Percival (//) (also spelled Perceval, Percivale, and other variants) is one of King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table. First made famous by the French author Chretien de Troyes, in the tale Conte du Graal (also known simply as Perceval), his story was allotted to the fictional figure of Peredur son of Efwc in the Welsh adaptation of Chretien's tale called Peredur ab Efrawc. He is most well known for being the original hero in the quest for the Grail before being replaced in later literature by Galahad.
Chrétien de Troyes wrote the first story of Perceval, le Conte du Graal. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and the now lost Perceval of Robert de Boron are other famous accounts of his adventures.
There are many versions of Perceval's birth. In Robert de Boron's account Saint Graal, he is of noble birth; his father is stated to be either Alain le Gros, King Pellinore or another worthy knight. His mother is usually unnamed but plays a significant role in the stories. His sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail; she is sometimes named Dindrane. In tales where he is Pellinore's son, his brothers are Sir Aglovale, Sir Lamorak and Sir Dornar, and by his father's affair with a peasant woman, he also has a half-brother named Sir Tor.
After the death of his father, Perceval's mother takes him to the forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of 15. Eventually, however, a group of knights passes through his wood, and Perceval is struck by their heroic bearing. Wanting to be a knight himself, the boy leaves home to travel to King Arthur's court. In some versions his mother faints in shock upon seeing her son leave. After proving his worthiness as a warrior, he is knighted and invited to join the Knights of the Round Table.
Knight of the Round Table
In the earliest story about him he is connected to the grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, he meets the crippled Fisher King and sees a grail, not yet identified as "holy", but he fails to ask a question that would have healed the injured king. Upon learning of his mistake he vows to find the Grail castle again and fulfill his quest but Chretien's story breaks off soon after, to be continued in a number of different ways by various authors.
In later accounts, the true Grail hero is Galahad, Lancelot's son. But though his role in the romances had been diminished, Percival remained a major character and was one of only two knights (the other was Sir Bors) who accompanied Galahad to the Grail castle and completed the quest with him.
In early versions, Perceval's sweetheart was Blanchefleur and he became the King of Carbonek after healing the Fisher King, but in later versions he was a virgin who died after achieving the Grail. In Wolfram's version, Perceval's son is Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan.
In modern times his story has been used in such varied retellings as T. S. Eliot's modernist poem The Waste Land, Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, John Boorman's Excalibur and the novel and film The Natural. The 1991 movie The Fisher King is, in ways, a modern retelling in which the parallels shift between characters, who themselves discuss the legend. Éric Rohmer's 1978 film Perceval le Gallois is an eccentrically staged interpretation of Chrétien de Troyes's original poem. Parsival or a Knight's Tale, by Richard Monaco, is a re-telling of the Percival legend. The book Parzival by Katherine Patterson is a retelling of the story.
On the BBC television series Merlin, Percival is a large, strong commoner. After helping to free Camelot from the occupation of Morgana, Morgause, and their immortal army (which is supplied by a grail-like goblet called the Cup of Life), he is knighted along with Lancelot, Elyan and Gwaine, against the common practice that knights are only of noble birth. He is also one of the few Round Table knights to survive Arthur's death.
In the comic books based on the television series Gargoyles, Peredur fab Ragnal (Percival's Welsh name) achieves the Holy Grail and becomes the Fisher King. To honor his mentor, Arthur, he establishes a secret order who will guide the world to greater prosperity and progress, which eventually becomes the Illuminati. Part of achieving the Holy Grail is the bestowal of immense longevity - bordering on immortality - upon Peredur and his wife, Fleur (born as "Blanchefleur"), along with certain other members of the order being granted longer lifespans. He is still alive and even appears young by 1996, when his organization comes into conflict with the re-awakened Arthur and the other characters of the Gargoyles story.
A version of Percival appears in Season 5 of the American TV series Once Upon A Time. He acts against Regina without Arthur's consent.
Patricia A. McKillip's 2016 novel Kingfisher includes many elements of the story of Percival and the Fisher King. Young Pierce (Percival meaning "pierce the valley"), after a chance meeting with knights leaves his mother, who has sheltered him from the world, and travels to become a knight. In chapter 3 he stays a night at the Kingfisher Inn, where there is an unusual procession preceding the evening meal involving a bleeding gaff, an old cauldron and a chandelier. Pierce also fails to ask a question and in the morning wakes to find no-one around and steals a magical knife.
- Barry Levinson (director) (2007-04-03). Knights in Shining Armor (Documentary). Sony Pictures Entertainment.
- Lacy, Norris J. (1991). "Eric Rohmer". In Norris J. Lacy (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, p. 389. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
- Fries, Maureen, and Thompson, Raymond H. (1991). "Richard Monaco". In Norris J. Lacy (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia p. 326. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
- Jeremy Webb (director) (2010-12-04). Merlin: Season 3, Episode 13, The Coming of Arthur: Part Two (Television Series). "Merlin", Season 3, Episode 13, "The Coming of Arthur: Part Two" at the Internet Movie Database: British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Justin Molotnikov (director) (2012-12-24). Merlin: Season 5, Episode 13, The Diamond of the Day: Part Two (Television Series). "Merlin", Season 5, Episode 13, "The Diamond of the Day: Part Two" at the Internet Movie Database: British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- Gargoyles: Clan-Building - Vol 2, #7 - "The Rock" - ISBN 978-1593621674
- Chrétien de Troyes, Nigel Bryant (translator) (1996) Perceval, the Story of the Grail, D. S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-224-8.
- Chrétien de Troyes, D. D. R. Owen (translator) (1988) Arthurian Romances, Tuttle Publishing, reprinted by Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87389-X.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
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