‘‘Le Conte del Graal’’
One of the ‘‘Quest’’ versions of the legend of the Holy Grail
(Graal). It was the last of a series of works of medieval romance
written by Chrétien de Troyes, a twelfth-century French writer.
Chrétien favored the Arthurian legends and he wrote one volume
on Lancelot and King Arthur’s court that formed the background
of several other books. Le Conte del Graal told how Perceval
was reared to the life of a forester by his mother, but
forsaking her became a member of the court of King Arthur.
Perceval went forth as a knight-errant, and his numerous adventures
are recited.
In the middle of the story, the adventures of Gauvain, another
of the knights, are fully detailed. However, in the end
Chrétien returns to Perceval, who ventures forth again and
wanders about for five years in a godless state of mind. One
Good Friday he meets with a band of pilgrims who remonstrate
him for riding armed on a holy day, and he turns aside to confess
to a hermit who turns out to be his uncle. From him he
learns that only the sinless can find the Grail, and that he
sinned in abandoning his mother and thus causing her death.
He had also taken a lady, Balncheflor, but he never returned
to her from his wanderings.
Le Conte del Graal was not completed, but copies were circulated,
read, and deeply influenced later writers of the Arthurian
tales, who developed the story of Perceval and filled in many
details of the Graal legend. Chrétien never identifies the Graal,
but its juxtaposition with Good Friday caused later authors to
identify it with the cup of Christ’s Last Supper.
Chrétien de Troyes. Le Conte del Graal (Perceval). Edited by
Félix Lecoy. Paris Champion, 1973.
Lacy, Norris J., ed. The Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York
Garland Publishing, 1986.