Feirefiz

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Feirefiz is a character in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Arthurian poem Parzival. He is the half-brother of Parzival, the story's hero. He is the child of their father Gahmuret's first marriage to the Moorish queen Belacane, and equals his brother in knightly ability. Because his father was white and his mother black, Feirefiz's skin consists of black and white patches. His appearance is compared to that of a magpie or a parchment with writing on it, though he is considered very handsome. There exists a skin disease, Vitiligo, which produces such underpigmented patches across the body.

While serving the "Baruch" of "Baldac" (Baghdad), Gahmuret defends Belacane, queen of the heathen nation of Zazamanc, from her enemies. The two marry, and she soon becomes pregnant with Feirefiz. Belacane won't allow her husband to participate in tournaments, so he leaves one night and travels to Spain to seek knightly combat in secret. Before he can go back, he learns that his brother, the king of Anjou, has died, leaving him to inherit the kingdom. Returning to Europe, he marries Herzeloyde of Waleis (probably Wales), and she bears him Parzival. He dies soon after.

Later, Feirefiz travels to Europe with a huge Saracen army to seek his father. He meets Parzival and the two fight. Though Feirefiz proves himself to be Parzival's only equal, Parzival thinks of his wife Condwiramurs, which inspires him to break his sword across Feirefiz' helmet. Feirefiz won't fight an unarmed man, so he puts an end to the duel, asserting that Parzival would have won the battle had his sword held out for one more blow. They identify themselves, and after realizing they are brothers, they embrace and go off to a feast with King Arthur and his court. While there, the Grail servant Cundrie arrives to take Parzival to the Grail Castle of Munsalvaesche, and Parzival invites Feirefiz to join him.

Parzival heals the Fisher King Anfortas and becomes the new Grail King. It is revealed that Feirefiz cannot see the Holy Grail because he is not a Christian. He agrees to be baptized if it will help him in love, and as soon as he renounces his heathen god Jupiter, he can see the Grail. He marries the Grail bearer Repanse de Schoye, and after celebrating Parzival's coronation, Feirefiz and his new wife return to his lands in the east. Repanse gives birth to Prester John, and they preach Christianity through their kingdom.

Feirefiz represents Wolfram's belief that the Saracens were not wicked or even responsible for their lack of belief in Christ, an attitude that was not common in medieval Europe. Wolfram's cosmology included the non-believers as brothers who had not yet been reached by the word of Christianity.

References[edit]

  • Wolfram von Eschenbach; Hatto, A. T. (1980). Parzival. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-044361-4.