Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Grail Question

The Grail Question is the pivotal inquiry posed to the wounded Fisher King, essential for breaking the enchantment that plagues him and his realm. In Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, this question is phrased as, “Who does the Grail serve?” Yet, its essence extends beyond mere words, encompassing a dual inquiry into the nature of the Grail itself and its divine purpose.

Initially, Perceval’s failure to ask this question stems from forgetfulness or caution, guided by the advice of his tutor, Gornemant of Gohort, to remain reticent. However, upon his return to the castle, Perceval seizes the opportunity, unraveling the mystery and completing his quest.

Wolfram von Eschenbach presents a variant of the question as, “What ails you?” while in Diu Crône, by Henrich 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. These iterations underscore the transformative power of the Grail Question, illuminating the path towards redemption and healing.

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