruel and unpopular king.
The Maiden of Cart then sent Perceval to fight the Black Hermit, who had stolen the heads in her cart. During his journey, he converted another pagan queen, named Queen Jandree. He was also trapped on the ship that took him to the island where the Castle of the Four Horns, the Island of Plenty and the Island of Need. He also encountered his uncle’s wife (on his father’s side), where he helped her to rescue her son from King Gohart. Perceval also witnessed the tombs of his father and his eleven uncles. Then Perceval returned to Britain, where he defeated and killed Black Hermit.
He also met the Maiden of the Cart, again. This time her hair had grown and her arm was healed from a lance wound. Her companion, who always walked on foot since the Fisher King languished, she can now ride a horse. All this happened because Perceval had regained the Grail Castle and done a lot of other good works.
Later, Perceval retired to the Grail Castle with his mother and sister. Even the three maidens stayed with Perceval at the Grail Castle. They lived together for years, leading a religious life. One by one, each woman died, living a life in devotion to the Saviour. Perceval no longer set out for adventure. After his mother and sister died, a ship with a red sail came by, and Perceval knew it was time to depart. Perceval was going to the island where his father was buried.
With his departure, the Grail and other relics vanished; taken to heaven, never to be seen again. Perceval was never seen again, too. The Grail Castle fell into ruin. As to Arthur, he was buried beside his queen, at Glastonbury Chapel, on the Isle of Avalon.
|According to the Welsh romance called Peredur Son of Evrawg, one of the tales from the Mabinogion, the hero was named Peredur. The romance followed the similar line of Chretien’s Conte du Graal and the Second Continuation, yet it was also different in several areas.
Like the previous story, Peredur was brought up by his mother, ignorant of the outside world. His father was earl from the North, who had died in war along with his six sons. His mother had hope that isolation from court life and war would prevent her last surviving son from being a knight. So Peredur grew into a young, ignorant man, skilled as a hunter. Unlike Chretien’s Perceval, Peredur knew his own name and the name of his father.
His life changed when he met a knight named Owain (Yvain) and his companions in the forest, while he was out hunting in the woods. After inquiring of who and what they are, Peredur decided to that he wanted to become a knight too. Peredur was determined to set out for Arthur’s court.
His mother failed to dissuade her son in this adventure, so she gave him several bad advices, similar to those given in Chretien’s version. Such advice as wooing damsel, who don’t want his attention; taking jewellery off from damsel and giving it to someone else; eating food from those who do not offer hospitality. All these advices were given in the hope that her son would be a fool and boorish, so that no king or knight would think of knighting her son. When he left, his mother died when she was overcome with sorrow, because Peredur had abandoned her.
His adventures seemed to be the same as that of the French version, until he reached the castle of his uncle (sort of like the Grail Castle, but without the grail). These adventures include the damsel in the pavilion, which he thought was a church. Taking his mother’s advice, he took food though he was uninvited, took the ring and kissed the damsel in the tent.
Then at Arthur’s court, the Red Knight came into the great hall, took the gold cup out of Gwenhwyfar’s hand, and threw the content in her face. (Chretien de Troyes had called the knight, the Red Knight of Quinqueroy.) Then this knight would challenge anyone to avenge the insult to Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere), to meet him in the meadow for a duel. No knights in Arthur’s hall dared to accept this challenge, because they all feared this knight.
As the arrogant knight departed, Peredur arrived, and the first person he met, was Kei (Kay), who heaped insults on Peredur, when he said that he wanted to become a knight (Peredur was dressed poorly in his country clothes). However, when a dwarf and the dwarf’s wife saw Peredur, they foretold that the young man would become the best knight in the world. Angry at this announcement, Kei struck the two dwarfs. Kei send Peredur after the knight in the meadow, to fight and take back the cup; by stripping the knight’s armour and weapon, would Peredur become a knight. Peredur did so, killing the knight at the meadow with his javelin. With the help of Owain, he stripped off the knight’s armour and donned all the trappings. Peredur told Owain that he would return one day and avenge the insult to him and the injury to the dwarfs that Kei had done.
Peredur came to one castle, where he met the hoary-haired man, who claimed to be his maternal uncle. The gentleman taught Peredur how to use the weapon and armour properly. One of uncle’s advices was not to ask too many questions, which would make him looked the fool. (So Peredur’s uncle played the same role as Chretien’s Gornemant of Gohort as Perceval’s adviser and mentor.)
At his uncle’s castle, Peredur witnessed the strange procession of the bleeding lance, but instead of a holy vessel (grail), he saw two girls bringing in a severed head on a large platter filled with blood. The people in his uncle’s court wept and lamented. Peredur did not understand nor inquired on what he saw.
Some weeks after leaving his uncle’s court Peredur encountered a hag, one of the nine witches of Gloucester. The nine hags taught Peredur how to bear arms and to ride a warhorse.
After various adventures, Peredur came upon the Fortress of Marvels. At the fortress, Peredur played and lost a game of chess against an invisible player. Peredur angrily threw the chess board and pieces out the window. The chessboard belonged to the empress. The only way he could meet her was to kill the Oppressor. The Oppressor was the swiftest stag, with only single horn. Peredur hunted the stag for the empress, using one of her dogs. (Like the Second Continuation.)
Peredur met another woman, mounted on horse. The woman was angry that he had killed her stag. To make amend with horsewoman, he must fight a black man in the forest. Peredur found and fought the black man, who escaped with Peredur’s horse. Peredur walked until he reached a castle, where he met with a lame man and Gwalchmei (Gawain). He also met a youth with blonde hair, which happened to be his first cousin.
His cousin told Peredur that the head on the platter the hero saw at his uncle’s court was actually Peredur’s cousin, whom was murdered by nine hags from Gloucester. The hags had also crippled his uncle. His cousin told him that Peredur would have to avenge the death of their cousin (the one with his head on the platter).
Peredur and Gwalchmei gathered Arthur’s men, where they encountered the hags at Gloucester. The nine hags attacked Arthur’s men. Though the hags taught Peredur the use of horse and fighting, he killed one of the hags when she slaughtered three of Arthur’s knights. The other hags were pursued and killed.
This was how Peredur Son of Evrawg ended. As you can see there was no Holy Vessel in the Welsh story, unless the “head in the platter” was the Grail.
|Perhaps the best story with Perceval as the hero was the story called Parzival, created by Wolfram von Eschenbach (1200-1210). Wolfram was a German poet. To Wolfram, the Grail was a precious stone that fell from the sky. This stone was known as lapsit exillis.
Wolfram denied that he used Chretien de Troyes’ work as his source, even though much of the earlier half of story resembled Conte du Graal. Wolfram claimed that his source was a writer from the Provençal (southern France), named Kyot, which may well be fictional.
There a new family tree for Parzival.
There was another German source found in the 13th century German romance, titled Diu Krône (“The Crown”), but this time, it is Gawain who is the hero. However, the Grail Quest doesn’t begin until the second last chapter of this book.
Here, the Grail story departed from the usual Grail King. The Keeper of the Grail was a woman; well, she was actually a goddess. God had given this duty to the goddess as the Grail’s caretaker, including the kingdom and the Grail Castle, which was suffering from a curse. Only the Grail hero who asked the vital question could bring the curse and suffering to an end. It was Gawain who succeeded in the quest, where Perceval had failed.
See Sir Gawain page about the Diu Krône.