Thursday, November 22, 2012


Book: Parzival by Sir Wolfram von Eschenbach

Country: Germany

Written: around 1197-1215

Description: Composed in the early thirteenth century, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is the re-creation and completion of the story left unfinished by its initiator Chretien de Troyes. It follows Parzival from his boyhood and career as a knight in the court of King Arthur to his ultimate achievement as King of the Temple of the Grail, which Wolfram describes as a life-giving Stone. As a knight serving the German nobility in the imperial Hohenstauffen period, the author was uniquely placed to describe the zest and colour of his hero's world, with dazzling depictions of courtly luxury, jousting and adventure. Yet this is not simply a tale of chivalry, but an epic quest for spiritual education, as Parzival must conquer his ignorance and pride and learn humility before he can finally win the Holy Grail. (from

This was a really wonderful poem. Parzival's story is a great story of someone growing from an ignorant boy to an arrogant young man to a humble Christian. There were several scenes that I absolutely loved: when Parzival was so love-sick for his wife that he couldn't fight (there was a beautiful description of love!), and when Parzival went to the hermit and talked with him about God and ultimately gave his life to Him. Many of the objections Parzival raised to the existence of God are questions that people still have. It was good to hear these questions in a story written almost 1,000 years ago. We are not alone in the questions we have. Parzival's story is the story of many of us.

This may be silly, but one of the things that surprised me in reading this was how much this epic was like more modern works of fiction. The descriptions were very detailed at times, and they definitely conjured up a world for me. There was also an amazing, and unexpected, emotional depth in this story. Perhaps they resonated with me so well because so many of these emotions were being ultimately constrained and dealt with in the context of the overarching Christianity of most of the characters.

There were a few aspects of Parzival that I didn't like. For some reason, however, less than half of this epic is actually about Parzival. There are two chapters about his father, Gachmuret, and the rest is about Gawain--who was cool and all, but Parzival was better. Also, most of the characters see baptism as the ultimate sign of a relationship with God, which obviously isn't true. So do just keep that in mind.

Overall, however, this was a wonderful epic poem, with an inspiring plot and realistic Christian characters.

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