** Parzival: Group Read**

KeskusteluClub Read 2011

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** Parzival: Group Read**

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Muokkaaja: lokakuu 21, 2011, 9:06 am

A thread for those of us that are taking part in a read of Parzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach.

We will start towards the end of November to give people a chance to get hold of the book

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 21, 2011, 9:30 am

Arthurian Romances and the Quest for the Holy Grail

Wolfram's tale was written sometime before 1220 and is one of the first to feature Parzival/Percival, Gawain and King Arthur and the quest for the grail

lokakuu 21, 2011, 9:42 am

Richard Barber in The Reign of Chivalry says:

"The final image is one of chivalry as the fulfillment of a natural nobility of spirit, a bond which links religion, love and knightly service. Wolfram gives to the material he uses an entirely new profundity; he never preaches or forges an artificial idealism on to his characters, but convincingly portrays Parzival as both human and heroic......... It is difficult to do justice to the richness of Wolfram's story; analysis makes it seem dry and theoretical, while it is in fact both profoundly spiritual and one of the liveliest and most appealing of the romances"

This should appeal to all lovers of Arthurian Romances and to those who have read Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes.

lokakuu 21, 2011, 9:53 am

Here's a PPT on the development of the Arthurian legend that I use in my English Lit class, if you're interested: http://faculty.scf.edu/jonesj/JanesPPT/Arthurian/Arthurian%20Legend.ppt

lokakuu 21, 2011, 11:11 am

I am definitely looking forward to this, and hope to fit the Arthurian Romances in before we start the Parzifal read, probably as a palate cleanser for The Magic Mountain which I'm currently rereading. Thanks for setting this up, Barry.

lokakuu 21, 2011, 11:28 am

That's a wonderful slide show. I learned a lot from it, and will come back to it later when I'm deeper into the readings. Thanks for sharing!

lokakuu 21, 2011, 2:58 pm

bas - I'm considering. This sounds terrific. (Jane - that's a wonderful slide show).

lokakuu 21, 2011, 3:55 pm

Yes, forgot to say that earlier, Jane. It is great and I will have to study it more carefully.

lokakuu 25, 2011, 2:01 pm

#4 Brilliant slide show Jane. I have now added The Lais of Marie de France to my to buy list

lokakuu 27, 2011, 7:33 pm

It just now occurred to me to look for this thread. And voila!

I second all the kudos for your slide show, Jane. That makes a wonderful outline for further and deeper study. Good work!

My books have arrived (Arthurian Romances and Parzival), so hopefully I'll be ready at the appointed hour.

lokakuu 29, 2011, 6:52 pm

It's been years since I've read any of these. I took a class in graduate school on medieval romances, and I loved every single one we read (even the Lydgate). A. C. Spearing was my professor at the time, and he was working on his Medieval Dream Poetry book (which I recommend). He would bring in sections he had written and ask for our comments. It was one of the best classes I ever took. I'll have to see if I can find my copy of Von Eschenbach and join in.

lokakuu 29, 2011, 7:29 pm

I love love love all of this old Arthurian stuff, but I've never read Parzival aside from some excerpts. I'm going to try to join the group read, but it will be difficult ... November is not a good month for a college student!

marraskuu 2, 2011, 5:58 pm

I've started the Arthurian Romances and am really enjoying them. Thanks, Barry, for your wonderful review which has spurred me to read them, even though they have caused me to neglect The Magic Mountain for a few days.

marraskuu 2, 2011, 6:10 pm

The Magic Mountain will still be there. Glad your enjoying those Arthurian Romances

I am reading The Art Of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus who was a contemporary and friend of Chretien de Troyes. Its a book of rules and advice to the would be Courtly Lover.

marraskuu 2, 2011, 7:31 pm

I finished the Arthurian Romances, and now am reading The Mabinogion. The second story in the latter, titled "Peredur the son of Evrawc," is the same legend as "Perceval" in the Romances, but with a number of differences both in the story itself and the way it is told. In The Mabinogion at least twice as much happens as in the Arthurian Romances, but it takes only a third as much space to tell the story. Where Chrétien would give a blow-by-blow account of a battle, with shattered lances, fractured shields, dented helmets, blood and gore, The Mabinogion just says something like "they fought and Peredur overthrew him and killed him."

The lyrical passage where Perceval/Peredur stares at the drops of fresh blood in the snow is there, only it is the blood of a raven rather than a goose, and the raven's body lies there as well to remind Peredur of his beloved's hair. The beautiful maidens in the Arthurian Romances all have golden hair, but in The Mabinogion their hair is black. A difference in taste between the French and the Welsh, I suppose.

There are also fewer references to Christianity in The Mabinogion. The picture below shows the scene in the Fisher King's hall. The bloodied lance is there, but instead of a grail the two maidens are carrying "a large salver between them, in which was a man’s head, surrounded by a profusion of blood."

It will be fascinating to see how the legend evolves when we get to Parzival.

marraskuu 2, 2011, 7:37 pm

That's a big lance in the picture. Fascinating stuff steven, I will be reading the Mabinogion next.

marraskuu 2, 2011, 8:40 pm

The Mabinogion is really interesting reading, although it can be heavy going at times as well. Steven, are you just reading the three Arthurian romances, the ones inspired by Chretien? Of the three, Peredur is the most unique by far. Of course, that's fitting, as there are more variations on the Grail legend (and the story of Percival) than almost anything else in the canon, by my estimation.

marraskuu 3, 2011, 12:28 am

I am surrendering, can't join in the read; but, I'll still follow the thread, which is fascinating so far.

marraskuu 4, 2011, 9:18 am

14> How is the Capellanus? I haven't read The Art of Courtly Love, though I remember enjoying The Book of the Courtier, which is an early 16th-century book on the same topic. It was quite influential on the English ideals of Courtly Love (including people like Sidney and Spenser).

marraskuu 4, 2011, 2:24 pm

I'll try to keep up with you guys, using the bilingual edition of Deutscher Klassiker Verlag (Middle High German / Modern German).
I also ordered Wolfram von Eschenbach by J. Bumke, which appears to be a highly academic approach to the author and his extant works. It contains 30 pages about Von Eschenbach himself (which seems adequate, given the fact that almost nothing is known about him except through his works), 250 about Parzival, 150 about Willehalm and 20 about Titurel.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 4, 2011, 7:32 pm

Pim, please let us your thoughts on the Wolfram Von Eschenbach book when you have read it. I have just got through the post The Holy Grail: The History of a legend by Richard Barber. I will try to post any interesting snippets.

wrmjr66, I have just finished The art of Courtly love by Capellanus, which is a bit of a mixed bag. There is a couple of short stories within it and one is about Arthur. As you probably know he was a contemporary and friend of Chretien de Troyes and so his book has some interest. I will review it soon and post a link on this thread.

marraskuu 6, 2011, 8:16 pm

The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus

The chief rules of love are these:

I Thou shalt avoid avarice like the deadly pestilence and shalt embrace its opposite

II Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest

III Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in

IV Thou shalt not choose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry

V Be mindful to completely avoid falsehood

VI Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair

VII Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of love

VIII In giving and receiving love's solaces let modesty be ever present

IX Thou shalt speak no evil

X Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs

XI Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous

XII In practicing the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover

The above are an excerpt from this treatise on love. I have reviewed it at http://www.librarything.com/topic/122102#3021647

marraskuu 12, 2011, 6:04 pm

The Holy Grail. What is the Holy Grail? It always seems to have been a bit of a mystery. Chretien de Troyes may have been the first to write about the grail and this is what he said about it. Extracts from "The story of the Grail, (Perceval)" translated by William W Kibler.

Perceval is in the castle of the Fisher King:

AS they were speaking of one thing and another, a squire came forth from a chamber carrying a white lance by the middle of its shaft; he passed between the fire and those seated on the bed. Everyone in the hall saw the white lance with its white point from whose tip their issued a drop of blood, and this red drop flowed down to the squires hand. The youth (Perceval) who had come there that night observed this marvel but refrained from asking how it came about..............

Then two other squires entered holding in their hands candelabra of pure gold, crafted with enamel inlays. The young men carrying the candelabra were extremely handsome. In each of the candelabra there were at least, ten candles burning. A maiden accompanying the two young men was carrying a grail with her two hands; she was beautiful, noble and richly attired. After she had entered the hall carrying the grail the room was so brightly illuminated that the candles lost their brilliance like stars and the moon when the sun rises. After her came another maiden carrying a silver carving platter. The grail which was introduced first, was of fine pure gold. Set in the grail were precious stones of many kinds, the best or costliest to be found in earth or sea; the grail's stones were finer than any other in the world, without any doubt. The grail passed by like the lance, they passed in front of the bed and into another chamber. The young knight watched them pass by, but did not dare ask who was served by the grail, for in his heart he always held the wise gentlemen's advice. Yet I fear this may be to his misfortune, for I have heard it said that at times it is just as wrong to keep silent as to talk too much. Whether for good or ill he did not ask or enquire about them........... Perceval the wretched! Ah unlucky Perceval how unfortunate you were when you failed to ask all this, because you would have brought great succour to the good king who is maimed: he would have totally regained the use of his limbs and ruled his lands, and much good would have come of it! But understand this now: much suffering will befall you and others.

Later in the tale Percival is admonished for riding out in full armour on Good Friday and he is told to seek out the holy hermit who reveals to him some of the secrets of the grail.:

Sin stopped your tongue when you saw pass in front of you the lance that bleeds unceasingly and failed to ask its purpose; when you did not enquire who is served from the grail, you committed folly. The man served from it is my brother. Your mother was his sister and mine; and the rich fisher king, I believe, is the son of the king who is served from the grail.

marraskuu 12, 2011, 7:44 pm

Thanks for all the background info, Barry, Steven, and all!

When are we planning on starting this? Real Life has been keeping me very busy and cutting into my reading time, so I'm not sure when I'll be finishing the Arthurian Romances which I had hoped to read before we start. However, I'm game for whenever, just would find some timing info helpful.

marraskuu 12, 2011, 7:59 pm

Suggested starting date Monday 21st November. Hows that for everybody.

marraskuu 12, 2011, 8:48 pm

The 21st is fine with me. I have a dentist appointment that morning, so I can start reading Parzival in the waiting room. There's actually something strangely appropriate about this: Until recently my dentist used, as his business logo, a picture of an armored knight on horseback carrying, in place of his lance, a giant toothbrush.

marraskuu 13, 2011, 7:24 am

OK with me. Will try to finish the other book I'm reading this weekend, and then zoom through the much more readable Arthurian Romances during the week. Just have to find the time.

marraskuu 13, 2011, 2:01 pm

#23. Richard Barber in The Holy Grail: The history of a legend provides his interpretation of The Grail story:

Perceval has passed through the early stages of the ideal knightly life; he has proved his skill in arms, and he has just won his lady. Now he must move from the earthly to the spiritual, just as his mother's counsel had begun with earthly matters and had ended with an admonishment to be true to the Christian faith....... Percival is discovering the next stage on his journey towards chivalric perfection - the part that religion in the life of a true knight. The lesson he learns is that of the power of the Mass and of the consecrated Host: the father of the Fisher King is sustained by the Host, just as Percival himself will be sustained by daily attendance at Mass. The climax of the scene is the moment when at Easter, most worthily, Percival received communion.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:30 pm

Chretien de Troyes's The story of the Grail (Perceval) was left unfinished when he died around 1190 and there were a few attempts to complete it, however between 1200-1210 Robert de Boron completely reshaped the Grail legend.

de Boron in his verse poem "Romance of the Holy Grail" and in his prose works "Joseph of Arimathea"," Merlin" and "Perceval" imagined the grail legend in a completely different way and made the focal point the Grail itself. He takes the story back to the time of Christ, relating the history of the grail to the gospel narratives. He introduced a new Grail hero in Joseph of Arimathea, who caught drops of Jesus blood after the crucifiction. After his resurrection Jesus sought out Joseph and gave him the vessel with which he was instructed to celebrate Mass in rememberence of the crucifiction. Merlin through magical powers knows the history of the Grail and advises Uther Pendragon to set up the round table based on the Grail table. It was Joseph's brother in law Bron who came to be known as the Fisher king and he and his fellows became known as the company of the Grail. Merlin informs Arthur that a place at the round table should remain vacant for the one who has been in the presence of the Grail.

de Boron's tales bring us closer to the Grail legends that we are familiar with today. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival written in Germany between 1210-20 ignores de Borons works and takes us back to Chretien de Troyes original story. There is no Joseph of Arimathea, no Merlin and no grail vessel containing the blood of Christ. Richard Barber in The Holy Grail: The History of a Legend says:

Beneath the flourishes and fantasies lies a powerful vision of the ideals by which society and knighthood should be governed: he has built on Chretien's original concept of a romance, which depicts the development of a knights mind and character, and made of it a resounding affirmation of the possibilities of the human spirit.

Some more on Wolfram http://www.monsalvat.no/wolfram.htm

marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:27 pm

Good luck at the dentist stephen, and I hope Rebecca you have cleared the decks for Parzival. Poquette might also be around and Lisa could be reading along as well.

I will probably be off to a slow start tomorrow as I will be working as a builders mate (no, don't ask why), which I am not looking forward to.

marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:46 pm

I'll try to be around as well, though I am still finishing up my stay in a remote sanatorium.

Also, I have the Oxford, rather than the Penguin copy if that makes any difference. Apparently the translation tries not to smooth over the complications and complexities of the original, but I'm not familiar with any of the translations, yet.

marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:54 pm

I hope to start tomorrow but it may be Tuesday as I'm trying to finish something else first. I have an Oxford edition that also includes Titurel and was translated by Cyril Edwards.

marraskuu 20, 2011, 6:55 pm

Good to have you along Tuirgin

marraskuu 21, 2011, 9:00 am

I started it this weekend, but with other projects going, it will probably be slow reading for me.

marraskuu 22, 2011, 1:56 pm

Started it today and made it through an interesting introduction by Richard Barber.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 22, 2011, 5:37 pm

Read the first two chapters and the apology today;

I am reading the penguin classics edition with a translation by A. T Hatto and I thought the book got off to a good start with the first paragraph with its animal similes:

If vacillation dwell with the heart the soul will rue it. Shame and honour clash where the courage of a steadfast man is motley like the magpie. But such a man may yet make merry, for Heaven and Hell have equal part in him. Infidelity's friend is black all over and takes on a murky hue, while the man of loyal temper holds to the white.
This winged comparison is too swift for unripe wits. They lack the power to grasp it. For it will wrench past them like a startled hare..........

These first two chapters tell the story of Gahmuret the father of Parzival and so are a sort of prequel to the original story by Chretien de Troyes.

Wolfram makes much of the darkness of the skin of Queen Zazamanc the infidel. "but not like the dewy rose - she was of a swarthy aspect and Wolfram can hardly contain himself later when he says The Queen yielded to sweet and noble love with Gahmuret her own hearts darling, little though their skins matched in colour.

Wolfram's attitude to women is I think typical of the medieval mind. He will castigate them one minute and then will stress the importance of doing them service almost in the same breath. We are iin the world of chivalry and courtly love but I think Wolfram seems to step outside of the conventions at times. Chapter 2 ends on a striking juxtaposition He has just castigated women in general by saying of the Queen This lady who shunned the failings of her sex reared the child (Parzival) at her breast In the next paragraph he says The Queen of Heaven gave her breasts to Jesus who died to save us all and who we must fear in the best catholic tradition. Therefore when I saw that the next chapter was entitled "Wolfram's Apology", I expected to find Wolfram telling us all what a good Christian he was and that any conciliatory remarks he had made for the infidels should be ignored. But no! he goes back to the subject of women and explains why he appears angry at women in general (you guessed it, he has been cuckolded).

The apology ends with Wolfram pleading with the reader not to take his telling of the story as a book

Rather than it be taken for a book, I should prefer to sit naked in my tub without a towel - provided I had my scrubber!

marraskuu 22, 2011, 5:45 pm

For those people like me who Know little about horses and are wondering what cruppers are:

marraskuu 22, 2011, 6:50 pm

My translation -- Cyril Edwards -- is quite different for the opening paragraphs you post. I will post tomorrow when not on iPhone.

marraskuu 22, 2011, 7:30 pm

>38 rebeccanyc: I was going to say (and do) the same thing.

>37 baswood: How did cowboyway.com get my portrait?

marraskuu 22, 2011, 10:55 pm

I am about halfway through and loving it. It's easy to see how generations have been enraptured by these legends. I'm also reading the translation by Hatto in the Penguin edition. I glanced at the opening pages of the Edwards translation courtesy of Amazon, and would say that Hatto's version is the easier of the two.

The first two chapters are a rather hasty and event-filled recounting of Parzival's parentage. Then the pace slows as characters, sensibilities, and setting get their due. The opening of Chapter 4 seems to announce that we are dealing with a poet, not just a chronicler of mighty deeds:
Parzival rode away. He had the marks and bearing of a well-bred knight. But alas, he was pricked by many a harsh pang. His eyes were at the mercy of his heart so that distance seemed to cramp him, space to pen him in, while all that was green seemed sere and yellow, his red armour dazzling white!

The geography of Parzival is perplexing at best. Gahmuret leaves his Moorish kingdom to participate in a tournament in Spain where he weds (bigamously) Herzeloyde. Yet their issue, Parzival, is referred to as "Waleis," which the translator conjectures to mean "Welsh," but when he leaves home he is obviously in modern-day France.

The subject of the "apology" comes up briefly again at the end of Chapter 6 when Wolfram refers to his female readers. Literate--and critically so--women readers in the Middle Ages! As others have remarked in reference to Chrétien's romance, I am continually struck by the physical, social and even sexual freedoms enjoyed by women (at least those of the upper classes) in these legends. Not until our own times, it seems, would they be as free. And all that kissing! I'm positively jealous.

marraskuu 23, 2011, 7:04 am

For comparison, here is the start of the book from the Cyril Edwards translation.

If doubt is near neighbor to the heart, that may turn sour on the soul. There is both scorning and adorning when a man's undaunted mind turns pied like the magpie's hue. Yet he may still enjoy bliss, for both have a share in him, Heaven and Hell. Inconstancy's companion holds entirely to the black colour and will, indeed take on darkness's hue, while he who is constant in his thoughts will hold to the white.

This flying image is far too fleet for fools. They can't think it through, for it knows how to dart from side to side before them, just like a startled hare."

What I like about this translation is that I feel Edwards is trying to capture some of what must be going on in the Middle German, with the rhyming of "scorning and adorning" and the alliteration of "This flying image is far too fleet for fools."

He does discuss Wolfram's style and the difficulties of translating him in preliminary "Notes on the Text and Translation." Comparing his work to Hatto's, he quotes Hatto's remark that "the reader must imagine Wolfram to be in one sense rougher and less tidy than he appears in these pages," and then goes to say "This translation, in the interest of trying to convey some of Wolfram's stylistic originality, will give the reader a rougher ride than its predecessors."

He also calls the sections "Books," not "Chapters."

I'm just starting the second book/chapter and am also perplexed by the geography.

marraskuu 23, 2011, 7:40 am

rebecca, thanks for posting the opening to Edward's translation. I can see what you mean by Edwards attempts to capture some of the poetry of Wolfram's poem, which was of course written in rhyming couplets.

Poor old Wolfram, no access to google and so his geography is a bit awry. It does make you wonder about medieval people's concepts about time and distances and where places were situated. I suspect they did not have much of a clue.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 23, 2011, 8:15 am

C.S. Lewis, in The Discarded Image, made the argument that there was probably a rather strong discrepancy between the actual navigational knowledge of the world and the examples of cartography, similar to the discrepancy between actual knowledge of creatures and the bestiaries. Seems plausible to me.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 23, 2011, 3:19 pm

There are several notes about the geography confusion in my edition.

"Wolfram's Arthurian geography defies definition."

"Like much of Wolfram's geography, this reference to the Caucasus mountains probably derives from the Collectanea Rerum Memorabiluium or Polyhistor of the third-century geographer Ciaus Julius Solinus."

Edwards also notes that a reference to Britain may mean Brittany "as Arthurian geography does not acknowledge the Channel."

So if a scholar of the subject is confused too, I don't feel so bad!

However, I am now also confused by the plethora of names and kingdoms in book/chapter 2. I'm hoping I don't have to remember them all, but there is a list of people and places at the end of my edition if I need to check back. It goes on for 16 1/2 pages!

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 24, 2011, 10:23 am

Finished chapter/book 7 today and I am enjoying the read.

From chapter 3 Wolfram's story follows closely Chretien de Troyes original tale. There are however some important differences:

Wolfram expands on the grail/gral scene but does not describe the gral itself. Chretien said that it was of fine pure gold set with precious stones and as the mystery guest was served from it then we assume it is a receptacle of some sort. Wolfram shrouds the gral in mystery:

Upon a green archmardi she brought the consummation of heart's desire, its root and its blossoming - a thing called 'The Gral', paradisal, transcending all earthly perfection.

There is no further description of the gral only its magical properties are alluded to.

marraskuu 24, 2011, 11:32 am

I am on Chapter 12. A fuller description of the Gral and its origins is forthcoming.

Chapter 8 is a real treat. It had me wondering if Gawan isn't the model for James Bond.

Wolfram seems to have made a concerted effort to tie together what in Chrétien were independent stories. He makes reference to the characters and adventures of all the romances, and shows how the characters are related. In many cases Wolfram's expanded descriptions make episodes clear that in Chrétien were rather confusing. Chrétien may just have assumed that you knew the background to his characters and their relationships to one another just as a classical writer would have assumed you knew that Helen and Clytemnestra were sisters and that Penelope was their cousin. A majority of the major characters in Parzival are related in some fashion, just as were the crowned heads of Europe in recent centuries.

marraskuu 24, 2011, 12:03 pm

I agree steven that Wolfram is a good story teller and ties up the interdependent stories pretty well. However in the Hatto translation some of the poetry and perhaps the mystery can get a bit lost. I am thinking of one of my favourite passages in Chretien's story where Parzival is standing in a sort of dream/vigil staring at the three drops of blood in the snow just along from Arthur's encampment.

Chretien says:

he leaned upon his lance to gaze at this sight for the blood mingled with the snow resembled the blush of his lady's face. He became lost in contemplation: the red tone of his lady's cheeks in her white face were like three drops of blood against the whiteness of the snow. As he gazed upon the sight, it pleased him so much that he felt as if her were seeing the fresh colour of his fair lady's face.

Wolfram makes this passage more clear and even develops it further

The hero set two drops against her cheeks, the third against her chin, just as they had chanced to fall. The love he cherished for her was the true that never wavered. In this way he became lost in thought till he fell into a trance. Mighty love held him enthralled, so sharply did longing for his wife assail him. For the queen of Belrepeire was mirrored in theses colours her presence bereft him of all awareness.

Wolfram spells out why Parzival is entranced by the three drops of blood. He makes all the connections for us. However in this instance I prefer the slight mystery in Chretien's version.

marraskuu 24, 2011, 12:21 pm

You are both way ahead of me. I hope to have more time to read over the weekend, as what you are saying is intriguing me.

marraskuu 24, 2011, 12:34 pm

I'm all the way at the beginning and not sure when I'll really get started, but am enjoying everyone's posts all the same.

Here's the Cyril Edwards translation of the same section:

The warrior’s eyes matched—so it came to pass there—two drops with her cheeks, the third with her chin.† It was true love he felt for her, entirely without deviation. He so immersed himself in these thoughts that he halted there, unconscious. Mighty love held sway over him there, his wife causing him such distress. These colours bore a likeness to the Queen of Pelrapeire’s person—she it was who plucked his wits from him.

†two red drops . . . chin: the three red dots occur frequently in medieval book illustration.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 11:58 am

Tuirgin, it is interesting to compare the translations, perhaps Edwards takes a few more chances with his she it was who plucked his wits from him

Interesting snippet (in your post) that the three red drops occur frequently in medieval book illustrations. When you think of medieval ism and you think of three of anything The Trinity immediately leaps into your head. I have been wondering about the significance of the three drops of blood.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 12:35 pm

I finished Parzival last night, but I'm still reading the translator's "Introduction to a second reading." It is increasingly obvious as you read the story that romantic love for a woman somehow equates to devotion to God, so I don't think there's any doubt that the three drops of blood is a religious symbol as well.

Doing some Googling I found this interesting connection. On the state flag and seal of Louisiana there are three drops of blood on the mother pelican "as a symbol of her piety." And on both the flag and seal the law specifies that the three drops are to be the exact center of the emblem. The pelican is also mentioned in Parzival.

And here are the first lines from "Little Snow-White" by the Brothers Grimm:
Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, "If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame."

Soon afterward she had a little daughter who was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow-White. And as soon as the child was born, the queen died.

marraskuu 25, 2011, 2:15 pm

Fascinating stuff steven, however when you say romantic love for a woman somehow equates to devotion to God, then I think it would be more accurate to say Courtly Love. The idea here is that the man in love is made virtuous by his desire to serve the woman whom he loves. It makes him a better person, one more likely to do good deeds and therefore one more likely to be accepted in the kingdom of heaven. But how this was squared with adulterous love takes a bit more imagination.

Great connections with the three drops of blood.

marraskuu 26, 2011, 8:49 pm

Interesting about the three drops of blood. I am finding this less easy reading and thus slower going than I would have expected. von Eschenbach seems to go overboard with his writing style and I'm finding all the names and places confusing, as mentioned above.

marraskuu 27, 2011, 4:41 am

Rebecca I also found it less easy reading at the start, but either I got used to the style or his writing flowed a bit more later on in the book and it became much more enjoyable.

marraskuu 27, 2011, 9:28 am

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm hoping to find a little time to read today, and then it will go back to being my subway read during the week.

marraskuu 28, 2011, 5:40 pm

I'm still very early in the book. It seems to me that von Eschenbach's attitude toward women has a bit of slyness to it. It's too early to make a definitive argument, but it seems to me that the women often pair their erotic power with political power to get what they want.

marraskuu 28, 2011, 7:38 pm

service and reward

marraskuu 28, 2011, 8:59 pm

But to be fair to Wolfram, it's the same with the men. Parzival's good looks open doors (and drawbridges) for him, as do Gawan's. With few exceptions, physical beauty in both sexes equates to social respect and to moral quality as well. In men it also equates to martial prowess.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 30, 2011, 2:30 pm

Steven, as a modern reader I found the continual assertion that good and fair looks were an outward sign of all that is good in chivalry one of the most surprising things as I read through. Both Wolfram and Chretien hardly missed an opportunity to praise the heroes for their good looks.

Little is known about Wolfram von Eschenbach, only what he reveals about himself in his writings. From Parzival he seems to have been a bit of a "character". I get the feeling he is continually playing with his audience and it is difficult to judge when he is being ironical and when he is not. I get the feeling that for much of the time he had his tongue firmly in his cheek.

His chapter entitled Wolfram's apology is full of irony I think. He certainly has am ambivalent(at best) attitude towards women and the he tries to kid his readers that "I haven't a letter to my name". After going into raptures about the Dutchess; Lady Jeschute he says about himself "(I fancy none will accustom me to kissing so well praised mouth! Such things never come my way)"

He is not above poking fun at knights and Chivalry even those at the round table "I would certainly not have brought my wife to such a concourse - there were so many youngbloods there! I should have been afraid of jostling strangers......." or "why do I mock these good people, I am misbehaving again"

There are many other asides to the reader; complaints about his poverty, restrictions imposed upon him by his patroness and finally his continual references to his source material, a certain "Kyot", that A T Hattoo asserts is pure invention.

It all adds to the charm of his storytelling.

marraskuu 30, 2011, 5:57 pm

I do find the way good looks are equated with chivalrous behavior a little odd. I think that in times when the poor were really poor (not that they're not now) and diseases probably affected the poor more than the rich (not that they don't now), good looks might have been (unconsciously?) equated with adequate nutrition and good health, and thus with greater wealth and higher social status, and from there to greater chivalry. Just a thought.

The introduction to the edition I'm reading discusses the issue of Wolfram' apology and his general implication that he got the story from someone else who wrote in French (but not Chretien), an idea which the introduction more or less demolishes, as I see Hatto does as well. I don't have the book with me right now, but I'll look it up later.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 1, 2011, 7:38 pm

A poem by Wolfram that might be of interest:

You always sang at break of day
the sorrow of hidden love--
the bitter after the sweet:
whoever took love and a woman's greeting
in secret
must now separate.
Whatever you advised the two of them
when the morning star rose up
then -- Watchman, be still about that now,
do not sing of it again.

Whoever knows, or ever knew, what it is
to lie with a wife he loves,
with no burrowing when slanderers are near,
that man does not have to steal away
when it is dawn,
he can wait upon the day--
no need to let him out
in peril of his life.
Such love is in the giving
of the master's honored wife.

He moved beyond the adultery of courtly love into an appreciation of romantic marital love -- the German minnesanger had a different angle on love than the French.

Here's another by Hartmann von Aue:

Often a friend will greet me thus (his greeting doesn't make me very glad):
"Hartmann, let us visit courtly ladies."
Let him leave me in peace and rush himself to his ladies.
From these ladies I expect no pleasure
but waiting till I'm weary.
I have one mind with ladies:
as they treat me, I treat them:
because I get more for my time
with just plain women.
Wherever I come, there they are in droves,
and there I find one that wants me,
and she is my heart's delight.
A lofty goal beyond my reach -- frankly, who needs it?
In my inexperience it happened once,
I said to one of these ladies:
"Lady, I have set my mind to loving you."
She looked at me down her nose.
So I tell you I want
to find the kind of women
who will save me from such woes.

Translations are by Frederick Goldin in his German and Italian Lyrics of the Middle Ages

joulukuu 1, 2011, 12:07 am

Very nice. The name Hartmann von Aue rings a bell. I must have read him in German class in college.

I had marked this passage on love from Parzival, Chapter 6:
Mistress Love, with old ways ever-new you foster disloyal ties. You snatch their good name from many women; you prompt them to take lovers over-near of kin. Under your suasion many a lord has wronged his vassal; vassals their lords; friends their companions: thus do your ways lead to Hell.

In the next paragraph, though, he admits to sour grapes by saying "This discourse would ill beseem any other than one who has never known your solace. Had you helped me more I should not be so laggard in your praises."

joulukuu 1, 2011, 2:14 pm

One of the things all of these Arthurian romances have in common is a virtually complete disregard for the lower classes who grow the food these knights and ladies feast on, weave the cloth, forge the weapons, and clean up the mess when they go riding their palfreys around in the dining hall--whose crops get carelessly trampled, flocks scattered, and daughters ravished whenever a knight goes in search of adventure.

There is one brief exception to this in Parzival when Wolfram describes an army on the march: at its head the nobility in its finery, in the middle the common soldiers, and at the rear the sutlers, prostitutes, and hangers on. It is medieval society in microcosm and one of my favorite passages:
All too plainly the warrior saw an army led by many banners and marching in grand style.... The contingents of those riding in company there were beyond count. Gawan saw many well-cut tunics and shields with markings altogether strange to him, nor did he know their pennants.... Gawan saw innumerable helmets magnificently adorned with their crests, whose wearers' pages for their bitter sport were carrying thousands of new white lances overpainted in various colors making known their lords' devices. Gawan fil le roy Lot also saw a terrible welter of mules carrying paraphernalia and a train of well-laden waggons hastening to their quarters. The sutlers followed after in indescribable confusion -- how could it be otherwise? 'Ladies' were not wanting either: some were wearing their twelfth girdle as a gage for their favours. No queens they, these drabse were what you call 'soldiers' sweethearts'. There, too, were a crowd of vagabonds both young and old, their limbs weary from trudging. Some would have better graced the gallows rather than swell the ranks of an army and dishonour worthy people.

There can be no doubt that this was one scene Wolfram was describing from personal experience.

joulukuu 1, 2011, 3:09 pm

This struck me as well when I read Chretien's Arthurian Romances, but I suppose it was largely inevitable given that writers like Chretien and Wolfram must have been supported, if not commissioned, by people with wealth, and their patrons probably didn't want to read about the miserable lives of the poor who made their luxurious lives possible.

Once again, I'm hoping to get more reading done over the weekend; just too busy with real life during the week to read much.

joulukuu 1, 2011, 5:35 pm

Oh! That's a good extract steven and I agree that Wolfram does give us the benefit of his experiences as a knight, more so than Chretien.

Jane thanks for that poem by Wolfram. It would appear that Wolfram was not in favour of adulterous courtly love. In chapter 9 around para 8 he says:

when a woman shuns amorous ties outside the marriage-bond during her husbands lifetime both for the sake of their partnership and her own decency, he has been blessed with treasure beyond price as I see it

However this statement is a little ambiguous because it leads one to believe that there were not that many decent women around.

When Wolfram tells us the back story of Anfortas he says His youth and wealth and pursuit of love beyond the straints of wedlock brought harm to the world through him. Such ways do not suit the gral

We can never be sure that Wolfram is not being ironic

joulukuu 2, 2011, 9:53 am

Regarding Wolfram's own attitude towards women he says this at the end of Chapter 6:
Now I am sure that any intelligent woman who reads this, granted she be sincere, will truthfully agree with me that I have succeeded in narrating better on the subject of women than I once sang of a certain lady.

The "certain lady" is a reference to his "apology."

Actually what struck me about this passage when I first read it and caused me to flag it is the reference to women as readers. I had thought that at that time there were few literate women outside the convents, yet here Wolfram is considering them part of his audience.

joulukuu 2, 2011, 10:23 am

This may be well-known to many but I only realized after reading the epic that "Star Wars" is largely based on Parzival.

As the story begins, Luke Skywalker/Parzival is being raised in obscurity on a farm to hide from him the fact that his father was a famous (Jedi) Knight lest he follow in his footsteps. But after a chance encounter with a knight, he runs away to become one himself. His first tutor, Obi-Wan/Gurnemanz teaches him swordsmanship. He also learns about the Force/Chivalry, but the tutor withholds information that will later cause him grief. He second tutor, Yoda/Trevrizent, is a recluse living deep in the woods. Luke/Parzival goes to him twice and receives key spiritual guidance. It is from Yoda/Trevrizent that he finally learns the truth about his father and mother.

Luke/Parzival is aided in his quest by an adventurer named Han Solo/Gawan. Han/Gawan is a bold fighter, but also a ladies' man. His interests are more secular and material. But before he can devote his full energies to his friend's quest, he must clear his name with Jabba the Hutt/Vergulaht.

Star Wars also seems to have borrowed elements from Wagner's Ring Cycle or its source epics. Luke/Siegmund courts Leia/Sieglinde, not knowing she is his twin sister. Together they fight against their father, Vader/Wotan who is pursuing them relentlessly. Luke/Siegmund uses a magic sword. There is a severing of hands in the opera as there is in the film, but I don't recall of whose by whom.

It's finding cultural links like this that makes the study of early literature rewarding even beyond the pleasure of reading it.

joulukuu 2, 2011, 11:10 am

>66 StevenTX: Women of the upper classes were often educated (either by private tutors or in convents), in part because their responsibilities in running a household required literacy. Women were also a significant part of the patronage system by which writers made money in pre-copyright days.

joulukuu 2, 2011, 6:31 pm

67> great catch! I had never thought of Parzival with Star Wars -- but you've pointed out brilliant parallels. Parzival (Luke) is certainly searching for the male aspects of his psyche -- the only parallel problem is that Luke never finds his Condwiramurs. Gawan (Han) needs to connect with the female aspects of his psyche. Leia is a great counterpart to Orgeluse, but in Parzival, Gawan also has to rescue his mother and sisters.

The Jungian (Joseph Campbellian) ideas of the animus/anima not only fuel Star Wars, but illuminate Parzival.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 5:57 pm

Parzival and Star Wars, yes I can buy that: jousting in space.

It has also been suggested that Thomas Mann's The magic Mountain has more than a passing nod to Parzival, but having just read it I can confidently say that Hans Castorp is no Parzival.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 6:48 pm

Well, I finished it, and I have to say I liked the Chrétien version better. I'm going to think about it overnight and then post some thoughts.

joulukuu 3, 2011, 7:35 pm

Well done rebecca - was it a bit of a struggle?

I posted a review of it today and on the whole I prefer Chretien.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 12:59 am

#70 It's been several years since I read the latter , but I don't see any obvious connection between Parzival and The Magic Mountain either. There is this in the Wikipedia article:

'According to the author, the protagonist is a questing knight, the ''pure fool" looking for the Holy Grail in the tradition of Parzival.'

Even if Mann intended it so, that's a very loose connection.

joulukuu 4, 2011, 9:08 am

It was a bit of a struggle, Barry, but I'm glad I read it. I've posted a review on my Club Read reading thread, but in essence I found Wolfram's writing style convoluted and heavy, his obsession with names and places overwhelming and confusing, and the jousts endless and interchangeable. On the other hand, I liked his sly personal interjections, his occasionally poetic style, and gaining an understanding of one of the earliest versions of the grail legend.

Thanks to all of you for your insights and encouragement.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 11:53 am

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for our Time by Lindsay Clarke

I could not resist reading this when I realised that it was a retelling of Wolfram's Parzival. Lindsay says that it is a form and language which may make it more accessible to a wider audience in our time; and there's the rub. Making it more accessible has also meant investing his characters with emotions and feelings that belong more to our time than medieval times. He has not gone too far down this path, but it may read a little hollow to those people who are familiar with medieval literature.

He also apologises to people who have read Wolfram's story for streamlining and changing the order of some of the events. He actually gives some characters greater prominence and others are missing altogether.

On the whole I enjoyed it. It has enough of Wolfram's story to make it an authentic re-telling and it moves at a fairly fast pace and his writing style flows without any modern idioms jumping off the page. His interpretations of some of the events had me scurrying back to the original to check if I had missed something. His afterword where he relates the story to the modern world has some interest, especially his ideas on the meaning of "wholeness" in Wolframs tale.

What next then? Listening to Wagner's opera Parzival perhaps.

joulukuu 5, 2011, 2:31 pm

I think I'll pass on this one. I didn't find anything inaccessible about the original--but then I've been immersed in Medieval literature for a while.

But the phrase "stone from heaven" reminds me of something I've been meaning to suggest. I wonder if the "gral" of legend didn't originate historically as a meteorite that was assumed to have magical powers by some pagan worshipers, and this merged with Christian beliefs into a stone brought down from heaven. It could actually exist somewhere.

Listening to or watching the opera is a great idea. I ran to Amazon to check for CDs and DVDs. The prices are rather steep, so I just put one on my wish list for now.

joulukuu 6, 2011, 9:08 am

I am so far behind on this, I fear everyone will have forgotten it by the time I finish! As usual, I am taking on more than I can reasonably handle...

I am currently reading Origen's "An Exhortation to Martyrdom." I have been struck by how similar the language of martyrdom is to the language of knights' devotion to their lady. It's not a new idea that courtly romance borrows from theology, but I hadn't thought of it in terms of an individual's willingness to die for the object of adoration.

joulukuu 6, 2011, 5:07 pm

It had not struck me either wrmjr66, interesting

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 6, 2011, 5:19 pm

Your comment about "an individual's willingness to die for the object of adoration" immediately made me think of Max Beerbohm's hilarious novel Zuleika Dobson, which is a satire of such type of love.

joulukuu 6, 2011, 5:59 pm

I really have to read Zuleika Dobson sometime; my father was very fond of it.

joulukuu 8, 2011, 9:57 am

Looking back over Parzival at the passages I had flagged, there is this one near the end of Chapter 6 (p. 172 in the Penguin) when Gawan and Parzival are parting for their separate quests and Gawan says "May God then grant you a favourable outcome, and may He help me too to go on serving you as I would wish."

Parzival replies,
'Alas, what is God?' asked the Waleis. 'Were He all-powerful - were God active in His almightiness - he would not have brought us to such shame! Ever since I knew of Grace I have been His humble servitor. But now I will quit His service! If He knows anger I will shoulder it. My friend, when your hour of combat is at hand, let a woman join issue in your stead, let her guide your hand! Let the love of one whom you know to be modest and given to womanly virtues watch over you there. I do not know when I will see you again. May all good wishes be fulfilled for you.'

It's fascinating that he rejects God, yet embraces courtly love all the more, and venerates women in religious terms. This is a very beautiful passage..

joulukuu 8, 2011, 2:32 pm

steven, he certainly rejects God here, but I am not so sure he (Parzival) embraces courtly love When we see Parzival again he is with Sigune and there is no hint that his adventures have involved women and courtly love. Does he venerate women? he certainly venerates and remains true to Condwiramurs. Wolfram in one of his many interjections says at this meeting with Sigune:

When a woman shuns amorous ties outside the marriage bond during her husband's lifetime both for the sake of their partnership and her own decency, he has been blessed with a treasure beyond price, as I see it. No restraint becomes her so well, and I am ready to testify, if wanted. p223.

Perhaps in Wolfram's/Parzivals eyes it is only these women who "are a treasure beyond price" that should be venerated.

joulukuu 13, 2011, 10:53 pm

I've just finished Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg. I won't repeat what I said in my review, but will mention here just some interesting points of similarity and contrast with Parzival.

First there is the rivalry between the two authors. Gottfried won't even mention Wolfram by name, referring to him instead as the "friend of the hare" and classing him among those:
Inventors of wild tales, hired hunters after stories, who cheat with chains and dupe dull minds, who turn rubbish into gold for children and from magic boxes pour pearls of dust!

Gottfried insists that he adheres strictly to his sources, yet even he can't resist alluding to his own romantic affairs a couple of times in his writing. On the whole, however, his writing is more serious and formal than Wolfram's.

Tristan is not Arthurian, at least in this version. I recall only one brief mention of King Arthur, but it was in an aside not essential to the story. Gottfried's story takes place in an England and France ruled by others than Arthur.

One huge difference in the two stories is the relative absence of religion in Tristan. When Isolde is forced by Mark to swear an oath "In the name of God" that she has never lain with Tristan, she does so by means of a bit of legalistic trickery. Gottfried observes her hypocrisy:
Thus it was made manifest and confirmed to all the world that Christ in His great virtue is pliant as a windblown sleeve. He falls into place and clings, whichever way you try Him, closely and smoothly as He is bound to do. He is at the beck of every heart for honest deeds or fraud. Be it deadly earnest or a game, He is just as you would have Him.

We were discussing earlier the notion that physical strength and beauty were considered the outward manifestations of divine favor. Here, interestingly, is Isolde's argument in the reverse--that Tristan's physical perfection makes him worthy of God's special attention. At the time she speaks these words, she believes Tristan to be only a poor minstrel, and chides the Almighty:
O Lord, Worker of Miracles, if anything that Thou dost or hast done, and anything Thou has created falls short in any way, there is a failure here, in that this splendid man, whom Thou hast endowed with such physical perfections, should seek his livelihood wandering from land to land so precariously. By rights he should rule a kingdom or some land of suitable standing. It is an odd world, where so very many thrones are filled by men of inferior race and not one has fallen to his lot. So proper and well-nurtured a person should have honor and possessions. He has been greatly wronged: Lord, Thou hast given him a station in life out of keeping with his person!


joulukuu 14, 2011, 12:05 am

There's one other parallel I should mention between Tristan and Parzival. Tristan's eventual demise is brought about by a poison-tipped lance that pierces him in the groin, causing a festering wound that emits a foul stench. He lingers for months in great discomfort from this wound, and only one person can cure him.

Now there's nothing whatsoever to suggest that Tristan is the Fisher King, or that the characters have a common origin, but their sufferings are oddly similar.

joulukuu 14, 2011, 9:07 am

Very interesting about Tristan and how it compares with Parzival. I've bought a different version, The Romance of Tristan by Beroul and will be interested to see how it compares, when I get around to it, which probably won't be until next year.

joulukuu 14, 2011, 9:58 am

#83 & 84, Really interesting steven, especially the bit about Tristan's demise. The whole Tristan and Iseult tale seems to have a complicated history with both prose and poetic versions.

Tristan seems to be very different from the usual tales of chivalry, because its main subject is romantic love, not courtly love. The love potion sounds a nice touch and may have placated the religious authorities at the time because the lovers were not able to control their passions.

Richard Barber in his book about the Holy Grail says that the Tristan story was swept up with all the rest of the knightly stories into the Arthur legends, although it was a very different story.

joulukuu 14, 2011, 12:18 pm

84> Thigh and groin wounds have a long history (Adonis, Odysseus, etc.) and they are of course related to castration anxieties. Tristan, as I recall, has other such moments (e.g., sleeping in bed together with a sword to keep the lovers separate). I'm sure that there are other instances in courtly romances where nights are wounded in the thigh.

joulukuu 14, 2011, 8:30 pm

In the Celtic (and many of the Arthurian) love triangles, there is also the issue of sovereignty. The younger knight challenges the older king for the right of sovereignty by wooing the queen (who in mythic terms represents the Sovranty -- or the land itself). The theme is more or less deeply embedded. When the younger knight is a sororal nephew (like Tristan and Mordred -- both nephew and son) -- he is also the heir to the throne in the Celtic matrilineal tradition. The focus obviously shifts in the later Middle Ages with the imposition of patriliny and the introduction of amour courtois ,

joulukuu 15, 2011, 9:05 am

jane, thats very interesting. Have you read Porius by John Cowper Powys that explores those issues (as well as the Arthur legends) in fiction form?

joulukuu 15, 2011, 9:46 am

#88 - Interesting. Parzival was the sororal nephew and heir of Anfortas, the Grail king. Gawan is Arthur's sororal nephew and favorite. It's a system that makes sense because paternity is never an issue. Marital infidelity may cause personal strife, but it doesn't bring on a dynastic crisis.

joulukuu 15, 2011, 8:07 pm

Barry -- I've not read Porius though I followed the group read thread. I'm afraid tomes like that will have to wait for retirement -- I just don't have the time to focus on one book that long right now.

joulukuu 16, 2011, 11:54 pm

88 > And perhaps that's why Mordred was turned into Arthur's bastard son in later versions, because the matrilineal tradition and the rights of sororal nephews became obsolete? Fascinating stuff.