The Holy Grail Part Two
The failure of Parsifal therefore, led directly to all these disasters and the king himself is absolved of all blame. Parsifal’s failure is in turn attributed to a sin he had committed against his mother in having left her against her will. This sin prevented him from asking these questions. Parsifal therefore, takes all the blame for the king’s inability to serve the Grail. But then Chrétien did not explain the significance of the Grail nor did he as such attribute abundance in the land to the pure worship of the Grail. The blessings on the land depended on the king’ ability to rule the land in a justified way. How that burden now came to fall on Parsifal is far from clear nor was there any supplication for help from the king which would probably have led to a prophecy of a helper.
Chrétien’s work is so disjointed that it is very difficult to make a logical appraisal and part of the problem may have been the fact that the work was left unfinished. What we can conclude is that the Grail according to his work was in a way associated with a miraculous cure for the king because Parsifal had to ask the question “Whom does one serve with the Grail?” This question about the Grail held the cure for the king and only Parsifal could pose this question. The power of the Grail in bringing blessings on the land was therefore, associated in an indirect way with the healing of the king through a question asked about it by Parsifal. Therefore, the Grail was indispensable to the prosperity of the land. The Grail still holds it central place in its ability to make the land prosperous through making its ruler whole.
The ruler’s physical well-being therefore, was impossible without the Grail and Parsifal held the key to it. Nobody else could ask the question, only he. The prosperity of the land therefore, depended entirely on Parsifal and the Grail and this thread we see in most of the stories. What may be illogical is the issue of sin transference. We know that his mother was unhappy but Parsifal left with her approval as she had given him advice and had told him to go to Arthur’s court. How then could he be carrying a sin he had not committed.
Much of what has been said above will also apply to Wolfram’s work. The only significant difference was that as has already been mentioned he considered the Grail to be a stone rather than a chalice. Much of the blame for the catastrophes was to be taken by Parsifal. Wolfram however, went further and placed his work in a prophetic context for he mentioned that the agony of the king was so great that the brothers in the realm prayed to God for a deliverer and a prophecy that a knight would come and he would ask the relevant questions on his own accord, (the king would be healed as a result and would be succeeded by him), appeared on the Grail stone. The predicted deliverer appeared however, failed and the kingdom became a waste land. He however, after many years found his way, asked the questions, restores the king’s health and becomes king himself.
The same difficulty is encountered as to how Parsifal could take on blame for what he had not done. The Grail, though considered to be a stone still held the same characteristics of restoring the kingdom as long as Parsifal asked the right questions. Its spiritual origin was undoubted as it was said to have come from heaven through angels who were neutral when war broke out between God and Lucifer. Chrétien did not specify the origin of the Grail, but dealt only with its qualities. Wolfram’s inconsistencies could be borne out by the fact that it is difficult to explain a situation where Parsifal, the knight who had been predicted to heal the king would already be coming with a burden of guilt on his shoulders. In that case he could not have been pure enough to serve the Grail, as the Grail required the purest of men to serve it.