Parsifal (pärˈsĭfäl) [key], figure of Arthurian legend also known as Sir Percivale, who is in turn a later form of a hero of Celtic myth. The name originally occurs as Pryderi, an alternative name of Gwry in Pwyll Prince of Dyved, a tale in the Mabinogion. Gwry is the original of Gawain, and in the later Percivale stories Gawain appears, often fulfilling the same role as the hero. The great feature of the Percivale cycle is the Holy Grail, and Welsh sources connect this sacred talisman with Percivale, who finds the Grail. Chrétien de Troyes is the author of the first great artistic treatment of the theme; in Chrétien's unfinished poem Percivale finds the Grail at the Fisher King's castle and heals the king. The Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach is one of the greatest medieval poems. Drawn largely from Chrétien, von Eschenbach's story is highly spiritualized and appears essentially in the form used by Richard Wagner in his music drama Parsifal. In the Morte d'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory, Percivale is admitted to the Grail with Galahad and Bors.
See R. S. Loomis, Arthurian Tradition & Chrétien de Troyes (1949) and Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages (1959); R. Cavendish, King Arthur and the Grail (1985).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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