|Le Morte d'Arthur location|
|Type||Fictional castle of the Holy Grail|
|Notable characters||Fisher King, Sir Galahad|
Corbenic[pronunciation?] (also spelled Corbonek, Carboneck, (Carbonek or Carbonic), or Corbin is the name of the castle of the Holy Grail in the Lancelot-Grail cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. It is the domain of the Fisher King and the birthplace of Sir Galahad.
As befits the castle of the Grail, Corbenic is a place of marvels, including, at various times, a maiden trapped in a magically boiling cauldron, a dragon, and a room where arrows assail any who try to spend the night there. These wonders cause Sir Bors to name it the Castle Adventurous, "for here be many strange adventures" (Le Morte d'Arthur, book XI). Yet it can also appear quite ordinary: on an earlier occasion, according to the Lancelot-Grail, the same Sir Bors visited without noticing anything unusual.
(Perhaps conscious of this apparent contradiction, T.H. White in The Once and Future King treats Corbenic as two separate places: Corbin is the relatively mundane dwelling-place of King Pelles, while Carbonek is the mystical castle where the climax of the Grail Quest takes place.)
It is on the coast, or at least is mystically moved there for the purposes of the Grail Quest: Lancelot arrives at Corbenic by sea at the climax of his personal quest. Corbenic's seaward gate is guarded by two lions, aided by either a dwarf (Morte, book XVII) or a flaming hand (Lancelot-Grail).
It is unclear whether Corbenic is to be identified with the castle inadvertently levelled by Sir Balin when he delivers the Dolorous Stroke upon King Pellam (Morte, book II); if so, then Corbenic is in Listeneise (and is presumably rebuilt at some point). The Lancelot-Grail gives the name of its kingdom only as the 'Foreign Country'.
The name has several possible etymologies:
- Welsh Caerbannog ('Fort of the Peaks'); this form is used by Monty Python and the Holy Grail;
- Cornish (or Breton) Caer Bran (city of 'Raven' = Bran; this is an extant hill-fort in Penwith; nearby an inscribed stone (Mên Scryfa) gives 'RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI' which in Cornish means 'Royal Raven son of the Glorious Prince'. -ek, e.g. remains the Brythonic possessive form, e.g. Kernewek, Brythonek, etc.
- Mediaeval Gaelic garbh Eanric ('rough Eanric') William I of Scotland (Mediaeval Gaelic: Uilliam mac Eanric), known as the Lion or Garbh, "the Rough".
- Old French cor beneoit, meaning both 'blessed horn' (referring to the Grail as a horn of plenty) and 'blessed body' (referring to the Grail as a Eucharistic vessel);
- Old French corbin, meaning 'raven' or 'crow'; a possible allusion to the Welsh hero Bran the Blessed, whose tale has some similarities to that of the Fisher King. The putative form corbin beneoiz is an approximate translation of Bran's full name in Welsh, Bendigeidfran.
Corbenic has been speculatively identified with a number of places:
- San Juan de la Peña in Spain.
- Castell Dinas Bran in Wales
- Peel Castle on the Isle of Man
- Ravenglass, Keswick
- Whitehaven, in the Lake District of north-west England
- Red Castle built for William I of Scotland
- Scarponnois, a mediaeval county in the department Meurthe-et-Moselle in France near Gorze Abbey
Other Grail castles
In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the first work to mention the Grail, the Grail castle is described somewhat differently than in later literature, and is given no name. In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, based on Chrétien, the Grail castle's name is Munsalväsche, and its history and inhabitants differ from those described in other variations of the legend. In Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, based on Wolfram, the name is rendered as Monsalvat.