King Arthur & the Matter of Britain

Sources · History & Archaeology · Welsh Bards · Malory · Arthur · Gawain · Guenevere · Percival · Merlin · Tristan & Iseult · Elaine of Astolat
[Picture - Rossetti: How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival ... ] Percival the Welshman (Percival le Galois), raised by his widowed mother deep in the forest, has never seen a knight, or a sword, or even a horse. He is ill-clad, unlettered, and entirely lacking in the chivalric graces expected of a knight, yet his innocence leads him to the Grail that has eluded so many of Arthur's greatest knights.

The earliest surviving tale of Percival is Chrétien de Troyes's unfinished Perceval or Conte del Graal (Story of the Grail) of around 1190, which spawned three continuations over the next forty years. The analogous Welsh romance Peredur Son of Evrawc is attested from the thirteenth century. Both tales probably draw on a common Celtic Peredur:

Arthuriana was given a totally new European dimension by the publication of the works of the twelfth-century French poet Chrétien de Troyes. Of the Welsh, Chrétien wrote: "{they] are all, by nature wilder than the beasts of the field" (Le Roman de Perceval) yet he was indebted to Welsh sources; it seems probable that he relied heavily upon the same earlier material as the three Welsh Arthurian romances: Owain (or Iarlles y Ffynnon: the Lady of the Fountain), Historia Peredur, and Geraint ab Erbin. These correspond respectively to Yvain, the Perceval, and the Erec tales of Chrétien. It is interesting to note that many of the French tales have retained Welsh names for some of the characters which the Welsh ones have lost.
[Peter Williams, Welsh Arthurian Literature, at Britannia]
Chrétien's tale inspired Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzifal, one of the great medieval romances, which in turn was one (though not the only) source for the tale as retold by Richard Wagner in his opera Parsifal.

Percival the Fool

Percival, an overview of the character and literature at the Camelot Project.
Monsalvat presents many different approaches to Wagner's opera Parsifal, including a plot summary, essays, articles, summaries of the source materials, character lists, the libretto (in an English prose translation with commentary and in German), and pages and pages of related materials.


Peredur Son of Evrawc from The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest, at Taffnet in the UK.
Perceval: the Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes, translation of episodes 1-5 by Kirk McElhearn.
Perceval le Gallois ou le conte du Graal, the anonymous Old French continuation of Chrétien's unfinished work, translated as The High History of the Holy Grail by Sebastian Evans, 1898. Part of the Online Medieval and Classical Library at Berkeley.
Sir Perceval of Galles, a Middle English poem of the fourteenth century, edited by Mary Flowers Braswell with notes, at TEAMS. This version of the story is probably based on Chrétien, but eliminates the Grail quest.
Didot Perceval, or Petit Saint Graal, perhaps a prose redaction of Robert de Boron's lost Perceval tale, as The Romance of Perceval in Prose: a Translation of the E Manuscript of the Didot Perceval by Dell Skeels.
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905) tells the stories of Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristram and Sir Percival. The text and the complete illustrations, at the Internet Sacred Text Archive's English Folklore collection. New!

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7 August 2005