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Parzival - A Synopsis

Source: Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, translated by A. T. Hatto (Penguin Classics), a widely known version. I recommend a more recent translation by Cyril Edwards (D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, 2004). The story is told in sixteen chapters or books, half devoted to the main plot, the Grail Quest of Parzival, and half devoted to the "backstory" about the how the Grail King acquired his wound, explained in the Gawain episodes.

“Alas, we no longer have her kindred with us to the eleventh generation.” The events of this tale happened eleven generations before 1200 AD, when Wolfram lived.

 

ONE: The exploits of the hero’s father, Gahmuret

In Syria, long before the Holy Wars, lived king Gandin of Anjou whose ancestral home was faraway France. Gandin had a son named Gahmuret, a bold and adventurous knight who feared no adversary, but excelled especially in wooing women and avoiding penance for his lustful ways. When Gandin died in combat, Gahmuret refused his entitlement to rank and riches, preferring instead to wander in Arabia. He visited Baghdad, Damascus and Allepo before coming to the Kingdom of Zazamanc where he met the beautiful queen, Belcane. Having just lost her husband, Belcane needed someone to protect her lands. When Gahmuret intervened in her behalf, all was saved.

Although tempted by the many dusky ladies of the court, Gahmuret fell hard for Belcane, who generously offered him her favors. Although she was an infidel (non-Christian), her devotion to him was almost religious. For some time they were happy, with Gahmuret amusing himself in jousts and chivalric tests.

Soon Gahmuret grew restless to wander and find new adventures. On the night Belcane conceived his child, he departed, leaving a letter in which he declared that he loved her, indeed, but Love itself would ever be his Mistress. In due time, Belcane had a child, a boy all mottled black and white, whom she called Feirefiz, “pied son.” Meanwhile, his father had already roamed faraway to Spain.

TWO Parzival´s father and mother meet

Once in Spain, Gahmuret pursued a round of tournaments leading from one country to the next. In Wales he came to a huge encampment, for the Queen of that land had convened a contest for knights from many countries, including Arthur, king of the Britons and head of the Round Table. Apart from jousting, romantic intrigues engaged many of the warriors. Gahmuret was quite infatuated with the recently widowed queen of France, but another woman stood in his destiny. This was Herzeloyde, queen of Wales and granddaughter of Titurel, the Gral King. Her husband had died before they consummated their marital bond, so Herzeloyde challenged the knights to compete for her hand, and Gahmuret won. He accepted with reticence his second bride, for his pride was wounded at being selected in this way. Gahmuret´s heart was troubled by one foreign wife he had abandoned and another who now claimed marital status, supported by the Church. He longed to venture forth in feats of bravery in spite of Herzeloyde’s claim. The knight of Anjou was fated by fairy blood (the female creature who had mated with his father was not human) to conflicted love.

In his passion for female charms, Gahmuret went to Herzeloyde’s bed, and the couple were consumed in kisses. When the knight (now king in Wales) freed the men he had defeated and rewarded them with many riches, all he claimed for himself was the silken nightgown of his lady, which he attached decorously to his armor. Then he followed his courage to engage in combat overseas. Herzeloyde, now abandoned, soon had a startling dream of a shooting-star, the announcement that the mighty Gahmuret had finally been killed. The father was dead, but at eighteen weeks his child quickened in her womb. The widow called her son Parzival.

THREE Parzival becomes a knight in armor

Herzeloyde was determined that her son know nothing of the chivalric way of life, the cause of all her sorrows. Forsaking court life and its privileges, she retired deep into the forest. Parzival grew up in nature, loving the plants, birds, and animals. He was skilled in hunting with a javelin, and knew nothing of the way of life his father had followed. Uninstructed, he wondered about many things, including who or what is God.

One day some knights from Arthur’s court came riding through the forest. Parzival at first thought they must be devils, so huge and threatening did they look; then he took them for angels, due to the bright reflections on their armor. The knights so impressed the innocent boy that he soon lost interest in spearing deer. He longed to depart and enter knighthood. Devastated by this turn of fate, Herzeloyde hoped to foil his plans by dressing him in sackbloth breeches and clumsy boots, like a court jester. She implored him to follow four rules: to greet everyone courteously, avoid murky fords, follow the advice of grey-haired elders, and upon meeting a lady, waste no time to kiss and embrace her, and then take her ring as a token. She also informed him of ancestral quarrels and threats against her lands. Parzival swore to avenge her and set off, not even looking back.

So aggrieved was Herzeloyde that she expired on the spot.

Armed with his hunting spear and clad like a fool, Parzival rode into the forest of Broceliade in Brittany. There he came upon a woman weeping, Sigune. In her lap lay the body of a young knight, just slain. She noted the fresh and charming looks of the fool-like lad, and then, suddenly, she realized who he was: Parzival, “pierced through the heart,” so named because both love and sorrow in great measure pierce the heart of a widow with child.. Sigune informed the boy that she and he were cousins.

Parzival then rode on until he reached Nantes. He cut a rather ridiculous sight compared to the poised, finely arrayed knights he sighted along the way. Arriving at Arthur´s castle in Nantes, Parzival hoped to be made a knight, even though he had never fought a battle. Arthur recognized his talent and sent him out directly to battle Ither, the Red Knight. He was wounded, but he slew Ither with his javelin and took the man´s armor, putting it on over his fool-like outfit. After ceremonies at Arthur´s court, and some lessons in chivalry and jousting, he left that place and rode away to another city where he met an elder, grey-headed knight. This was Gurnemanz, who became his tutor, teaching him about the Glance of Love that every knight desires, for valiant deeds are best done at the bidding of a lady. Dressed in elegant attire, Parzival attended court with his tutor, but his manners were rude and he talked incessantly of his mother and childish things. Gurnemanz advised him never to lose his sense of shame, hold women in high esteem, always wash after jousting, show compassion for those who are needy and in distress, be rich and poor with discretion, and do not ask too many questions. Thus he acquired the rudiments of the chivalric code and manners. Trained in horsemanship and fighting skills, Parzival soon became a celebrated jousting champion.

Gurnemanz advised his daughter Liaze to proffer kisses to the innocent young knight. He has Fortune herself for a guide, he told the girl. But Parzival wished to do more fighting before he warmed to a woman´s arms. Gurnemanz told him how his son had died in defence of a fair woman, Condwiramurs, whose life and person were still under threat. At this Parzival was much sorrowed, for he had heard of so much death and loss, often touching his own family. He promised to accept the hand of Liaze, but only after he had been able to reconcile these sorrows by chivalric means.

FOUR The hero weds a queen and saves her domain

Parzival rode straightaway toward the domain of Condwiramirs, the fortress of Belrepair in Alsace. Under siege and guarded by many knights, the fortress harbored a population mired in starvation and misery. To Parzival, the beauty of the queen was dazzling, outshining Liaze and the other women he had met. He was deeply moved, but endeavored to be polite, not being too forward or asking too many questions, as his mentor had advised.

Parzival arranged for the famine to be alleviated, sparing the deaths of many. The queen sought to reward him with her favors, but both she and Parzival were so unlearned in love they made a mess of it. Returning to the harsh reality of their situation, Condwiramirs implored him to save her kingdom and break the siege. The next day he went into the thick of battle, fighting with a sword for the first time. He defeated the oppressor and made him swear loyalty to the queen. There followed a feast and celebration. Everyone now expected the hero and the queen to marry, but Parzival was still confused about the intimate side of life. Only after some time, and with much fumbling, did they consummate their love.

Now Parzival was king of a devastated land, and not at all sure how to handle the riches and the power he possessed. Soon he asked his wife for leave to see how his mother Herzeloyde was faring, ignorant that she had died on his departure.

FIVE First visit to the Castle of the Grail on Wild Mountain

Parzival ventured homeward, but erratically, with no one to guide him right. One evening he came to a lake where he saw, at some distance, a man arrayed in a hat with peacock feathers seated in a boat, quietly fishing. When he inquired about lodgings for the night, the angler directed him to a nearby castle with moat and drawbridge, the only place around. As it happened, the angler was lord of that very castle.

Parzival was welcomed by knights young and old, and tended graciously by servants who took away his armor and arms. A page offered him a cloak of gold of Araby, a ceremonial garment, saying it was a loan from the princess Repanse de Schoye. In the inner hall of the castle Parzival found a large company seated on a hundred couches with many sumptuous quilts. Fragrant aloes burned in the chimneys. The lord of that place, the angler he had met, was called Amfortas, the son of Titurel (grandfather of his mother, though Parzival knew it not – not yet). He was seated in a hammock near a huge fire, and, to Parzival´s surprise, he looked more dead than alive. Clearly the old man was ailing, and needed to be wrapped in sables to stay warm. He invited Parzival to sit close by his side.

Now a sad spectacle came to pass. Under the gaze of grave-faced knights, a page ran into the hall, bearing the Bleeding Lance, and the whole company set to weeping and wailing. But somehow the Lance assuaged the very anguish it aroused.

Next, through an iron door at the far end of the hall, came a procession of flaxen-haired maidens in scarlet gowns, their heads bedecked with flowers, each bearing a golden candelabra; then four ladies with ivory trestles to be set before the ailing king; and then – more wonders! – four ladies with a glorious slab of garnet-hyacinth, cut thin to make a table-top. The eight ladies wore robes of brilliant green, ample in length and girded at the waist with narrow silken bands. Other maidens, making eighteen in all, brought the serving ware to set this glorious table. And after them all came the princess, Repanse de Schoye, attired in rich brocade, her face radiant as the sunrise. Upon a green platter she bore a paradisal thing called ‘the Gral.’ Lights played around the Gral from six slender vials with balsam burning. The princess bowed to the maidens with the vials, and set the Gral before the wounded king.

Parzival gazed dumbfounded at all of this, thinking it so odd that he wore the cloak of the princess who bore the Gral.

Now the entire company gathered to the table, attended by many pages and servants, and the Gral served forth wondrous repast to them all, dishes warm and cold, new and old, a boundless feast to be consumed from the magic cornucopia. And then, after the meal, whichever liquor the guests desired welled forth from the same source. Parzival witnessed all this in wonderment, but true to the dictates of good breeding, he refrained from asking any questions about what he beheld. While he was musing, a page brought him a sword with a ruby on its hilt, but even then, though prompted, the hero asked no question.

Soon the feasting was done, the ladies performed their services in reverse order, and the company dispersed,. Then it was time for Parzival to retire to his chambers. He slept a while and awoke drenched in sweat. Beside him was his armor and two swords, but no one was around, no page or maiden of the court. Siezed by fury and confusion, he ran through the halls of the castle, but all was deserted except for one page hidden behind a curtain. Damn you, the page cried out, for you did not ask the Question. Parzival was stunned, but when he called back, the page went away as if walking in his sleep, and slammed the palace gate.

Outside, Parzival could find no trace of the departed company, or any trace he found grew fainter as he followed it. After some futile searching, he heard the voice of a woman lamenting. She lay in the grass beside a dead knight who was embalmed. At first Parzival did not recognize his cousin on his mother´s side, Sigune, whom he had met before. When he attempted to recount his perplexity to her, concerning all that had happened in the castle with the showing of the Gral, she countered in a more perplexing way, and spoke in riddling terms. Would you deceive those who trust you?, she asked. There cannot have been such a place, or if there is, it cannot be found by seeking – though many try. Someone who is meant to find it will do so in an unwitting way. Such a place is Wild Mountain, the castle in the wilderness. It is the realm of Amfortas, King of the Gral. His brother Trevrizent lives in poverty and seclusion in a hermit´s cell, somewhere nearby. The Gral King suffers a grievous wound that will not heal, yet he cannot die from it, either… But you are Parzival, she continued, and you must know all about this. Recount to me the wonders you beheld at the showing of the Gral. Tell me, most of all, that the agony of the king has been ended.

How did you recognize me?, Parzival asked. Sigune replied that they had met before and reminded him of their family connections: his mother was her aunt. They were all relatives of the Gral Family, it seemed. He did not recognize her because she had shorn her hair to lament the death of her beloved knight. Sigune told her cousin that the sword he carried, given to him at Wild Mountain, was a magical weapon, but she feared that he had left the magic of it behind! You missed the greatest treasure in the world, she said, because you did not ask the Question. For this you will be considered a dishonorable person, a man accursed.

Devastated to hear that he could never make amends for his ignorance at Wild Mountain, Parzival turned away and departed.

SIX At Arthur´s Court, the hero meets Gawain and, later, Kundrie

It was Michaelmas, yet a heavy snow fell on the forest in Wales, close to the court of Arthur. The king´s falconers were out hunting geese near the place where Parzival had halted. When one falcon struck, three drops of the goose´s blood fell in the new fallen snow. At this sight, Parzival fell into a trance, seeing in the drops the color of the lips and flushing cheek of Condwiramirs, his love. Love enthralled him, and longing for that woman, and that one alone, pierced his soul.

Roused from his trance by Arthur´s retinue, Parzival went to the place where the king and Guenevere were holding court. When he engaged in some jousting for sport, he was almost wounded because the trance lingered, and Lady Love dulled his reactions. Parzival was doubly troubled, finding his thoughts for the Gral mixed with his longing for Love, but Love weighed heavier. Meeting Gawain, one of the greatest warriors of the Round Table, brought him back to his senses. The two knights quickly became bosom companions. They rode off together in search of chivalric challenges equal to their skills. Gawain consorted with many women, and Parzival won the affection of many lovely ladies of the land.

One day a damsel came riding their way, mounted on a Castilian mule festooned with tatooes, but this was no ordinary lady. A long plait of hair coarse as bristle fell across her face, her massive eyebrows were combed back, her nose was like a dog’s, tusks jutted from her jaws, her ears were bear-like, her skin ape-colored, and her fingernails, though transparent, resembled lion´s claws. This fetching sweetheart often brought sorrow to Arthur’s court, where she was called Kundrie the Sorceress. She spoke all languages, Latin, Arabic, French, German. Riding straight into the great hall of the Round Table, she accosted Parzival in scathing words: King Arthur, you should know that the honor of the Round Table has been disgraced by the presence of this knight, Parzival. I curse him and his fair looks! You all may find me monstrous, but I am less so than this ignoble knight who, when he came upon the Sorrowful Angler, failed to see and remedy his plight. A heartless guest he was at Wild Mountain. He saw the Gral and the Bloody Lance, and did nothing, asked not the Question. He is a disgrace to his family. Turning to Parzival, she said, Your renown has proven false. Your mother birthed a widow´s son in vain, for you have strayed from the right path of destiny!

Addressing the court before his departure, Parzival vented his grief without reserve. Alas, what is God? he cried. Were he all-powerful would he have brought me to this shame over the Gral and the Bleeding Lance? Now I will quit his service and be a godless knight, guided by womanly inspiration, not anything divine. And so, nearly cursing God as Kundrie had cursed him, Parzival climbed on his war-horse and rode away with his bosom pal, Gawain. But soon enough they parted ways.

SEVEN – EIGHT Adventures of Gawain in love and tests of chivalry

NINE Meeting Sigune a third time, Parzival finds Trevrizent the hermet, who instructs him in the crooked ways of destiny

Riding through the forest somewhere near Wild Mountain, Parzival came upon a new-built cell inhabited by a woman to be seen only through a small window: his cousin, Sigune, who recognized him after a moment. She had retired to an ascetic life in this homely cell next to the grave of her slain lover. Sigune told him that she was sustained by nourishment from the Gral – brought each Saturday by the sorceress Kundrie!

Distraught by the mere suggestion that he was close to Wild Mountain, Parzival rode away without choosing a direction, letting his horse go unreined. After some time, he found himself in the depths of the forest where a light mantle of snow covered the ground. The horse took him to a place called Fountain in the Wilderness where lived the hermit Trevrizent, deeply versed in matters of the Gral. As they engaged in friendly conversation, Parzival tells the hermit, I am deeply resentful of God, who has set me a high goal, and buried my happiness too deep. The old hermit assures him that God is identical with truth, and one should not play Him false. Anger is of no avail, he said, for it is a Luciferic trait. But Parzival doubted if Lucifer ever existed. Accepting this unlearned response as his cue, Trevrizent offered to teach the young knight about these lofty matters.

Now the hermit instructed Parzival concerning True Love, Grace, and the translucent light of the Godhead. He averred that he had seen with his own eyes the Gral, the source of Parzival’s distress. Trevrizent explained the story of the Gral: that it fell from the crown of Lucifer when he plunged from heaven out of overweening pride. Those who look upon it will by its radiance be kept from age and disease, the hermit told him. And there is another wonder, the Writing that appears on the rim of the Gral, announcing the name and lineage of the one destined to succeed the Gral King. The wounding of Amfortas was due to amorous excess outside of wedlock. A noble company had gathered around that unfortunate king, living with him on Wild Mountain in the midst of a wasted land, where no one ever goes except if it is destined. Such a person once did come, but he was young and indiscreet, and asked nothing to alleviate the plight of the Gral King and the Noble Company.

As the old hermit recounted these matters, he and Parzival looked deeply into each other´s eyes. The moment of recognition came at last. Parzival spoke of his father and his lineage from the house of Anjou. Trevrizent now understood that the young knight was his nephew and a member of the Company. He was the one to tell Parzival that his mother was dead. The hermit did not reproach Parzival harshly, but he said that any Lord of the Gral who seeks love other than what is allowed by the Writing, will suffer pain and sorrow. This was the case of Amfortas, leading to his wound: a spear through the scrotum. This happened in the Valley of the Tigris. When the king returned to his native land, the wound festered, causing him much pain, yet he did not die of it. Only the power of the eternal, self-renewing Gral sustained him. It eased the pain when the Bleeding Lance dipped in the Gral was applied to the wound.

Beholding such wonders, Trevrizent and the Company had fallen on their knees before the Gral. Then a Writing appeared, the hermit told him, speaking in a tone of awe. The Writing said that a knight would come, the son of a widow, and ask the Question, but if anyone were to forewarn him or prompt him to do so, its effect would fail, and the injury of Amfortas would give rise to even greater pain. He may omit the Question once, the Writing told them, but on the second chance he shall save the kingdom of the Gral. Amfortas will be healed, and be king no more. So will the passing of the Gral be accomplished.

Trevrizent sighed, then he told Parzival that he had heard that such a knight did come to Wild Mountain, but brought shame to the Noble Company because he failed to ask the right question. Parzival was stabbed to the heart with remorse. After some hesitation, he told the hermit that it was he, the knight who failed to ask the Question. Trevrizent was deeply alarmed by this confession, yet he siezed the moment to ask, Did you also see the Bleeding Lance at Wild Mountain? You must understand, dear nephew, he continued, that when Saturn reaches the zenith and snow falls in summer, the wound hurts most intensely. The power of the Lance can alleviate it, but sometimes it must be thrust deep into the wound, not merely applied to it. Under these grave conditions, the Company had no more avail to magic powers, but had to turn to the doctrine of the Baptism that promises divine intervention.

Parzival listened closely to the hermit´s explanation, almost overwhelmed by the complexity and cosmic aspect of it all. To his relief, Trevrizent changed the subject. He talked at length about Gahmuret and Herzeloyde, for he knew all about the young knight’s family background. He told Parzival that Repanse de Schoye, who loaned him her ceremonial cloak, was his aunt on his mother´s side. Indeed, Trevrizent was his maternal uncle, and Titurel was the grandsire of the entire clan, the first to whom the Gral was awarded. With these intimate revelations of Parzival’s own life, the hermit’s instruction came to an end.

TEN – ELEVEN – TWELVE - THIRTEEN More amorous pursuits and knightly contests of Gawain, with the story of Klingsor, a black magican

While Parzival resided with the hermit Trevrizent, his bosom companion (almost his double) Gawain pursued a good many amorous adventures and engaged in chivalric contests, which he always won. His love of ladies was without limits, so he went recklessly from one to another, never regretting a moment spent in passionate embrace. His love was carnal, but noble as well. Most of all he wished to win the heart of Orgeluse, a proud and beautiful queen adept at sensuous love.

Once in Morocco, or perhaps Sicily, Gawain came upon a dark fortress wherin he found a magic bed made of glass, the cunning device of Klingsor, the black magician. Even the pavement around the bed was glassy, so Gawan walked gingerly, then he took a flying leap and landed in it! Thus he plunged without sword or armour into a battle with supernatural forces, all due to the shadowy magic of Klingsor. Much wounded and exhausted, Gawain was succoured by a wise old queen who told him, You shall recover with medicine I get from Kundrie the Sorceress, who brings it from Wild Mountain. Gawain was relieved to hear of this connection to the Company of the Gral, but he still had more magical battles to fight, weird and terrifying trials. All through his adventures, the valiant knight was counselled and healed by various women, including Orgeluse and Kundrie.

Time and again Gawain found himself at Marvel Castle, the domain of Klingsor. Burdened with woman trouble, he kept being pulled into an adventure with the resident enchanter of that place. In the palace where Klingsor dwelt there was a spiral staircase that circled around a splendid Pillar brought from Araby. The Pillar was all formed of crystals and geometrically designed. When Gawain ascended it, he saw many marvels and visions.

From a Sabian queen gifted with star-gazing powers, Gawain learned that the black magician, who was subtle and urbane, had a secret purpose in getting men of arms to fight each other. The key to the entire affair came to Gawain in the words of his lady love, the Duchesse Orgeluse. She told him that she was once loved by Amfortas, who in her service acquired his grievous wound. This tragedy had happened because Klingsor, that necromancer, extorted a Treasure from Orgeluse, and tempted men into fighting to win it back for her. Otherwise, Amfortas would not have challenged Klingsor, but if he hadn´t Orgeluse would have become the magician’s slave. Of the men who defended her, the greatest was Ither, the Red Knight, she told Gawain, but, alas, he had been slain by a young warrior named Parzival.

Gawain was startled to hear his friend´s name spoken in this manner. He knew that the adventure with Klingsor must now take a different turn. Many noble people were enspelled at Marvel Castle, where Klingsor regaled them with a mock feast that parodied the feeding by the Gral. Aided by his faithful consort Orgeluse, Gawain escaped the magician´s realm, and they returned together to the court of King Arthur. There it was Arnive, Arthur´s mother, who confided in Gawain further aspects of his adventure. She told him that Klingsor’s magic only reached the kingdom of Arthur in a diluted way, but elsewhere it was extremely potent. His base was Terre de Labur in Calabria. Klingsor was descended from Virgil of Naples, a powerful enchanter. From Italy he and his wife Iblis cast many a spell abroad, even though the magician was not really a whole man, but handicapped - castrated by a rival king who found him in bed with his wife. Klingsor then fled to Persia where he learned the arts of black magic. Because of the castration, he bore ill will to men and women alike. Thus the aged Arnive gravely told Gawain.

In his high fortress in Sicily, Klingsor performed ingenious magic in imitation of the Gral, providing himself with all manner of precious things, and sustenance to last some thirty years. But in his weird adventures at Marvel Castle, Arnive said, Gawain had overridden these powers of enchantment. In fact, he had won the black magic from Klingsor and converted it, so that he was free of molestation and malice. Due to the valiant efforts of Gawain, many noble people could return to a normal life, no longer under the evil spells emanating from Castle Marvel. All the people of the land in Arthur’s realm and far afield as well celebrated the restoration of the Nobility.

There remained but one adventure for Gawain, a final contest that would lead him back to the true stem of it all.

FOURTEEN Gawain and Parzival are reunited

Honor demanded that Gawain, who had accomplished so much, must also avenge the murder of the husband of his true love, Orgeluse. The man who did this deed was King Gramoflanz, but he was protected by another knight whom fortune had designated to fight in his stead. Gawain engaged the unknown knight who, like himself, was heavily armored, head to toe. Their faces could not be seen. When Gawain’s opponent had almost won, the unknown man suddenly abstained and threw his sword away. Declaring to serve Gawain rather than slay him, the man removed his helmet. It was Parzival! Gawain praised his friend, unseen for so long, declaring: Because your heart is true, you have mastered yourself.

King Gramoflanz arrived and everyone tried to sort out the confusion and understand how the mission to fight in his stead had fallen to Parzival. But the matter was anything but simple, and conflict flared up again before the noble men were reconciled. Finally, Gawain departed with King Arthur and his entourage, leaving Parzival alone and feeling quite depressed. At the end of all these adventures, he could think only of his missing love, Condwiramirs. I am of Love’s lineage, he declared to himself, so why has Love abandoned me? May fortune now guide me to what is best to do. Perhaps God does not wish my unhappiness after all…

With such thoughts roiling in his mind, Parzival struck out on his trusty steed toward his native land of Wales.

FIFTEEN Parzival meets his half-brother, Feirefiz, and Kundrie appears again

It seems, however, that before the hero returned home, one more contest had to be faced, one final enemy met and subdued, or reconciled as an ally. Through his life in the Order of Chivalry, Parzival had faced many opponents, usually fighting in the cause of vengence or honor, but this challenge was different. In the East a champion appeared, a man ignorant of Christianity who desired love and fame - the Infidel, Feirefiz. His wealth and privilege were untold, far exceeding that of King Arthur. It was inevitable that he and Parzival would meet and clash.

When they did, the fighting was fierce and closely matched. It went on for hours until Parzival´s sword shattered. At this, Feirefiz, unwilling to slay an unarmed man, threw his own sword aside. He suggested they make a truce, and Parzival concurred. So they sat down together on the grass. When the Infidel declared his name to be Feirefiz of Anjou, Parzival was startled, wondering how a man of Araby could claim a French dynastic name – which happened to be his name, as well. When they bared their heads of their helments, the truth was known. They were half-brothers who had never met before.

Delighted at this turn of events, Feirefiz offered Parzival a good share of his lands in Araby, untold riches and power equal to the Sultan of Baghdad. Feirefiz confessed that he would like to meet their father. His half-brother told him that Gahmuret had been an honorable man at the service of ladies, to whom his loyalty was as great as Christian faith to God, but, alas, he was dead. Both forlorn at their losses, the knights decided to travel to Arthur´s court together. Parzival assured Feirefiz that there were many ladies of radiant beauty in the entourage of the Round Table.

There was a great furor at Arthur´s court at the news of their coming, and wild festivities upon their arrival. The costumes and manners of all those attending were spectacular. Among the entourage of ladies came one who wore the device of the Gral upon her breast. She descended from her mount and knelt before Parzival. He recognized her with a shudder of resentment, but put his feelings aside. It was Kundrie the Sorceress, who had cursed him for failing to ask the Question. Now, she praised him before the entire Company: A happy one you are, at last, to be united with Feirefiz. I bring you news for rejoicing. The Writing has said that you are to be Lord of the Gral. Arise and go!

Kundrie then recited the names of the stars and planetary designs that had determined this moment of good fortune. The Noble Company rejoiced, and Orgeluse, the lady of Gawain, wept tears of joy to know that Parzival´s Question would end the suffering of the wounded king. Many others also wept.

SIXTEEN The hero comes to the Gral Castle the second time, heals the wounded king, and passes on the Gral

At Wild Mountain, Amfortas and the family of the Gral were still suffering their curious plight: to be sustained by the Gral, but stranded in the wasted land surrounding the mountain, unable to leave or share the Gral with the world outside. Amfortas’ pain was at its peak, and the wound stank to high heaven. The family used herbs and fragrant extracts to clear the air, and they surrounded him with countless magical jewels, but this was not the magic he needed.

Guided by Kundrie, the knights arrived quite soon, and the king received them joyfully. Upon seeing his uncle, Parzival asked the Question: Sire, what ails thee? The effect was immediate, for Amfortas began to feel on the mend. Immediately the court set about to enthrone Parzival as King of the Gral. The hermit Trevrizent marvelled that Parzival's innocent defiance had wrung a concession from God.

Parzival left Wild Mountain to join his wife, Condwiramirs, and their twin sons, Lohengrin and Kardeiz, who were living at a nearby encampment. She received him with laughter and affection, and, later when they were alone, deep passion. In the days that followed some decisive choices were made, and dramatic events transpired for the family. Parzival gave his ancestral lands to Kardeiz, his younger son. Henceforth, the Gral was not shown ceremoniously at regular times – now that the need to succour the king and feed the Company was ended – but only on special occasions as happened now, when Repanse presented the Gral to Amfortas for the last time.

As the Company delighted in the feast, Parzival asked his half-brother what he thought of all the rich nourishment pouring from the Gral, but Feirfiz said that he saw nothing of that sort, only a dull stone carried by the maiden whose beauty he adored, and whom he sought to love. The magical spectacle was nothing compared to her. It was decided then and there that Feirefiz and Repanse de Schoye, the Gral maiden, would be wedded. For an Infidel, marriage to such a woman was better than being baptized!

When these events had transpired, there appeared a Writing on the Gral commanding that in the future people served by knights of the Gral must not ask the name or lineage of those who served them. With this counsel in mind, the Company dispersed. Parzival gave the magical Gral to his half-brother Fierefiz who went back to Araby with Repanse de Schoye. Eventually, she who bore him a son destined to be called Prester John, the regent of a mysterious kingdom in Asia. In time, the Gral was passed on to Prester John. Meanwhile, Parzival´s other son Lohengrin grew strong and valiant. When this boy came of age, Parzival abdicated the title of Lord of the Gral, but he did not pass it on to his natural son. (No wise man in search of truth counts father and children as related.) To Lohengrin he charged the mission to succour the ills of humanity as he, the winner of the Gral, had succoured the pain of Amfortas and the Gral Family - but according to the conditions stated in the last Writing.

And so it was in both East and West, through Prester John and Lohengrin, that the transmission of the Gral continued, and continues to this day.

jll: Feb 2006 Flanders - Andalucia

For orientation, see Lesson One in Mythbusting 101: Grail Magic and the Paternal Lie.

For commentary on the Gawain episodes that explain the wounding of the Grail King and disclose the theme of the magic plant (i.e., the entheogenic message encoded in the legend), see The Tale of the Magic Garland.








 

 


Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2014 by John Lash.