Wolfram Von Eschenbach, “Parzival”

A Romance of the Middle Ages.

Written about 1200 AD, this is a part of what is referred to as “The Literature of the Holy Grail” as it relates events associated with the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur and so forth. I’ve read other versions, but this translation by Helen Mustard and Charles Passage is the most readable and quite enjoyable.

The basic story relates to the hero Parzival with a significant amount of the tale also associated with the knight Gawan, AKA Gawain. It tells his story from early life, to his discovery of knighthood (his mother hid it from him), his discovery of his heritage (son of royalty…also hidden by his mother), his introduction to the Round Table and a variety of adventures associated with them and King Arthur.  He stumbles into the castle where the Grain is kept and miserably fails a test to see if he is worthy to become the new guardian by healing the suffering current guardian. The balance of the story is concerned with the trials and tribulations he goes through in order to redeem himself…which of course he does. In many ways it follows the traditional story of the Hero as described by Joseph Campbell and it is easy to see why Joe used this in his own writings.

There are a number of worthwhile quotes from the book that I liked and recorded:

Speaking of heroic, a person is described as “A brave man, slowly wise”….I like that.

Describing a man who suffered much for his beliefs: “So it goes with a man who is unwilling to flee”.

Some advise given him by an elder:

…See that you never lose your sense of shame
…Leave bad manners to their own quarrel

I particularly like the second of those…leave bad manners to their own quarrel

The ideals in the book are pure Authurean…Honor, Justice, Fortitude and Personal Responsibility. They are woven into every aspect of the story. All the traditional figures are present (Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot etc). It is easy to see why, after 800 years, this book is still translated and printed and read.The ending of the book was remarkable in that it reminded me in many ways, and strongly so, of the ending of “The Lord of the Rings”…the triumphs, marches, gatherings of people and transitions. I could not loose the feeling that this was the pattern upon which that was based.

A final note – in this version of the tale, the Holy Grail is not a cup or Chalice – it is a stone upon which words of power are written. The connection to Jesus of Nazareth is not made clear but the spear that the Roman soldier used to pierce His side with is also a part of the story and directly associated with the Grail. The Grail Stone itself should be viewed as a portable altar.

BTW – The real Chalice of Jesus still exists and is preserved in the Great Chalice of Antioch…..Bet ya didn’t know that…It also contains what is the only true likeness of his appearance and the appearance of the 12 Apostles.

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