Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Waste Land

Two entries with the name Waste Land.

Waste Land

Land Laid Waste, Terre Desert, Terre Gaste

The region of France ruled by Claudas, the mortal enemy of Lancelot and his family. Originally called Berry, the land was renamed after Uther Pendragon and Aramont of Brittany destroyed it and turned it into a desert as part of their campaign against Claudas.

Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230

Waste Land

Desert, Deserted Land, Land Laid Waste, Strange Land, Terre Gaste, Terre Gastee

Also known as the Strange Land, the Waste Land was the kingdom destroyed in holy retribution for the Dolorous Stroke (or, in one version, for Percevale’s failure to ask the Grail Question). To those stories that include it, it is identical to the Grail Kingdom, sometimes called Listenois. The Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal says that it also included Wales. The country of Dyfed in Wales, interestingly, is laid waste by an enchantment under different circumstances in the early non-Arthurian tale of Manawydan. In the Didot-Perceval, the Waste Land encompasses all of Great Britain. The Waste Land’s ruler was the Grail King or Fisher King.

The Waste Land is first found in the First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval, where the sickness of the land is linked to the illness and infertility of the Maimed King. (This link forms the most cogent arguments of scholars who propse an agrarian ritual origin for the Grail legend.) The Waste Land resulted from use, in combat, of the Grail Sword. Neither the land nor the king could be healed until some knight asked the Fisher King to explain the marvels of the Grail. After Perceval failed to ask the question during his visit to the Fisher King’s castle, Gawain partially healed the land and king by inquiring about the Bleeding Lance.

The theme of a land under a spell which a question will undo is pervavise in fairy tales and folklore, and the idea that the health of the land and the ruler were one is common in Celtic folktale. We find a particularly relevant example in the Welsh story of Branwen, in which Bran, King of Britain, is wounded in the foot by a poisoned spear during an expedition to Ireland. As a result, Britain falls waste. Bran has been viewed by many as the progenitor of the Fisher King.

In the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal, Perceval’s aunt is called the Queen of the Waste Land. She instructs Perceval during the Grail Quest. Malory names her as one of the four queens who takes Arthur’s body from the battlefield of Salisbury to the island of Avalon.

A Knight of the Waste Land is defeated by Arthur in Le Chevalier du Papegau.

First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Wauchier of Denain, c. 1200
Didot-Perceval | c. 1220-1230
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Le Chevalier du Papegau | Late 14th century or early 15th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470