May 1, 2022 at 1:28 am #72966
I came across a book in the attic, I had as a child of tales of King Arthur. It was a gift from my parents and had some lovely illustrations.
Found myself skimming pages over a Parcival tale…how Parcival learns chivalry.
But there were different elements or at least changed elements from the Parcival tales (translations)mostly discussed here.
It seems to be a
“children’s book?” written by Henry Gilbert with illustrations by Walter Crane. It’s pretty thick and heavy for a children’s book but these days ha ha that does not always matter.
I loved it! Inspired a poem. And a drawing of a medieval knight on horseback.
Well I was inspired by that AND a delightful young person’s guide to castles and Middle Ages with colorful drawings…showing ancient construction, moats, draw bridges, types of armor etc.
As I looked over this Parcival tale though there is a twist: Parcival seems to have dwarf or troll friends…
And it is on account of how he proves his worth to them that they judge his character to be true and good.
His troll or dwarf friend is Tod?
At first the trolls teach him how to hunt but this upsets a “lady,” Lady Angharad? Because she seems to be aware of Parcival’s good nature and tells Tod, “I wish you had not taught him that,” when Parcival tells her what he did.
Angharad seems to be described as proud so maybe she fills in for Cunneware?
Since there is no Cunneware or Antanor anywhere to be found.
Of course this book on knights and armor with lovely illustrations hidden amongst its adventurous pages, was delightful to a ten year old child…so those absences would have held little meaning until later. (Smile)
Plus my parents were so cool in 101 infinite ways and this was a gift from them, one which even now as an adult I would enjoy re-reading!
Later Parcival is put to a test when a wild Stag attempts to gore him, so he feels pressure to self defense but Tod runs in and rescues him and stops him I think from killing the stag.
Because perhaps Tod has sworn himself to the Lady’s wishes about Parcival perhaps?
But Parcival has always been very kind to the dwarves or trolls and in return they teach him many things including skills in fighting, which help him later.
Thus when Parcival wants to be a knight it is Tod and all the dwarfs who praise him highly and it is Tod whom the seneschal beats up.
So one wonders what has happened to Cunneware who stood up on behalf of Parcival? And Antanor? Has the story been changed? A different translation?
This Parcival seems quite calm and sure of himself in spite of all his odd appearance. He is still derided but seems to ignore that in this tale.
To me he already carries himself like a “holy fool.”
Before Parcival has his adventures in the forest it his through his skill in pole fighting,(learned from the trolls) that he is able to defeat a much larger viziered knight outside the gates who has come to address some mischief incurred by Lancelot. He (Parcival)pokes him in the eye (this seems familiar from Campbell’s references) and kills him.
Parcival does go into the forest adventurous (but the tale proceeds rather quickly) There may be one witch in the woods who recognizes that Parcival is her doom.
But as far as I could tell in my skim, she nor anyone else curses him to wander.
Because there seems to be only One Trip to the castle. And no wandering in the “wasteland.”
The ones in the castle guess that Parcival is one of the prophesied White Knights…since there are three?
Parcival manages to crack the dragon headed shield of the “heathen Black Knight,”
And it is apparently the Defeat of the Black Knight by a “pure soul,” that heals or makes the land smile.
No emphasis here on the famous question “What ails thee?” Or it’s importance.
When Parcival arrives at the castle, he does show curiosity about a glowing shield on the castle’s wall. And a knight Marius (who must be the wounded grail king) regales Parcival with the tale of his sojourn in the Middle East and fighting to bring Christ’s word to heathen Britain.
The curse is Balin’s Dolorous Stroke…which I can guess.
But the grail king is given rest and repose when the castle appears because others will continue to spread the good word.There is of course a young woman as well who slightly fancies Parcival.
This is tied up pretty quickly.
Parcival is guessed to be the HOPE “a white knight,” and he takes up the shield and rides out to meet the black knight.
And he has inner information that somehow that evil can be defeated by evil because of his time with the trolls who are underground people so thus he can apply knowledge of the “underworld” to his circumstances.
But because of his true nature this evil won’t affect him is my guess.
And he does hit the dragon shield in such a place it leads to the black knights destruction.
And the inhabitants of the castle celebrate and praise him…and it is said the “land smiles.” For now the curse is broken.
But it is broken because of his defeat of the other knight rather than a direct reference of his questions.
Was this a re-interpretation for a children’s book?
Of course alas! I was skimming as I stood in the attic in the midst of other business. So I might have missed other details.
I wondered if any others had come across this version? Wondered if this was a continued evolution of more of the religious interpretations or tellings?
Minus the friendly troll or dwarf friends.
It made me curious…because when one is interpreting myths and stories with certain themes in them…when there is more than one version and when some parts and characters are left out or maybe they are there but don’t play as primary a role…then that must be a challenge.
That’s why I loved how Joe Campbell and others have opened this story up but I’ve long had a feeling that not everyone has read the exact same tales or translations of Parcival.
And that probably influences perspectives and opinions.
Why some just saw Parcival as the Knight who messed up…
Or this version where Tall Parcival in all his funny clothes seems to have this confidence and calm acceptance of his mistakes and learns from them.
Cant help it but still love this book for both its inspirational and sentimental value.:-)May 1, 2022 at 1:48 am #72969
I re-edited the above and wanted to delete my next long ramble but think I can only re-edit. So that’s what I’m doing here.
Was just fascinated by the re-discovery of that childhood book.
Interestingly doesn’t Tod mean fox in Middle English?
That would conjure the idea of Kenning and Cunning as well.May 20, 2022 at 9:55 pm #72968Stephen GerringerKeymaster
What a treasure to find in your attic! King Arthur’s Knights: The Tales Retold for Boys and Girls, by Henry Gilbert, with 16 Illustrations in Color by Walter Crane, published in 1911, can be downloaded for free as a PDF through Google books. The illustrations are compelling, and the tales are perfect for children; I can only imagine the sensual delight of holding the book in your hands, the perhaps slightly musty bookish, smell, the feel of turning the pages, the brilliance of the illustrations.
There are a number of sources of the Grail legend. The earliest known text, Perceval, aka Li Contes de Graal, is by the French court poet (and likely cleric) Chrétien de Troyes (c. 1140 – 1191), unfinished at the time of his passing (Chrétien credits a book given him by the Count Philip of Flanders as his source), and has a decidedly Christian take on the tale. In Chrétien’s account the Grail is not a cup, but a wide, deep dish, and the question Perceval poses is “Whom does the Grail serve?”
The version Campbell prefers is the same one on which Wagner based his opera, by the German knight and poet Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170 – 1230), who claims as his source a Provençal author named Kyot – more of a secular rather than Christian tale. Here the Grail is neither cup nor dish, but a stone (the lapis exilis, which in alchemy refers to the philosopher’s stone and Parzival heals the Grail King, Anfortas, through an act of compassion as he asks “What ails thee, Uncle?”
These are but two of multiple versions. Among others, there is also the Welsh version of the Grail romance, where Perceval / Parzival is known as Peredur and the Grail is neither dish nor stone, but a man’s head born on a silver tray), which appeared shortly after Chrétien’s version. Campbell suggests that, “by Chrétien’s time, c. 1160 – 1190, there was a floating body of Celtic lore available in French, both in oral and written form, from which the poets of the age were deriving the matière of those masterworks of petit romance that stand at the headwaters of our modern creative tradition. Back of all lay Celtic myth.” The Masks of God, Vol. IV: Creative Mythology, 528)
Best as I can tell, Gilbert’s primary source is Le Morte D’arthur, compiled by Sir Thomas Malory c. 1470 from a variety of French and English sources; Gilbert also draws on the Mabinogion, a Welsh cycle of tales that includes Peredur.
You’ll notice the elements of the Grail romance are divided between two different tales in the Gilbert/Crane work. Chapter VII – “How Sir Perceval Was Taught Chivalry, and Ended the Evil Wrought by Sir Balin’s Dolorous Stroke” – seems the tale you refer to above (with Tod the dwarf, the injury to King Pellam from Balin’s dolorous stroke, etc.). But the recovery of the Grail itself occurs in Chapter X – “How the Three Good Knights Achieved the Holy Graal.” In this chapter, Sirs Bors, Perceval, and Galahad together enter the castle, with the ultimate honor belonging not to Perceval, but to Galahad (who in an account from Malory’s Le Morte D’arthur, based on what’s called the Prose Vulgate Lancelot, c. 1180 – 1230, is the child of Lancelot and Elaine, daughter of the Grail king, who has disguised herself as Guinevere). Galahad’s and Perceval’s spirits depart their bodies to accompany the Grail back to heaven, leaving Sir Bors to tell the tale.
Of course, there is no right, true, and original version of the Grail romance (no more than there is any one right way to tell a specific joke – we all put our own twist on it in the telling). Some have questions posed to the grail king, some don’t; the Grail can be portrayed as a dish, cup, stone, even a head; sometimes the hero is Parzival, Perceval, Galahad, even Lancelot. None are wrong, all are authentic.
The stories in Henry Gilbert’s work are truly charming, and have that old-time feel of childhood folk tales. I’m so glad you have rediscovered this cherished childhood companion!May 22, 2022 at 4:40 pm #72967
Thank you for this Stephen! I knew you would know more about the source!
Also interesting, my English teacher (when I was homeschooled) assigned Mallory to me many years ago…so am familiar with that name.
Then there is Tennyson’s poetry…
where the Lady of Shalot becomes more of a “pining faerie,” than a “cheated wife,” or an “enchantress disguised as Guinevere,” as you mentioned…there is always so much more to these stories!
All are fascinating and worthy!
I am familiar with the Mabinogion and find those tales to be quite fascinating, especially as they seem to connect back to an earlier nature-oriented perception…with the animals being the guides.
This is off topic but I was a little surprised that Abrams in the Spell of the Sensuous mostly skimmed over this with only the briefest nod to earlier times in the isles.
Yet they STILL reference that living respect, and appreciation of nature as a vital animating force…
I seem to recall the land itself was considered as a goddess…different places and formations or different sacred areas…and that kind of held over into early Christianity with sacred wells and streams.
But back to the grail…when you mention a “head” being “the grail,” yes I can definitely see how this would borrow from the Gaelic legends!
Bran! ?the “raven” God whose head was cut off…and buried to protect the people and the land.
somehow I thought that tied into the Tower of London too where there always must be ravens.
And then there are the tales of Arthur having turned into a “raven,” after death.
Plus there was another story where Arthur had a son named “Bran!”
(though there was a young fantasy book that took this inspiration so I’d have to re-check origins of inspiration)
But then Bran was associated with a “white raven.”
Yes completely Celtic or Gaelic influences but it makes sense with Wales being associated with Arthurian legends!
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