Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Pelles of Corbenic

Peiles, Peles, Pellas, Pelles de Listenois, Pelles of Lystenois, Pelles of Lytenois, Pelleur, Perles de Bristenois, Pesles

The Vulgate Grail King. He was the father of Elaine (or Amite) and grandfather of Galahad.

His origin may lie with the Welsh characters Pwyll, lord of Dyfed, or Beli, king of Britain. Another possible source for his name is the Cornish peller, meaning “enchanter” (Loomis, Romance, 267).

Pelles was the son of Pellehan (Pellam) (usually the Maimed King) and the brother of Pellinore, although all three were probably once the same character, and is described as King of Listinoise. He is also described as the King of Terre Foraine (Strange Land). According to Perlesvaus, in which Pelles makes his first appearance, he was Perceval’s maternal uncle. His siblings included Yglais (Perceval’s mother, also called the Widowed Lady), Messois the Fisher King, and the evil King of the Castle MortalPerlesvaus calls him the Hermit King, for he retired to a hermitage after his son, Joseus, killed his wife.

In the Vulgate romances, Pelles is himself the Fisher King – the king of the land of Listenois (also known as the Strange Land) and the Grail CastleCorbenic (Carbonek). (The Vulgate Merlin, however, names Alain as the Fisher King and Pelles as his brother.) He was descended from Bron, the first Fisher King. His son, Eliezer, was one of Arthur’s knights. According to the Post-Vulgate Cycle, his two sisters married Lac and Dirac, the father and uncle of Sir Erec.

Pelles was aware of various prophecies that Galahad, the yet-conceived son of Lancelot and Elaine, would complete the Grail Quest and restore the land of Listenois. Thus, he conspired with Brisen, Elaine’s maidservant, to get Lancelot into Elaine’s bed. When Lancelot was visiting Corbenic, Pelles drugged his wine and told him that Guinevere was waiting for him at Case Castle. Lancelot rode there, climbed into Elaine’s bed and, believing he was with Guinevere, fathered Galahad. Some years later, Lancelot went insane and eventually found his way to Corbenic. Pelles took him to the Palace of Adventures, where the Grail was kept, and cured him. At the culmination of the Grail Quest, Pelles received Galahad, Perceval, and Bors in his castle, presented them with the Grail, and led Galahad to heal the Maimed King.

Malory confuses matters by attaching to Pelles a story given in the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal to Pellehan: As a youth, Pelles came across a ship that had been built by King Solomon of Israel. Aboard the ship, he tried to draw the Sword with the Strange Hangings, which was meant only for Galahad, and he received a holy wound through his thighs, rendering him infirm. Thus, in Malory, Pelles also may be identified with the Maimed King.

Neither the Vulgate stories nor Malory describe Pelles’s death. In Perlesvaus, he is slain by Aristor of Amorave, an evil knight who is later killed by Perceval.

Perlesvaus | Early 13th century
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470