Background Research on the Parz/sifal (original Perceval) mythos


The story of Parzifal crossed my path while reading a Sufi meditation manual. It stated that Parzifal failed because of an incomplete mantle of light, leaving him exposed. He had gone it alone and did not have the band to back him up. And much like every new word, once uncovered, I see this mythos everywhere. So what up with that, huh? I did a little digging. Relax, more like playing in dirt. No one has to do real work here!

Within the mythos the following name variations exist

Percival-Knight of the Round Table in the King Arthur legend

Perceval-romance written by Chrétien de Troyes

Parzifal-romance retold by Wolfram von Eschenbach


Parsifal-Richard Wagner’s opera based on the written poems.



Parzifal is the retelling (ending included this time) of the unfinished romance of another, the Perceval of Chrétien de Troyes whose poem is the earliest extant narrative, known from its prologue as Li contes del graal or ‘The story of the Grail,’ though he claimed that his own patron Philip, Count of Flanders, had lent him its ‘book.’

Wolfram von Eschenbach is heralded as the Medieval German narrative poet. Not too much is known about his life aside from things like how long it was (b.1195 to 1225ish) and other ticky tacky information such as his being born into a Bavarian family of the lower nobility. Mystery and intrigue do appear: He may have served a Franconian lord but as a ministerialis or ‘unfree’ knight bound to serve a lord. Qua knight, he defended his honor anywhere and was also able to change patrons, as he ended up finding his main patron not in his hometown but in Thuringia with its many Mæcenas, like Hermann I. Knights ministerial were the main bearers of the great efflorescence of secular poetry in Germany. Poetry emancipated from clerical domination during the first half of the Hohenstauffen period.

“Many passages of the original have virtually no syntactical structure–Parzival is definately no book–and so the bare act of translation has inevitably tidied them up.”

Translator A.T. Hatto (org.1980; reprinted 2004). Parzifal. Penguin Books. London, England. Foreward p12

Born to Louis II Landgrave of Thuringia & Judith of Hohenstaufen, Hermann I was born into Ludovingian nobility. He welcomed societies of letters and Minnesänger to his castle, the Wartburg. From 1172 to 1211, the Wartburt (‘watchtower’) was the most important princes’ courts. Eschenbach, in 1203, wrote part of his Parzifal here.

Minnesang is German for “love song.” This tradition flourished during the period of medieval German literature starting 12th century continuing into the 14th.

Minnesänger (aka minnesingers) referred to people who wrote and performed Minnesang.

A single song was called a Minnelied. These names rooted from minne, the Middle High German word for ‘love,’ which was the Minnesang’s main topic. This reflected part of a larger movement occurring during the High Middle Ages which included the Provençal troubadours and northern French trovères: a written lyrical love poetry, concerned within the tradition of courtly love and chivalry, sometimes vulgar, funny, intellectual, formulaic, even metaphysical.

For the French trouvéres, ‘courtly love’ expressed erotic desire as well as spiritual attainment (and all the spaces between them). A love at once illicit and morally elevating; passionate and disciplined; humiliating and exalting; human and transcendent.

Eschenbach asserts he follows the one “Kyot the Provençal,” sender of the ‘true version,’ that supplied additional material drawn from Arabic and Angevin sources. Many scholars consider Kyot to be of Eschenbach’s imagination, thus part of the fictional narrative. This ignites a controversy. Should the remarks be taken at face value or was he speaking in the way of scholars initiating paradigmatic change: not impassioned against his predecessor as much as being ironically respectful of the ones who came before him, even if he essentially mocked them while recapitulating them to his audience.

German composer Richard Wagner loosely based his opera in three acts, Parsifal (WWW 111).

Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the the Parzifal he had used up to 1877 is informed by one of the theories about the name Percival, according to which it is of Persian origin, Fal Parsi meaning “pure fool.

Unger, Max (1932-08-01). “The Persian Origins of ‘Parsifal’ and ‘Tristan'”. The Musical Times. 73 (1074): 703.
ISSN 0027-4666


Author: writtencasey

I am fascinated by the scientific endeavor and I read about or engage with those processes as much as possible. I am a compulsive reader and writer. With a background in anthropology and as an arm-chair/backyard scientist, I hope to improve my writing skills and learn about any areas of weakness or misunderstanding in my analytic skills. I am excited to share. Thank you for spending time here. Please reach out if you are so inclined. I'd be excited to hear from you.

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