The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Gamuret, younger son of King Gandein of Anjou, refuses to live as a vassal in the kingdom of his older brother, notwithstanding the brother’s love for Gamuret. The young man, given gifts of gold by his king brother, as well as horses and equipment and men-at-arms, leaves Anjou to seek his fortune. Hoping to find for himself fame and love, Gamuret goes first to battle for Baruch at Alexandria; from there he goes to the aid of the Moorish queen Belakane. Belakane had been falsely accused of causing the death of her lover, Eisenhart, and was besieged in her castle by two armies under the command of Friedebrand, king of Scotland and Eisenhart’s uncle.

Gamuret, after raising the siege, becomes the husband of Belakane, who gives birth to his son, Feirefis. Gamuret tires of being king of Assagog and Zassamank, and so he journeys abroad again in search of fame. Passing into Spain, Gamuret seeks King Kailet and finds him near Kanvoleis. The two enter a tournament sponsored by the queen of Waleis. Gamuret does valiant deeds and carries off all the honors of that tournament, thereby winning a great deal of fame as the victor. Two queens who had watched the lists during the tournament fall in love with Gamuret, but Queen Herzeleide wins his heart and marries him. They love each other greatly, but once again the call of honor becomes too great to let Gamuret remain a housed husband. Receiving a summons from Baruch, he leaves once more for Alexandria. In the fighting there he is treacherously killed and given a great tomb by Baruch. When news of his death reaches the land of Waleis, Queen Herzeleide sorrows greatly, but her sorrow is in part dissipated by the birth of a child by Gamuret. Herzeleide names the boy Parzival.

Parzival is reared by his mother with all tenderness and love. As he grows older he meets knights who fare through the world seeking honor. Parzival, stimulated by tales of their deeds, leaves his homeland in search of King Arthur of Britain. He hopes to become one of Arthur’s knights and a member of the order of the Round Table. During his absence, his mother, Queen Herzeleide, dies. On his way to Arthur’s court, Parzival takes a token from Jeschute and thus arouses the jealous anger of her husband, Orilus. Further along on his journey he meets a woman named Sigune and from her learns of his lineage and his kinship with the house of Anjou. Still later, Parzival meets the Red Knight and carries that knight’s challenge with him to King Arthur. Having been knighted by the king, Parzival sets forth again in quest of knightly honor. Finding himself in the land of Graharz, he seeks out Gurnemanz, prince of the land, who teaches the young knight the courtesy and the ethics of knighthood.

From Graharz, Parzival journeys to Pelrapar, which he finds besieged by enemies. He raises the siege by overthrowing Kingron. After this adventure, Parzival falls in love with...

(The entire section is 1186 words.)

Parzival Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Blamires, David. Characterization and Individuality in Wolfram’s “Parzival.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1966. Devotes a chapter to each of the nine major characters in his exploration of the technique of individualization in Wolfram’s romance, demonstrating that Parzival fits within the trend toward individuality in twelfth century literature.

Green, Dennis Howard. The Art of Recognition in Wolfram’s “Parzival.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Posits that much of the difficulty in reading Parzival lies in Wolfram’s style of revealing while concealing. The audience is invited to cooperate in the process of recognition: “Penetrating the mysteries of the Grail thus becomes for the listeners what the attainment of Grail kingship is for Parzival.”

Loomis, R. S. “Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival.” In The Development of Arthurian Romance. New York: W. W. Norton, 1970. Introduction to the themes and origins of Parzival. Places the romance within the context of the growth of Arthurian literature from its beginnings to Malory.

Poag, James F. Wolfram von Eschenbach. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Chapters on Wolfram’s life, his literary outlook, his other works, and Parzival. Bibliography.

Weigand, Hermann John. Wolfram’s “Parzival”: Five Essays with an Introduction. Edited by Ursula Hoffmann. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1969. Examines such topics as Wolfram’s originality versus his dependence on sources and the nature of Parzival’s misadventures during his first visit to the Grail Castle.