Arthuriana -- all things King Arthur ! discussion

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Arthurian Themes/Characters > The Fisher King...

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message 1: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Old man wounded in the thighs while jousting?
A Romano-Brit version of Oedipus?
A gelded Sun-King?
Any ideas?


message 2: by Nikki (last edited Jan 15, 2011 07:18AM) (new)

Nikki (shanaqui) | 146 comments Well, you weren't wrong about a wound to the thigh being a sexual wound. It's a common euphemism. At one point, I think in Malory's Morte Darthur, Percival wounds himself in the thigh, so that he will not be tempted by women. The euphemism is very clear there.

As I said in the other thread, a badly injured king is a problem for a land anyway, since he may be unable to rule effectively, people may consider him weak, etc.

I think it's Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance which particularly stresses the king-land fertility thing. The grail is a female symbol, the lance a male one, and they need to be reunited to heal the land. I think her views have been largely discounted. Her work was an influence on T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, though.


message 3: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Nikki wrote: "The grail is a female symbol, the lance a male one, and they need to be reunited to heal the land. I think her views have been largely discounted..."

Aye, I mentioned similar about Graves' The White Goddess. Unfortunately many read only one book on a subject and assume it's gospel, but just because it's an old book doesn't make it any more accurate. I believe Weston's and Graves' books (and Frazer's) have been fairly well debunked in many areas.
Do you know of any more recent works in the area of priest-kings/sun-kings etc?


message 4: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (shanaqui) | 146 comments I know of fiction that does it, but nothing helpful in the criticism line... May ask my housemate: that sort of thing is more along her line.


message 5: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jan 19, 2011 02:04AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments The Emperor Claudius had a clubfoot and "visited" Britain, after taking the country into the pax Romana he may have been seen as a stabilising force/lawbringer...not sure how long his cult lasted after his demise (don't eat the mushrooms!).
But when the Romans withdrew then the remaining Romano-Brits may have told stories that grew in the telling. Don't know if he liked fishing as much as J.R. Hartley though.
Probably little scholarly evidence on this, just me hearing hoofbeats and thinking zebra...


message 6: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jan 19, 2011 02:09AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser...
A brief google (don't have Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus in front of me) and what do you know, according to Pliny the Elder:
"A killer whale was actually seen in the harbor of Ostia, locked in combat with the emperor Claudius."
OK I know whales aren't fish but it certainly smells a bit fishy to me (sorry).


message 7: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (shanaqui) | 146 comments Remember, the Fisher King doesn't seem to have originated in Britain. Chretien and his continuators were not British.


message 8: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Fair point...but I'm still slightly bewildered by the Claudius and the whale thing, as Obelix said: "These Romans are crazy!"


message 9: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Nikki wrote: "Remember, the Fisher King doesn't seem to have originated in Britain. Chretien and his continuators were not British."

Aye, but Claudius was involved in Gaul as well. One theory that he was involved in Britain to stop it being used as a base for rebels to train and re-arm.


message 10: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Feb 04, 2011 06:25AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Nikki, as our resident scholar: Recently tried to read Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy and gave up due to the dreadful writing style, is this kind of waffle common in texts you're reading as part of your work? It's the 1st time I've read any "lit-crit" stylee stuff on the subject, I mainly go for historical/archeo analysis which is lucid and to the point.
Having said that, do you have any commentaries etc that you'd say were worth a look?


message 11: by Nikki (last edited Feb 04, 2011 06:34AM) (new)

Nikki (shanaqui) | 146 comments I haven't read that, but judging from the snippet in your review, it's more convoluted than most. Stephen Knight's stuff is generally easy to read and interesting -- I read Arthurian Literature and Society recently, which is very good, and I believe he's written a book on Merlin as well.

Full disclosure: he's employed at my university and has taught me on one occasion. He writes on Arthurian literature, the Robin Hood tradition, Welsh fiction and crime fiction. I do genuinely find his style reasonably easy and to the point, though!

Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History, ed. Roger Loomis is pretty good, too. There's at least one interesting one about the origins of the grail in there, but it covers lots of different things.


message 12: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Thanks for those.
It was the dreadful prose that stopped me in my tracks on the book I mentioned, the 15 or so pages of introduction could easily have taken 5 and lost nothing...though it wouldn't have sounded half as (and my tongue is firmly in cheek here) smart.


message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments Back to the thread topic though...Hephaestus/Vulcan was lame and his other half came from the sea.
Clutching...
At...
Straws???


message 14: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments From comedian Stewart Lee, Prince William as Fisher King?
http://m.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/ap...


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael | 41 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "From comedian Stewart Lee, Prince William as Fisher King?
http://m.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/ap..."


Thanks for that link - Stewart Lee is hilarious.


message 16: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 292 comments You just know there will be conspiracy buffs that will be reading that and not getting the humour, digging out their The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion and cross reffing it all...bewildering.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael | 41 comments I was thinking the same! The only way to read that article is with Sarcasm set to 11.


message 18: by Anna (new)

Anna | 77 comments I associated The Fisher King with Don Quixote when I saw it years ago but I no longer remember why.


message 19: by Amalie (new)

Amalie Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Old man wounded in the thighs while jousting?
A Romano-Brit version of Oedipus?
A gelded Sun-King?
Any ideas?"


If you haven't you might want to check Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. The translation is readable, though I have to say I didn't finish reading it yet. I have to find it again in the library. Here, Anfortas, the Fisher King and the lord of the Grail Castle is wounded in genitals and is unable to re-create or to die.

Oh and the Grail - was a stone.


message 20: by A.J. (new)

A.J. Campbell | 73 comments If you want musical version, check out Wagner's Parsifal as directed by Han Knappertbusch.

The real grail was a round-bottomed cup, so that it had to be passed around and shared. See the new set in the photo section, discussing and illustrating various Arthurian themes: the grail, sword in the stones, etc.

My offbeat approach is steppe-oriented. Even Parsifal might originate out there, aka Parsifilus, "the young Parsi" (Iranian).


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Arthuriana -- all things King Arthur !

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Books mentioned in this topic

The White Goddess (other topics)
Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (other topics)
Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History (other topics)
Arthurian Literature and Society (other topics)
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Suetonius (other topics)
Pliny the Elder (other topics)
Wolfram von Eschenbach (other topics)