Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Maimed King

Roi Mahaignié, Roi Mehaignie; Wounded King

This character parallels the Fisher King and was, according to the Vulgate Version, a being created when the Fisher King divided into two.

In the Grail romances, a king with a mysterious wound that would not heal. Though not called the “Maimed King” until later, a character of this nature appears in Chrétien’s Perceval. Named as the father of the Fisher King, he lies infirm in a chamber in the Grail Castle and is sustained by a single mass wafer served to him from the Grail. His son, the Fisher King, also has a wound, and confusion between the two characters probably led later authors to identify them as the same person. Presumably, the Maimed King would have been healed along with the Fisher King had Perceval asked the Grail Question.

The character called the “Maimed King” comes from the Vulgate romances, and his true name is variously given as Pellehan, Pelles, Parlan, Pellam, Pelleam, Pellinore, or Alan. He was either the father or brother of the Fisher King.

He was once a Grail King himself, but he received a supernatural wound which left him physically and spiritually feeble. The wounding occured during a war in Rome, or when Balin struck him with the Bleeding Lance, or when he doubted the holiness of the Holy Grail, or in punishment for drawing the Sword with the Strange Hangings. He lay ill in the Grail Castle for many years until, during the Grail Quest, Galahad cured him with blood from the Bleeding Lance. He spent the rest of his life in a hermitage.

In the French Perlesvaus, there is a suggestion of Arthur himself as a Maimed King: his lapse into inactivity and dishonor occurs congruent with Perceval’s failure at the Grail Quest. Arthur is renewed by a visit to the Chapel of St. Augustine in the White Forest. Perlesvaus also mentions a Sick King that may have influenced the Vulgate Maimed King.

In some versions of the story, the Maimed King is identified as Joseph of Arimathea, who is also believed to have brought the Holy Grail to Britain. He is often portrayed as a wise and pious figure, who is greatly respected by Arthur and his knights.

The story of the Maimed King is often seen as a metaphor for the spiritual decay of the Arthurian world, and the need for a pure and holy figure to heal and restore it. It also represents the importance of purity and chivalry in the Arthurian code, and the belief that only those who are truly virtuous can achieve great feats and overcome great obstacles.

Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Perlesvaus | Early 13th century
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal | 1220-1235
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Le Livre d’Artus | Early 13th century
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470