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"The Chronicles of Narnia" as Knightly Story

Essay 2010 24 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works

Excerpt

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1: Knight on Errand
1.1. The explanation of term Holy Grail
1.2. The characteristics of knight and knighthood
1.3. The development of Arthurian Legend
1.3.1. The Pseudo-Historical, Romantic Arthur

Chapter 2: Chronicles of Narnia as the Story of Archetypal Meaning
2.1 The Mythology of Narnia and the Knight of Grail embodied in Peter
2.2. Peter’s Appearances’ in The Chronicles of Narnia

Chapter 3: The Hero’s Point of View
3.1. Peter – the Leader, the Hero, the King
3.2. Is Peter worth being a knight or Christian knight?
3.3. Courtesy in spite of ‘facts but not logic’

Conclusion

Introduction

Holy Grail, object of legendary quest for the knights of Arthurian romance. The term evidently denoted a wide-mouthed or shallow vessel, though its precise etymology remains uncertain. The legend of the Grail possibly was inspired by classical and Celtic mythologies, which abound in horns of plenty, magic life-restoring caldrons, and the like. The first extant text to give such a vessel Christian significance as a mysterious, holy object was Chrétien de Troyes’s late 12th-century unfinished romance Perceval, or Le Conte du Graal, which introduces the guileless rustic knight Perceval, whose dominant trait is innocence.[1]

The Grail theme came to form the culminating point of Arthurian romance, and it was to prove fruitful as a theme in literature down to the 20th century.

The present paper’s aims is to be a practical introduction to the field. Moreover, it deals with the aspect of the Chronicles of Narnia and the character of Peter as the knight of Holy Grail. It is also hoped that a closer examination of specific issues and further reading in those areas that are of greatest interest to the individual student will be encouraged. In this way, the paper can provide a stimulating introduction to a range of theoretical approaches to the fascinating stories by C.S. Lewis.

Each of the chapters surveys a major area of the subject. Beginning with the short history of the Grail myth and defining the subject, Chapter One opens the paper to more complex aspects such as the characteristics of knight and knighthood and also the development of Arthurian Legend.

The main points considered in Chapter Two are the emergency of the most famous children’s book by C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia as well as the mythology of Narnia and the knight of Grail embodied in character of Peter.

Titled The Hero’s Point of View Chapter Three deals with the history of Peter – the most brave of the Pevensie siblings. The last chapter is the analysis of Peter’s character from various points of view and an attempt of answering whether Peter is worth being called the Knight of Holy Grail.

Chapter 1: Knight on Errand

The depiction of Holy Grail came to form the culminating point of the Arthurian romance, and it was to prove fruitful as a theme in literature down to the 20th century.

Helen J. Nichols, the author of Love, War and the Grail claims that in many non-academic works on the Grail, the association between the Grail and the Templars is assumed to be so obvious and so well-established that it requires no detailed justification.[2] However, others suggest that a Grail knighthood which guards the Grail is an integral part of the Grail legend, and that this knighthood was the knighthood of the Temple, the Templars: “Is it not possible that, in these armed youths, who were in some cases, notably in that of the Salii, at once warriors and priests, we have the real origin of the Grail Knights?.”[3]

In order to gain the full understanding of the above mentioned facts, it is necessary to begin with the explanation of the basic issues referring to the topic of the paper, namely – the history of Holy Grail, the development of Arthurian Legend in the literature as well as the key characteristic of the ideal knight as presented in literature. The following sub-chapters will tackle each of the above mentioned aspects successively.

1.1. The explanation of term Holy Grail

Alan Lupack in The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend states that the legend of the Holy Grail “became extremely popular in the Middle Ages, was relatively ignored for several centuries thereafter, and, like many things Arthurian, had a revival in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”[4]

According to Nichols, similarly to other sources, The Grail may be described generally as “a large flat platter, big enough to hold a fish, or specifically identified as the dish used by Christ at the Last Supper. Uniquely, for Wolfram von Eschenbach the Grâl was a holy stone, brought by angels from heaven, which supplied all its guardians’ wants and needs.”[5]

The concept of the Grail is now so well known around the world that the unique object of knightly quest became a simple cliché; term Holy Grail is used to denote virtually any kind of great goal or achievement or something that is looked for in vain - from Olympic competition to desired and rare computer game. Loomis gives the following description of this mythical object:

The Grail may be described as the dish from which Christ ate the Passover lamb at the Last Supper; or as the chalice of the first sacrament, in which later the Saviour's blood was caught as it flowed from His wounded body; or as a stone with miraculous feeding and youth-preserving virtues; or as a salver containing a man's head, swimming in blood. It may be borne through a castle hall by a beautiful damsel; or it may float through the air in Arthur's palace, veiled in white samite; or it may be placed on a table in the East, together with a freshly caught fish, and serve as a talis­man to distinguish the chaste from the unchaste. Its custodian may be called Bron or Anfortas or Pelles or Joseph of Arima-thea or simply 'the Fisher King'. He may be sound of wind and limb or pierced through the thighs or wounded in die genitals. The hero who achieves the quest may be the notoriously amorous Gawain or the virgin Galahad.[6]

The myth of Grail as it can be expected, developed into an oral and later written tradition from which was only one step towards the own form. In case of the Grail it took form of so-called Grail romances which differ from each other due to the fact that they quickly developed their own literary reality, quite different from the actual reality, and as Nichols states, they were changing appropriately in response to contemporary events.[7] The great body of the Grail romances came into existence between the years 1180 and 1240. After the thirteenth century nothing strikingly innovative was added to the Grail legend.

Early scholars attempted to explain the origin of the stories and the development of this signification in various ways. Jessie Weston assumed that the Grail stories are a Christianization of pagan fertility rituals, with the wounded king who is healed being analogy to the king who must die and be reborn to give life to his land:

It has been perfectly possible for one group of scholars, relying upon the undeniably Christian-Legendary elements, preponderant in certain versions, to maintain the paper that the Grail legend is ab initio a Christian, and ecclesiastical, legend, and to analyse the literature on that basis alone. Another group, with equal reason, have pointed to the strongly marked Folk-lore features preserved in the tale, to its kinship with other themes, mainly of Celtic provenance, and have argued that, while the later versions of the cycle have been worked over by ecclesiastical writers in the interests of edification, the story itself is non-Christian, and Folk-lore in origin.[8]

Another theory, popularized by Roger Sherman Loomis, most notably in his book The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol saw the origins of the Grail in Celtic stories and legends.[9] Yet, while Loomis and others pointed out interesting and important analogies between Celtic tales and medieval romances, it is an oversimplification to consider the tale of the Grail only as a development of earlier Celtic material.

Consequently, Lupack argues that the origin of the Grail stories probably will never be precisely defined.[10] However, what is clear is that the fertile imagination and brilliant narrative of one writer, namely - Chrétien de Troyes, who wrote the earliest and still the most intriguing Grail romance, inspired others to take up the theme.

1.2. The characteristics of knight and knighthood

Nichols remarks that the scholars assume that certain Grail heroes, in particular Galaad, were intended to be representations of Templar knights. This assumption is based both on the symbolism which they carry and their actions during the course of the narrative.[11]

Chivalry itself was primarily secular movement and consequently with the rise of the knightly class in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the emergence of a specific ethos attached to the concept of knighthood was observed. Who or what a knight was depended on the language you spoke. According to Dover: “the Latin miles means soldier, the German Ritter and the French chevalier a horseman, the English knicht a man who serves a lord. Only in English can one distinguish between chivalry and knighthood”.[12]

According to Brown, Medieval authors had long presented the social hierarchy in terms of the three estates of the oratores, bellatores and laboratories, which means those who pray, those who fight and those who work.[13] Consequently, this familiar model of society continued to be reproduced in the later Middle Ages.

Preachers such as Thomas of Wimbledon or poets such as John Gower were agreed that the knights who bear arms were supposed to defend society. However, Brown recalls Bishop John Stafford, the chancellor who stated in 1433 that the society’s „hills” were the milites – the knights whose duty was to provide justice.[14]

An interesting point of view presents Nichols, according to whom the Military Orders, through which it should be understood – knights, performed administrative services for nobles and what is more, with the development of the romances their organisational role was expanded slightly to depict them as supporters of nobles in their love affairs also.[15]

For Nichols Knights were certainly pious, although it was a piety which “stood apart from the piety of the Church.” He later explains on a basis of Raoul de Hodenc’s Roman des Eles, written in the early thirteenth century, that knights were first created to protect the Church, and “they are the fountain of courtesy, which has its source in God”.[16] Moreover, Alfonso XI of Castile’s Libro de la Vanda, written in 1330 states that “The highest and most precious order God has made in the world is knighthood, and the knights’ duty is to defend the faith and the other two orders of society, the clergy and the workers.”[17]

[...]


[1] Grail. (2010). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago:Encyclopædia Britannica.

[2] Nichols, Helen J., Love, War, and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), p. 102.

[3] Weston, Jessie L., From Ritual to Romance. (Dover Publications, 1997), p. 91.

[4] Lupack, Alan, The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 213.

[5] Nichols, Helen J., Love, War, and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), p. 10.

[6] Loomis, Roger Sherman, The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol. (Princetown: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 2.

[7] Nichols, Helen J., Love, War, and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), p. 105.

[8] Weston, Jessie L., From Ritual to Romance. (Dover Publications, 1997), p. 12.

[9] Loomis, Roger Sherman, The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol. (Princetown: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 20.

[10] Lupack, Alan, The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 213.

[11] Nichols, Helen J., Love, War, and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), p. 102.

[12] Dover, Carol, A companion to the Lancelot-Grail cycle. (DS Brewer, 2003), p. 4.

[13] Brown, Peter, A Companion to Medieval English Literature and Culture C.1350 - C.1500. (John Wiley and Sons, 2007), p. 26.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Nichols, Helen J., Love, War, and the Grail: Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights in Medieval Epic and Romance 1150-1500. (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), p. 224.

[16] Ibid., p. 225.

[17] Ibid.

Details

Pages
24
Year
2010
ISBN (eBook)
9783656886785
ISBN (Book)
9783656886792
File size
459 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v288405
Grade
Tags
Holy Grail Arthurian romance The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis Peter knighthood mythology code of chivalry Narnia

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Title: "The Chronicles of Narnia" as Knightly Story