It is common in folklore and fairy tales that there is a theme of a land under a spell, which could only be broken by asking the right question. The Grail Question is the question to be asked of the wounded Fisher King in order to break the enchantment under which he and his lands are held, by the quest knight. In Perceval, by Chrétien de Troyes, the question is:
Who does the Grail serve?
The question is really twofold:
What is the Grail?
Whom does it serve?
At first Perceval did not achieve the Grail simply because he forgot to ask this question, or didn’t dare to since his tutor, Gornemant of Gohort, had warned him not to talk too much. He did not make the same mistake twice and asked the question needed when he visited the castle for the second time and completes the adventure.
Wolfram von Eschenbach’s version of the question is:
What ails you [the Grail King]?
In Diu Crône, by Heinrich von dem Türlin, the Grail company were in a state of living dead and were freed when Gawain roared
For the sake of God and His majesty, tell me the meaning of this large assembly and miracle!
Gawain partially heals the Fisher King’s land by asking about the Bleeding Lance, but he falls asleep before he can ask about the Grail, in the First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval.
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200-1210
Perlesvaus | Early 13th century
Diu Crône | Heinrich von dem Türlin, c. 1230
Didot – Perceval | c. 1220-1230
Third Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Manessier, c. 1230
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century