Perlesvaus

PERLESVAUS : THE BLOOD GRAIL

BRIAN COLLESS

SYNOPSIS

Previously, we considered two related accounts of Perceval’s quest for the Grail:
(1) Perceval and the Gold Grail, in the French Perceval of Crestien de Troyes (left incomplete by the author, but continuations were provided by other poets);
(2) Parzival and the Stone Grail, in the German Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach
(a reworking of Crestien’s uncompleted epic-poem, with a new beginning and an ending).

We can now add three more French pieces on the Grail, from the 13th Century.
[1] Perlesvaus or Le Haut Livre du Graal (The High Book of the Grail).
[2] Robert de Boron, Le Roman de l’histoire du Graal, or Joseph d’Arimathie (in a prose version as well as verse);
[3] Perceval, ou la Quête du Saint Graal (commonly known as the Didot-Perceval, or the Prose Perceval; the Boron Perceval. He also produced Le Roman de Merlin or the Early History of King Arthur.

Robert de Boron’s History of the Grail recounts the New Testament biographies of Jesus, and sets forth an origin for the Grail (Joseph of Arimathea handed it on). His Perceval begins with Perceval’s father and his concern for his son (in the two earlier accounts, of Crestien and Wolfram, the mother was a widow-woman when the boy was born). 

Perceval’s father in this account is named Alain le Gros. Before he died he often spoke to his son about going to serve at the brilliant court of King Arthur. He is made a knight, and has various adventures , including a chess game against an invisible opponent, falling in love with a damsel, and a few fierce fights.

The ugly damsel and her lover make their customary appearance: the hideous woman, who had no lover, in Wolfram’s epic; but, as I say, there is always someone who will fall in love with a face that most people find unattractive; she was accompanied by her lover known as the Biaus Mauvais (beautful baddy?)  (‘the handsome coward’). Perceval laughs at her ugliness, and gets into yet another scrap, with her beau, who loses. As is his wont, Perceval sends them off to submit to King Arthur; and she eventually becomes beautiful!

In Robert’s account, Perceval fails the test on his first visit, but he asks the question next time, and the maimed king is healed.

In The High Book of the Grail, Perceval (Perlesvaus), then Gawain, then Lancelot fail. The king dies before Perceval can have another attempt!  The Grail Castle flourishes but eventually disappears.

What is the Grail? It is not a dispenser of normal food and drink. It is now a chalice, used in the mass, for imparting divine eucharistic grace. It was the cup used at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea collected some of the Saviour’s blood in it. It was associated with the spear of the Roman Longinus, which pierced Christ’s side when he was on the cross.

Where is the Grail? In the Grail Castle of the Fisher King, as usual. This time, in both books, it is in the British isles, not on the mainland (where Wolfram put it).
 
Whence is the Grail? From the Holy Land, brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. The story is preserved at Avalon, where King Arthur lies; Avalon is identified as Glastonbury in Somerset.

Whose is the Grail?  The Fisher King is named Bron in Robert de Boron’s account. The names in the genealogies differ in all four texts we have considered. However, even before the Holy Bloodline explanation for the Grail was published, scholars were saying that the Grail story was about lineage and a family secret.
 

PERLESVAUS : THE BLOOD GRAIL

Previously, we considered two related accounts of Perceval’s quest for the Grail:
(1) Perceval and the Gold Grail, in the French Perceval of Crestien de Troyes (left incomplete by the author, but continuations were provided by other poets);
(2) Parzival and the Stone Grail [the Grail-house rock], in the German Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach (a reworking of Crestien’s uncompleted epic-poem, with a new beginning and an ending).

We can now add three more French pieces on the Grail, from the 13th Century.
[1] Perlesvaus or Le Haut Livre du Graal (The High Book of the Grail).
[2] Robert de Boron, Le Roman de l’histoire du Graal, or Joseph d’Arimathie (in a prose version as well as verse); and [3] Perceval, ou la Quête du Saint Graal (commonly known as the Didot-Perceval, or the Prose Perceval; the Boron Perceval). He also produced Le Roman de Merlin or the Early History of King Arthur.

Robert de Boron’s stories are earlier than the Perlesvaus, so we will start with his Perceval. His History of the Grail recounts the New Testament biographies of Jesus, and sets forth an origin for the Grail. His Perceval begins with Perceval’s father and his concern for his son (recall, in the two earlier accounts, of Crestien and Wolfram, the mother was a widow-woman when the boy was born). 

Perceval’s childhood
Perceval’s father in this account is named Alain le Gros. Before he died he often spoke to his son about going to serve at the brilliant court of King Arthur. Perceval departed without informing his mother. So, will she die of grief?
Arthur made Perceval into a knight, and he learned chivalry.

Perceval and the Round Table
Arthur held a great feast at Pentecost to renew the Round Table, according to the instructions of Merlin at the coronation. There were thirteen seats (13th associated with Judas Iscariot). Elaine the sister of Gauvain, enamoured of the handsome Perceval, invited him to disguise himself and take part in a tournament, wearing armour she provided. Perceval unhorsed Sagremor and Keu (the two who are rude to him in the blood on the snow episode); also Yvain and Lancelot were discomfited by the fledgeling knight .  Everyone hailed him as worthy to take the vacant seat at the Table, but Arthur objected because Merlin had ordered that it be left empty.  Perceval insisted, but when he sat down the stone split beneath him, darkness descended, and a voice reproved Arthur for violating Merlin’s decree. It then announced that the Grail was in the land; and that the Fisher King, Bron by name, the grandfather of Perceval, was sick: he would not be cured and the split stone would not be repaired until a surpassing knight had come with the help of God to the house of that king, and had asked about the Grail. All thirteen of them volunteered and set off singly on the quest.

Perceval and the weeping maiden
He encountered a damsel weeping over the body of a dead knight, who had rescued her from a giant, but had then been killed by Orguelleus de la Lande. When he eventually appeared on the scene again, Perceval defeated him and sent him as a prisoner to Arthur, and dispatched the damsel to the Queen.

(This is a muddle of the damsel in the tent story of Crestien; there is a tent in it, and a wicked dwarf, who pulls the tent down on all the people partying in it.)

Perceval at the Chessboard Castle
Various adventures, including a chess game against an invisible opponent, falling in love with a damsel, and a few fierce fights.

Perceval visits his sister, and his hermit uncle.
He came upon his parents’ home in the Waste Forest. His sister (not his cousin) told him his mother had died of sorrow when he went away. She asked whether he had been to the house of his grandfather yet; Perceval replied he had been searching in vain for the Fisher King for more than three years. They go to the hermitage of their uncle, a brother of Alain le Gros, for Perceval to do penance for occasioning his mother’s death. Perceval is told that he is destined to find the Fisher King and the Grail. He enjoins him to avoid sin and stop killing knights. Unfortunately, on the way home a knight attempts to kidnap the sister, and Perceval has to slay him in self-defense.

The ugly damsel and her lover
Well now, here comes that hideous woman, who had no lover, in Wolfram’s epic; but, as I say, there is always someone who will fall in love with a face that most people find unattractive; she was accompanied by her lover known as the Biaus Mauvais (beautful baddy?) [another case of the good, the bad, and the ugly] (‘the handsome coward’). In this version she is not called Cundrie but Rosete li Bloie (little blue rose? no, bloie is blonde; la Blonde is written in one version). Perceval laughs at her ugliness, and gets into yet another scrap, with her beau, who loses. As is his wont, Perceval sends them off to submit to King Arthur.
(Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy: she eventually becomes beautiful!)
(Certainly not by plastic surgery: her inner loveliness simply shines through)
[Wagner’s Kundry wavers between unlovely hag and voluptuous seductress.]

First visit to the house of the Fisher King
After a number of strange encounters, he came to a river, and caught site of  . . . three men in a boat [aha! but it is not George, Harris, and Jerome K. Jerome].
The venerable one of the trio, who is actually his grandfather, asked him to stay the night and sent him along the river to his castle. Perceval set off but could not find it, and got angry with his host [fishers were ever deceivers]; but finally Perceval perceived it between two hills (therefore in a ‘val’, a vale, but Robert does not actually use that word).  This is the same as Crestien’s version.
At the dinner in the hall, a maiden came out of a room carrying two [number-inflation] small silver tailleors (platters for carving meat). Then a youth bearing a lance, dripping blood (three drops, according to the homeopathic prescription). After them came another youth [not a damsel (CT)? not the Grail-queen (WE)?] carrying in his hands the vessel our Lord gave to Joseph (of Arimathea). (Because the Grail is now a sacramental cup, it can not be touched by a woman?)

Much beating of breasts  and bowing [bauwing not bouwing, but how anyone is expected to know which is which in this crazy system, is beyond me] .
Perceval remembered some advice his mother gave him [such instruction was not previously mentioned in this account, and no Gurnemanz advising him, either!]; so he did not ask any questions, even though the king spoke at length to try to prod him into popping the question. Bron the king was sad, because Christ had revealed to him that he would not be healed until a knight had asked what one served with the Grail (que on en servoit). (The required questions get more and more abstruse. Is that ‘who is served?’ or ‘what is served?’) On awaking next morning Perceval found the castle deserted. He rode out to find some one to ask about the vessel and the lance; but he met no one, and lost the way to the castle.

The weeping maiden
She reappears on cue: reproaches him for not asking the questions, and attributes his failure to not being sufficiently wise, worthy, and valiant to have charge of the precious vessel. He then goes off and finishes the Chessboard Castle adventure. He wanders for another seven years, returns to his hermit uncle for penance. He then takes part in a tournament [tut tut] with some of Arthur’s knights. He is upbraided for this by an old reaper with a scythe, who turns out to be Merlin the wizard, who kindly shows him the way back to the Fisher King’s home.

The second visit to the Grail-castle
Perceval was there in a flash, and was soon seated beside his grandfather.
In came the first course of the dinner, with the bleeding lance, the Grail, and the two silver platters (not knives, WE). Straightway and forthwith Perceval came up trumps, trumpeting the magic-formula question, which I will paraphrase thus: ‘What is going on here? Who is going to get served by these things I see being carried around?’ Immediately the invalid invalid became valid (yes, try some dictionary definitions of ‘valid’: (1) ‘sound’, right, sound in body and mind, hale and hearty; (2) ‘well-grounded’, correct, he could stand up on his feet now;  (3) ‘not having reached the expiry date’, true, but it has to be reported that all the excitement must have been too much for him, for he died three days later, leaving this vale of tears a happy man; no more pain where he was going. Anyway, on hearing the wonder-working words,  he jumped up and tried to kiss Perceval, on the foot. [and nearly came a cropper]. The by-now wise, worthy, and valiant knight bade him desist (literally, “he would not suffer him”).
Perceval announces that he is the son of Alain le Gros, which came as gladdening tidings to his old grand-dad. He is now taken to the sacred vessel and initiated into the mysteries. 

The lance is the one that Longinus (the Roman soldier) thrust into the side of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The vessel contains the blood which Joseph caught from the dripping wounds.
It is called the Grail, because . . .  [wait for it, though we have been waiting a long time to be told this, and I just hope we are not going to be disappointed]
It is called the Grail, because it is agreeable to all worthy men (il agree a tous preudomes); that is, it grants them whatever is their pleasure in food and drink?
[Gastronomicly we are well satisfied; but the semantics leaves a lot to be desired]

The Holy Spirit speaks from the Holy Grail and instructs King Bron to teach Perceval the sacred secret words that Christ imparted to Joseph in prison; and to entrust the vessel to Perceval; and to look forward to joining the blessed company of the Apostles in three days’ time.

So, Bron, the Fisher King, tells Perceval, his grandson, the son of his son Alain, the words that Joseph had taught him (words we are not permitted to hear).  He, Bron, in his childhood, had seen  the Christ and had watched the crucifixion. Joseph took Jesus from the cross, to bury him, and caught blood in the sacred vessel   Thus Bron passed on the words and the Grail, and then passed on.

One detail in this is a worry: if he was still bleeding when he was brought down from the cross, then he was not dead?

Who was this Joseph who took Jesus down from the cross? It is, of course, none other than Joseph of Arimathea, who, according to all four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) was given permission by Pontius Pilatus [affectionately known as Ponty Pilate, but never should be called Pontius Pilate] to take the body of Jesus for burial in a tomb; and he wrapped the body in a linen shroud (Mt, Mk, Lk), the Holy Shroud (brought back from the Crusades, now in Turin) still bearing imprints (a veritable photograph, a fore-and-aft picture) of a body marked with whip-wounds, thorn-scratches, and nail-holes.  John has “linen cloths”, and a napkin around the head, the Holy Sudarion (preseved in Spain).

Now, if Bron the Fisher (an exponent of the piscatorial art, like many of the Apostles, by coincidence, though he used a fishing-line, not a net) if this Bron  had seen Jesus in his lifetime, then logically and genalogically King Perceval belongs in the 2nd Century, together with King Arthur and his merry knights; but that’s a hard camel to swallow.

However that may be, according to Robert de Boron,  Bron was Joseph’s brother-in-law, having married Joseph’s sister, Enigeus. And there is an interesting legend that Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin, the Council of the Jews) was not only a disciple of Jesus but also his uncle, and, in his capacity as a tin merchant, he had taken his nephew to Britain.
[So, in ancient time those feet did tread upon England’s green and pleasant land. Bring me my spear, I will not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem here among these dark satanic mills.]

Well, in Robert de Boron’s story, all the satanic enchantments had been broken, now that Perceval was the lord of the Grail. One sign of this was the miraculous repairing of the broken stone-seat at the Round Table. Perceval would not be occupying that seat, however, because, as Merlin explained to Arthur, Perceval had renounced chivalry to lead a religious life.

Arthur’s conquests
The British barons now needed new adventures to keep them out of mischief. In order to win their continued loyalty, Arthur led them on a campaign against Normandy and France, entrusting the queen and the country to his nephew, Mordred (a sinister name, like Murgatroyd, bespeaking death, murder, terror, dread).
Having conquered Normandy and Paris, the royal fleet returned to Dover.

As the court was celebrating the victories, twelve messengers arrived from the emperor of Rome, demanding tribute. Arthur responded with a declaration of war against Rome. The emperor made a hasty alliance with the Saracen Sultan of Spain, by marrying his daughter. Where was Rodrigez El Cid when Arthur needed him? And who’s afraid of anachronisms, which are heaping up here higher than the roman casualties in this campaign. Anyway, we won the war, killed off the enemy leaders, and arranged to have Arthur ‘coronated’ in Rome. Rule Britannia! Britons never never never will be slaves. 

While they yet sang their jingoistic jungle-jangle-jingles, there came news from the homeland that somebody was breaking the rules back in Britain: Mordred had usurped the crown and taken the queen unto himself in unholy wedlock and an unhealthy headlock; and he was waiting at Dover with an army of Saxons.

The end of Arthur and Merlin
Our seemingly immortal heroes, Gauvain, Keu, Sagremor, and Beduier, were slain before they could reach the beach; the Round Table is cracking up; but Arthur’s army overwhelmed the Saxons. Mordred was pursued to Winchester, then he took refuge with a pagan Saxon king in Ireland. Arthur led his army into Ireland, and killed them both; but he himself was badly wounded in the battle, and was taken home to his sister Morgan, for intensive specialist nursing care, in Avalon [Avalo, where the apples grow].

Arthur (Artus) promised to return, and his people waited for forty years before choosing another king. Some people have actually seen Arthur hunting in the woods. (He was, or is, after all, The King who was and will be.)

Merlin came to Perceval, and set up his habitation outside Perceval’s house.
God had decreed that Merlin would not show himself to the world in future, though he would live on; he retired into his retreat and was never seen again. [Not my idea of creative meaningful retirement].

No mention of the queen’s fate. Robert de Boron does not even give her a name, as far as I can see. Lanselot del Lac (Lancelot of the Lake) makes a few appearances, though.

Where have we been with Robert de Boron in his stories?
To the Holy Land to see Jesus and his disciples; to Ireland to fight Saxons, to Normandy, to Paris, to Rome. Spain came to us, but the Grail was not there. Brittany is clearly distinguished from Britain. The English Channel (or the French Sleeve) is crossed by Arthur, sailing between Dover and Calais.

Turning now to The High Book of the Grail, in which Perceval’s name is transmogrified into the enigmatic form Perlesvaus, which invites us to play with ‘pearl’ (perle) symbolism (and a precious pearl, at that, with the vau suggesting valoir, ‘be valuable’). Another spelling is Perlesvax (for example, lines 3940-3960), which abruptly changes to the normal Perceval (lines 3961-4000).

If we look first at the geographical setting: as in the Boron Perceval, Arthur is lord of Britain, that is, Great Britain (Grant Bretaigne), which includes Logres, the name for England in the romances; not to be confused with Londres, London, but sometimes the scribes mistake them. Arthur’s court is at Cordueil (which is translated as ‘Carlisle’); Robert de Boron has it as ‘Carduel en Gales’ (‘in Wales’). Carlisle is in northern Cumbria,  Surprisingly, Camelot (C/Kamaalot etc.) is the name of Perceval’s home, in Wales).

And Avalon reappears in this book. Avalon is . . . Glastonbury, in Somerset (in the West Country, on the peninsula, together with Cornwall and Devon). [Glastonbury. There must be a ton of glass buried there?]
The name is popularly understood as Glass city, but originally it may have meant the place where woad grows (I can tell you till I go blue in the face that woad  is plant yielding blue dye).

In the colophon of the High Book of the Grail (the writer’s statement at the end) the Isle of Avalon is said to be the place where Arthur and the queen lie.
(The Breton Celts of Bretagne in France have attempted to move Arthur and Avalon to their territory, but the author of this book means Great Britain, which he distinguishes from Petite Bretagne, that is Armorica, Brittany).
There in Avalon the most holy (saintismes) tale of the Grail was found recorded in Latin, and translated into French (romanz). The worthy religious men of the holy house in Avalon attested that the tale was true from beginning to end. [Hmmmm]

Medieval scholars connected the name Avalon with the British  word aval (apple) In Welsh texts it was the island of Avallach, possibly named after a local ruler, and the apple connection is possibly a false etymology.

Glastonbury Tor would have been surrounded by water (thus an inland island). There was a Celtic monastery on the summit, with the bones of Saint Patrick and other holy men. In 1191 (the time when our French Arthurian romances were being composed) the monks of Glastonbury strenuously strove (not ceasing from mental fight) to find the grave of Arthur, to prove that Glastonbury was Avalon. King Henry II gave them every assistance, possibly because that would prove that Arthur was dead and in no position to return, as he promised (remember, we saw this promise in the Boron Perceval) to liberate Wales. (Jennifer Westwood, Albion, 1985, 18-21)

And Joseph of Arimathea has also been connected with Glastonbury.
Both our storytellers begin their books with this Joseph and his connections with the holy vessel, containing the sacred blood; hence we may speak of ‘the blood Grail’ in our account of their narratives.

The High Book of the Grail
is divided into eleven ‘branches’, which cover three quests, undertaken by Gauvain, Lancelot, and Perceval. [and a conquest] The final four branches contain more than two-thirds of the narrative.

The first branch begins with an invocation to the Holy Trinity, as also branches 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. This sets a theological tone for the composition, in its affirmation that the three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are one substance. Recall that Crestien began his work with a strongly Christian emphasis, by quoting the 2nd Corinthian letter of Paul (on sowing and reaping, and profiting from one’s labours). Here the author reminds us of the redemption bought by the passion and death by crucifixion, of Jesus Christ, and the establishment of the New Law, which Crestien had also highlighted (in the Good Friday scene where Perceval in his armour and on his horse is rebuked by a group of unshod penitent knights and ladies, and reminded of the new law). The mood of the High Book of the Grail is even more monastic and mystical, we shall find.

A brief introduction states the genealogy of the chaste virgin knight Perlesvaus  (he was of the lineage of Joseph of Arimathea) and mentions his failure to ask the vital question in his previous encounter with the Grail. As a  consequence great evil has befallen Great Britain.

(1) Arthur’s pilgrimage to Saint Austin’s chapel
On Ascension day, at Cardueil, Queen Guenevre persuades Arthur to make a pilgrimage to the chapel of Saint Augustine (or Austin) in Wales. He has some violent adventures, but also religious experiences, namely a vision of Christ as a child and as redeemer, and regeneration at a mass in the chapel, conducted as ever by a hermit. This priest had known Arthur’s father, Uther, and he exhorts Arthur to mend his ways. He also informs him of Perlesvaus and his disastrous visit to the Fisher King.  A wandering damsel tells Arthur the story of her brother Perlesvaus. Arthur presents a candlestick to the newly built Saint Paul’s church in London [not Christopher Wren’s "awful, amusing, artificial" edifice]).

(2-6) Gauvain’s Grail Quest
At Pennevoiseuse (Penzance, on the tip of the peninsula, in Cornwall) [watch out for pirates] Arthur’s court is in session. Three afflicted damsels, suffering from the after-effects of Perceval’s inadequacy, arrive with a cart containing the heads of one hundred and fifty knights, sealed in gold, silver, and lead.

[Verily a very full knight-cart; the ones I remember had large tin cans with lids, smelling of phenol (?); the heroes who performed those malodorous labours deserved knighthoods, not those sack-hoods they wore. Also, the author is unfairly judged to have an obsession with damsels bearing disembodied heads].

The damsels are messengers from the Fisher King, languishing in his castle, and they bring two things for Perlesvaus: a hound, and a shield bearing a red cross (once  owned by Joseph of Arimathea). [Think Templars, not Red Cross medics]

Gauvain takes up the quest.

(3) Gauvain in Kamaalot
Gauvain first visits Kamaalot and succours the Widow-Lady, Perceval’s mother. So, she has not died of grief yet, though Crestien and Wolfram killed her off early in the piece.

(4) Gauvain and the Coward Knight
Gauvain befriends a cowardly knight [strayed off the set of the Wizard of Oz?]; he abhors wars, and in protest wears his armour upside down, and sits facing backwards on his steed. Do not laugh: there is surely a deep meaning lurking in this. He is a vassal of the first damsel, who symbolizes fortune. Take it from there and draw your own spiritual lesson from the details. Be warned, we are going to be required to extract doctrinal significances from some nasty deeds as we proceed further.

(5) Gauvain at the Grail Castle
Gauvain meets Joseus, son of Perceval’s uncle, King Pelles. He is told that the name Perlesvaus is equivalent to Par-lui-fez, ‘by-him-made’ or ‘self-made’.  On his arrival at the home of the Fisher King , he is refused admission, until he wins the sword that beheaded John the Baptizer. This is presumably a parallel to the sword given to Crestien’s Perceval and Wolfram’s Parzival at the dinner with the Grail King.

(6a) Gauvain’s return to the Grail Castle
Gauvain gains possession of this grisly relic from a man-eating creature named Gurgaran, who rules Scotland (Albanie). (It has been suggested that the name Gurgaran is connected with Welsh gurguol ‘werewolf’). When Gauvain reaches Gurgaran’s land he learns that a giant has taken away the king’s son, and the sword is the reward for the boy’s recovery. Unfortunately, Gauvain finds the giant too late, and returns with the monstrous massive head and the boy’s body. King Gurgaran has his son’s body cooked and distributed among the people.
(Were there cannibals in Britain, as in Indonesia, and Polynesia, and elsewhere?) He hands over the sword to Gauvain. He then receives baptism (and his first holy communion), and orders all his subjects to embrace Christianity.
This is a familiar pattern in the history of Polynesia: when a chief was converted, his tribe followed suit.

A priest gives Gauvain a spiritual interpretation of the anthropophagous episode.
The king’s son becomes a ‘type’ of Christ. Let us remind ourselves of the sayings of Jesus. John Chapter 6: “I am the bread of life” (35); “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (54). Many of his followers could not stomach this “hard saying” (60); they took offense [a fence instead of a gate] and decamped and deserted (66).

At the time of the writing of these romances the doctrine of transubstantiation
was in place: the bread and the wine of the Eucharist become in reality the body and blood of Christ. The monastic or ecclesistical author of Perlesvaus is trying to educate his audience on the doctrine of ‘the real presence’ of Christ in the cup. The story of the cannibal king who offers his son to be eaten is a parable.

We will watch for other cases of this in other Grail-texts we study. But we see it already in Robert de Boron’s account of the Holy Grail: it was the wine-cup from the Last Supper, in which real blood from Christ’s body was collected, by Joseph of Arimathea.

While we are on the subject of eating human flesh, in Indonesia and Polynesia , in earlier times, there is ample evidence of the practice. And the purpose was to take into oneself the mana of the dead person, to internalize it. I have been told this personally by two Maaori missioners (one a Methodist, a mature student of mine; the other an Anglican, Reverend Maaori Marsden); this, they say is an important preparation in the background for the acceptance of Christianity by the Maori people. Similarly the tohi rite of sprinkling and naming was the forerunner of baptism.

Gawain has the head-lopping sword, which gains him entry to the Grail-castle.

In the presence of the ailing king he is allowed to see the Lance and the Grail, but he fails to utter the question, because his attention is captured by three drops of blood from the spear-point, which fall onto the (white?) tablecloth. 
[He thinks: what did my grandmother tell me you use to remove bloodstains?]

What is Crestien’s counterpart to this blood-fixation? Perceval seeing three drops of goose-blood on the snow, and being enraptured and entranced, because he imagines the complexion of his belovèd Blancheflor’s face. Wolfram has the three spots as facial features (not two red eyes and a red nose, but her two rosy cheeks and her chin; amazingly, for once he did not focus on the mouth or lips).

But back to Gawain. He too has failed the test. He returns to the pavilion, caught out with no score. On the way back he meets the next man in: Lancelot coming out with his bat ready for action. [I know this book is in French but the characters are British; but maybe, as Celts, they prefer golf.]

(6b) Lancelot’s Grail Quest
In the first over, Lancelot strikes another knight’s head off; the gentlemen’s agreement is that he will return one year hence to receive a return blow.
(This is the same motif as found in the English poem about the Green Knight, but it is Gawain who is the Arthurian knight in the story.)

(7) Lancelot and Perceval fight
This is terrible, but Perlesvaus is at the hermitage of his uncle, King Pelles, feeling inadequate and looking for a worthy adversary against whom he can test himself. And Lancelot comes by. They fight fiercely, and then go their separate ways.

(8) Lancelot at the Grail Castle
(Branch 8 is the longest, containing one-fifth of the lines.)
The celebrated knight meets the Grail King  on one of his angling excursions; he is admitted to the Fisher King’s home, and he is seated at the ivory table; but the Grail does not appear; he is not permitted to see it, because of his mortal sin, his unrepentant love for Guenievre (Guenivere). Later, when King Pelles gently rebukes him for his attachment to Guenievre, he replies that she is his Lady: she inspires in him the virtues of sense, courtesy, and valour.
Thus the author does understand the ideals of chivalry.

The end is not nigh, it is nowhere in sight.
There are over 10,000 lines in this book, and we have not reached line 4,000 yet.

And would you believe that the vital question never gets to be asked?!
The Fisher King dies before Perceval can reach him and blurt it out.
The Grail Castle is attacked by hostile armies, but Perlesvaus conquers them.
He had sneaked into Penzance [like a pirate] and taken his red-cross armour.
His exploits include turning the Coward Knight into the Hardy Knight.
Saving his mother and his sister from their persecuters. The Damsel of the Cart takes them to the Grail Castle, where they find refuge for the rest of their days.
The Fisher King is placed in a sepulcher before the high altar.

Arthur and Gawain pass through Tintagel (in Cornwall) and they, and we, hear about Arthur’s childhood.

They behold the Grail at a mass in the castle; it appears in five transformations, the last of which is a chalice.  They are instructed in the use of the chalice and the bell (for transubstantiation?).

A blackguard named Brien of the Isles, assisted by his blustering henchman Keu, wreak havoc in Arthur’s realm.

Joseus, son of King Pelles, takes up residence in the Grail Castle until his death.

Perlesvaus continues to go away on mercy expeditions.

The Grail Castle falls into ruin

What is the Grail?
It is not a dispenser of normal food and drink. It is now a chalice, used in the mass, for imparting divine eucharistic grace. It was the cup used at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea collected some of the Saviour’s blood in it. It was associated with the spear of the Roman Longinus, which pierced Christ’s side when he was on the cross.
Where is the Grail?
In the Grail Castle of the Fisher King, as usual. This time, in both books, it is in the British isles, not on the mainland (where Wolfram put it).  The English Channel (or the French Sleeve) is crossed by Arthur, sailing between Dover and Calais. 
Whence is the Grail?
From the Holy Land, brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. The story is preserved at Avalon, where King Arthur lies; Avalon is identified as Glastonbury in Somerset.
Whose is the Grail? 
The Fisher King is named Bron in Robert de Boron’s account. The names in the genealogies differ in all four texts we have considered. However, even before the Holy Bloodline explanation for the Grail was published, scholars were saying that the Grail story was about lineage and a family secret.

 Le Haut Livre du Graal, Perlesvaus, ed. W.A. Atkins and T. Atkinson Jenkins, 2 vols (New York 1972)

Robert de Boron, Le roman de l'histoire du Graal (translated into modern French) (Paris 1995)

The Didot-Perceval, ed. William Roach (Philadelphia 1941, Geneva 1977)