Pellam

Fisher King, King Pescheour, Maimed King, Rich Fisher; le Riche Pecheor, – Pescheor, – Pescheour; Pelles

King of Listeneise (Listenoise).

Accounts of the Fisher King are confused, perhaps hopelessly. Even Sommer seems to have had trouble getting on top of the situation. There are at least two version in Malory alone of the Dolorous Stroke (though they seem necessarily incompatible). Some versions have two or even three maimed knights, sometimes including Pellinore, contemporary with Arthur.

To add to the fun, there may or may not have been an obscure connection or confusion somewhere along the line with Sir Pelleas – not the similarity of names. Reversing Phyllis Ann Karr’s technique of splitting the Lady of the Lake into three separate charachters, she have attempted a simplified, but hopefully acceptable, version which rolls the maimed kings into a single man. (Even in Malory, she believe that Pellam, Pelles, and King Pescheour can be considered identical, “Pescheour” being a pun on the French words for fisher and sinner. This king stays in his castle at Carbonek, guarding the Holy Grail and waiting to be healed. Malory does mention King Pellam as appearing at various tournaments, but this can be considered another Pellam, likely identical with Pellinore – who, according to Sommer, appears in some versions as an additional maimed king.)

When Joseph of Arimathea and his followers came to Britain, the Grail at first was in the keeping of Joseph’s kinsman Lucans. It was given over, however, into the care of Nascien’s great-great-grandson Alain the Large. Alain had, at Joseph’s bidding, caught a fish in a British pond. The fish was miraculously enlarged to feed all the sinners of the company (the Grail had fed those who were worthy). This incident gained for Alain and his successors the name Rich Fisher or Fisher King. While Alain’s immediate descendants ended up in France to engender Lancelot du Lake, the keeping of the Grail passed over the the line of Alain’s brother Josue (Joshua), from whom Pellam, the last of the Fisher Kings, descended. Pellam had three known brothers: Pellinore, Alain (of Escavalon?), and Garlon (apparently the family black sheep).

In his hale days, Pellam held a feast to which no knight was admitted unless he brought his wife or his paramour. Balin le Savage traced Sir Garlon this this feast and there cut him down. Pellam rose, swearing that he and no man else should kill Balin in vengeance for his brother Garlon. He “caught in his hand a grim weapon” and broke Balin’s sword with it, then chased Balin through the castle until they came to the chamber of the Grail. There Balin caught up the marvellous spear and smote Pellam with it, upon which both Pellam and a great part of his castle fell down, entrapping them for three days. This is Malory’s first version of the Dolorous Stroke.

Later, during the Grail Quest, Dame Amide tells another version to GalahadPercivale, and Bors: while Pellam “might ride … he supported much Christendom and Holy Church.” One day, while out hunting, he found King Solomon’s Ship and had the temerity to pull David’s Sword partially from its scabbard. “So therewith entered a spear wherewith he was smitten him through both the thighs, and never sith might he be healed”, until Galahad’s coming.

The hunting incident might be taken to precede Garlon’s death by a longer or shorter period of time, and Balin interpreted as Heaven’s unwitting instrument in dealing the Dolorous Stroke, though in this particular Amide abridges the account, perhaps out of delicacy toward Balin and Garlon.

Maimed, Pellam waited in his castle until Lancelot arrived and showed his worth by rescuing the damsel from the scalding bath and slaying a dangerous dragon. The Maimed King then connived with his sorceress Dame Brisen and his daughter Elaine of Carbonek to bring about Galahad’s begetting trough trickery, fornication, and supposed adultery. Perhaps Pellam acted through inspired foresight, or perhaps he merely wanted a grandson whom he could piously educate to work his cure; it is understandable if he wanted himself and his country (which had also suffered through the Dolorous Stroke) healed as soon as possible.

Pellam appears to have had the immediate supervision of Galahad’s upbringing until Galahad’s early adolescence, or even his middle teens. For a part of this time, having had Lancelot cured, by exposure to the Grail, from a fit of madness, Pellam set up Lancelot and Elaine to live together, without benefit of clergy, in the Joyous Garde.

Lancelot appeared at Carbonek again during the Grail Adventures, brought there by the ship with Amide’s body. He had a partial vision of the Grail and fell into a twenty-four-day coma. Pellam had him nursed through this period and, when he woke, told him the sad news of Elaine’s death. After Lancelot’s departure, Galahad, Percivale, and Bors joined nine holy knights of other nations at Carbonek for the climatic Grail Mysteries. Neither Pellam nor his son Eliazar were permitted to remain with these knights for the great vision (though “a maid which was [Pellam’s] niece” appears to have been allowed to remain, probably the Grail Bearer, or perhaps Amide, miraculously resurrected for the hour). At these mysteries, Galahad received blood from the miraculous spear with which to anoint his grandfather and cure him at last.

Some of Pellam’s actions seem, to say the least, surprising for a man holding such a sacred trust as his, and it may not appear strange that, after Pellam’s cure, the Grail and its accompanying relics choose to leave Carbonek forever, going with Galahad, Percivale, and Bors to Sarras and thence out of this world. Pellam, no longer guardian of the Grail,

yielded him to a place of religion of white monks, and was a full holy man.

He was wounded by Sir Balin, and this became known as the Dolorous Stroke which caused Logres to become a Waste Land.


See also
Pellam’s Sister | The Legend of King Arthur