The Forbidden Fountain of the Tylwyth Teg

Wales is an ancient land rich in folktales, folklore and legend that for many centuries were passed on orally before being written into texts.  Many of these legends and folktales are associated with natural features of the landscape such as springs, rivers, lakes, hills and mountains, indeed just about everywhere you look there is a legend or folktale, or custom and tradition that explains, or is associated with some part of the landscape.

According to myth and legend there were many strange creatures that lived within that landscape such as monsters and beings like the afanc, giants and the Tylwyth Teg, the Fairy Folk.  The folktale presented here tells how a poor shepherd boy found the Tylwyth Teg  while he was tending his sheep.  They invited him to join them and he stayed with them in their land for a time living a life of pleasure and luxury with all he could ever need and all he had to do was obey one simple rule which was that he was forbidden to drink from the fountain.

The Shepherd boy and the Tylwyth Teg

james_ward_-_a_shepherd_boy_-_google_art_project

Public Domain

This story is a version based on one called the Forbidden Fountain, from the Welsh Fairy Book by W. Jenkyn Thomas and begins with a shepherd boy who was instructed by his father to take his sheep to the Frenni Fach to graze early one morning in the month of June.  Obeying his father he took his flock to the pasture and because the weather on the hills and mountains of Wales can change quickly he looked across to the summit of Frenni Fawr for signs of change.  He had been taught that if the early morning mists  slipped down one side of the hill then he could expect fair weather.   If the mist slipped down the other side then foul weather would prevail.

The boy was pleased because he saw the mist slipping down the side of the mountain that promised a fair day ahead and he whistled happily while he tended his sheep.  His flock were happily grazing and it was indeed beginning to be a fair day and he looked around him idly.  In the distance his eye was caught by the movement  of a group of men.  At first he could not quite make out who they were and then he had the idea they were a group of soldiers busily engaged in some activity but couldn’t make out what.

He thought it most strange that soldiers should be active in the hills so he climbed to the top of a nearby hillock for a better view.  When he reached the top he saw to his surprise that what he thought had been soldiers were too small and realized that they must be a troop of the Tylwyth Teg.  He had often heard stories about them from his elders and he had seen the rings of mushrooms that sometimes appeared in different places where they had been  but never had he seen one of the Fair Folk himself.

The Tylwyth Teg

To his excitement he realized what he saw was indeed a group of the little people and he thought about running home to tell his mother and father.  On second thoughts he realized that by the time he had run home and returned with his parents they may well have gone and perhaps he would then be accused of being a liar and get into to trouble for leaving the sheep. He decided not to say anything yet thinking it would be safer.

Nevertheless, he was fascinated by the thought that it might be the Tylwyth Teg and decided to get nearer to get a better view of what they were up to.  So slowly and stealthily he crept towards them and managed to get close enough without disturbing them to get a very good view of what they were doing.

To his surprise and delight he saw they were indeed little people of both men and women all inside a great circle of mushrooms.  The men were very handsome and the women were very beautiful and some of them were dancing in circles with one another, others were playing and chasing with each other, while others were galloping around on little white horses.

fairy_rings_and_toadstools_by_r_doyle

Public Domain

They were wearing mostly red, white and green clothing.  The men wore red caps and the women wore a green head dress, which flowed behind them in the breeze as they danced. Although he could hear no music it looked like the entire company was singing and laughing and a happier sight the shepherd boy had never seen before.

The boy was enchanted and stood to get a better view.  Seeing him stand the smiling Tylwyth Teg beckoned and called for him to join them.  Cautiously he edged towards them and stood outside the circle looking in.  Laughing and calling to him they urged him to step into the circle and as he did so his ears were struck by the sweetest music.  It was both merry and serious and more melodious than any music he had ever heard before.

Looking around he was shocked to discover he wasn’t in the fairy ring on the mountainside but in a wonderfully beautiful palace of shining gold, glittering silver and lustrous pearls.  He was stunned at all of the treasures and jewels that he saw and the people were so friendly offering every type of pleasure for his enjoyment.

The warning of the Tylwyth Teg

The Tylwyth Teg allowed him to move around as he pleased and he was attended to every second by the most beautiful maidens.  They offered him food and drink the like he had never tasted before, or even dreamed of and served it up on silver platters.  They urged him to eat and drink his fill which he did, but they placed  but one small restriction upon him.   They warned him not to drink from the fountain in the garden in which swam wondrous fishes of gold, silver and many other colors and he agreed not to.

He stayed in the palace of the Tylwyth Teg for many a day and all the time he was given wonderful food to eat, the best beer and the sweetest wine and he was entertained wonderfully.    New pastimes and activities were invented solely to please him and each new face he saw seemed fairer than the last if such a thing was possible and he lived in a state  of idleness and joy.  Here he was a poor shepherd boy who had only ever known poverty and hardship now living a life of luxury and ease everything he needed or even dreamed of was at his beck and call, yet something still gnawed at him.

The forbidden fountain

Although the Tylwyth Teg had warned him there was a curiosity that burned in him.  He would often find himself drawn to the forbidden fountain but just managed to remember the warning.  One day though he found himself gazing at the fish of gold and silver and many other colors that swam here and there in the waters of the fountain.

When he thought no one was looking he gently tipped his hand in the water. Immediately the fish disappeared.  He then cupped his hands and filled them with water from the fountain and raised them to his mouth to drink.  As soon as the water wet his lips a hideous scream ran through the garden.

The fountain vanished, the garden vanished and the palace dissolved into nothing and he found himself on the mountainside in the exact place he had entered the fairy ring.  Looking round in shock he saw his flock quietly grazing on the mountain pasture exactly as he had left them and the mist on the Frenni Fawr had not moved.  Although he had thought he had been with the Tylwyth Teg for years in fact it had only been a few minutes.

Time and humans

And such is the case for time flows differently in the land of the Tylwyth Teg and a few earth minutes can seem like years.  For most humans this is too great a thing to bear.  There is always a desire to enjoy new sensations and experiences so even though the boy could have spent his life enjoying a life of ease and pleasure that were readily available to him he just had to drink from the forbidden fountain.

© 31/05/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May 31st, 2016 zteve t evans

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Cherokee folklore: The legend of the Cherokee Rose

For the Cherokee people the Cherokee Rose was a special symbol given in answer to their prayers to give them hope and strength through a terrible ordeal.  This work briefly looks at the terrible circumstances that caused most of the Cherokee and other people to be forcibly uprooted and moved to a new home many miles away.  It also tells a version of the legend of  how a wild flower became a symbol of hope for the Cherokee people and a sign that they were not forgotten.

cherokee_rose

The Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) – Public Domain

On the 28th of May 1830, the United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This authorized Andrew Jackson, the President of the United States of America and his successor, Martin Van Burrens, to begin the “negotiations” for the removal of the southern Native American people from their homelands to land west of the Mississippi River. The intention was to free up their land for the ever increasing number of settlers who were steadily displacing them.  It was not supposed to legalize the enforced removal of people and although the Cherokees won an appeal in the Supreme Court Andrew Jackson would not comply and forced relocations, or death marches were enacted.

Although some had left voluntarily it was mostly through force that the relocations took place and involved the Cherokee, Seminole, Chocktaw, Chickasaw and Muscogge, or Creek people who were regarded as the Five Civilized Tribes.  It also involved other people including the Kickapoo,  Wyandot, Lenape,  Potowatomi and the Shawnee and some African slaves and European Americans and was done in stages.  A few of them who owned land were allowed to stay and some continued to live in the wilds.   Between 1830 and 1850 most were sent under armed escort on a a long and hazardous journey west of the Mississippi to land that the government had designated to them.   Some went overland and some went by river. Either way it was a terrible journey and many died.  The first of the people to be forcibly removed were the Choctaw who suffered greatly on the journey. One of their chief’s described it as a “trail of tears and death” and thereafter the forced journey became known as the Trail of Tears.

By 1928 the discovery of gold in Georgia put pressure on the government by settlers and prospectors and they forced the Cherokees and the other peoples to move to the allotted Indian Territories west of the Mississippi River which became Oklahoma.  Many Cherokees and other Native Americans died on that enforced march that began in 1834.  It was estimated that of about 16,543 Cherokees who took part up to 6,000 died on the journey.

The Trail of Tears

It was a long and terrible journey and although the brave Cherokees were hardy and stoic their ordeal began to tell on them.  Many children perished through disease and malnutrition along the way.  Their mothers were so full of grief and tears they began to struggle to help and encourage the remaining children to keep going and survive the journey to the new lands.

The Elders of the Cherokee people saw this and grew worried.  They knew that the children were the future of their people and for the people to survive in the future the children had to survive in the present, even under such terrible conditions.   For the children to survive they needed their mother’s strength and love and so they prayed for help and guidance and a sign.

Their prayer is answered

Their prayers were heard and they received a message and were told,

“In the morning tell the women to look back along the trail where their tears have fallen and watered the earth.  For every tear they will see the small green shoots of plants that will grow upwards fast and then fall back to the earth.  Wherever it touches the earth another plant shall grow and another and another and so forth.  The plant will grow fast in in the morning light and by the afternoon will flower with a beautiful rose with five petals.   

The petals of the rose will be pure white representing the purity of the tears of the Cherokee mothers.  The center is gold symbolizing the gold taken by the greed of those who drove the Cherokees from their ancestral lands.  The rose has seven leaves on each stem representing the seven clans of the Cherokee people.

This plant will spread.  It will be a strong plant and will take back some of the land stolen from the Cherokees.”

In the morning the mothers woke up and began weeping but the Elders told them to look back down the trail and the mothers obeyed.  Looking back the way they had come they marveled to see a small green shoots sprouting along the trail in the earth that their tears had watered.  As they walked on, each time they looked back they saw a trail of green plants back along the trail they had just walked along.  By noon these plants had grown into a beautiful white flowering rose.

The flower was created as a sign that they were being watched over and that they were still loved and to give them hope and strength. It became known as the Cherokee Rose and came to symbolize the pain and suffering of the Cherokee people on the long and terrible Trail of Tears that they call it “nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i,” or the “Trail Where They Cried.”

Today the Cherokee Rose grows all along the Trail of Tears all the way from Georgia and North Carolina to east Oklahoma to the land that had been decreed by the government to be the new home of the Cherokee Nation.

© 24/06/2016 zteve t evans

 References and Attributions

Copyright May 24th, 2016 zteve t evans

African folklore: The Lightning bird

African folklore: The Lightning bird

The lightning bird is a mythical bird in the folklore and traditions of different peoples of South Africa, such as the Zulu, Pondo, and Xhosa people.  Sometimes it is called the impundulu, thewane, izulu, and also the inyoni yezulu.  It is supposed to have the ability to call up thunder and lightning with its talons and wings.

lightning_noaa

Image by C.Clark – Public Domain

The Lightning bird

The impundulu, which means, lightning bird, is described in various ways.  Some say it is a bird that stands as tall as a human and has a plumage colored black and white but descriptions do vary greatly.  One village girl to whom it appeared claimed the it looked like a black rooster and ran up the shaft of her hoe and across her body where it left its claw marks. It then flew off into the sky to disappear in the clouds.  Others say it has an iridescent plumage like that of a peacock. Still others say it has a red beak, red legs and red tail. Many descriptions say the lightning bird is a winged creature as tall as a man and when it wants to can appear as a man but usually appears as a large black and white bird of prey.

Some African people believe the hammerkop is the lightning bird and if someone destroys its nest it will sit on that person’s roof and call down lightning to destroy the house. Others say the lightning bird will only usually appear through lightning but will sometimes reveal itself to women as a bird.   When this happens it is believed to appear in the mind perhaps as some kind of inner vision and sometimes comes in different forms.

The egg of the Lightning bird

There is also a belief that the lightning bird lays an egg at the exact point where its lightning first makes contact with the earth.  This can be of mixed fortune and can be seen as either being a good omen or a bad one, perhaps making it necessary to dig out the egg and dispose of it.

Vampire bird

lassa_witch_doctors

Witch Doctors – Public Domain

According to African folklore and tradition it is strongly associated with witchcraft. It is said to be a vampire bird that is often a servant, confidant, or a familiar of a witch, or witch doctor. The lightning bird cannot be killed by shooting or stabbing and it cannot be drowned or poisoned.  The only way it can be killed is by burning with fire if it can be caught, otherwise it is said to be immortal and outlives its masters. Legend says that it is inherited from mother to daughter in the family of the witch or witch doctor to whom it belongs and will do the bidding of its current master.

It will visit and cause bad luck or illness to anyone that its master commands it to. It is said to possess an insatiable lust for blood sometimes transforming into a handsome young man who seduces women to drink their blood.  For all these reasons and because it is the servant of witches or witch doctors it is considered to be an evil creature. Witches and witch doctors are believed to be able to transform their shape into that of an hyena and the Lightning bird or Impundulu is often seen riding on the back of a hyena.

Medicinal powers

It is usually the case that the witch doctor of the people is the one who has the most dealings with the Lighting bird.  According to tradition an extract from the flesh of the bird can help the witch doctor find thieves as well as control their minds and also the minds of those who are law abiding.

It is believed that the fat of the bird is the fuel that burns when the bird sends forth lightning.   It is also believed to have important ingredients that are used in traditional medicine and its fat is prized.  It is difficult to obtain the fat of the lightning bird for medicinal use as according to tradition the bird must be captured the instant the lightning it lets loose strikes the ground.  Another way is to dig it from out of a hole underneath the ground at the exact spot where lightning strikes the earth.

A bird of power

To the many Africans the Lightning bird was seen as a bird of power and magic and like thunder and lightning, something to be feared or at least respected.

© 18/05/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May the 18th, 2016  zteve t evans

Philippine folktales: The story of Dumalawi

The story of Dumalawi is a folktale from the Tinguan people of the Philippines collected by Mabel Cook Cole in her book Philippine Folk Tales published in 1916.  According to Cook the major characters in Tinguian mythology are often representative of heroes of times gone by whose exploits have become exaggerated and embellished by continued telling from generation to generation from the people of the “first times”.  Cook says,

“These people of “the first times” practiced magic. They talked with jars, created human beings out of betel-nuts, raised the dead, and had the power of changing themselves into other forms.”

Many of the major characters appear in many different stories but their special characteristics,  the interconnections and their personality can be discerned in each one. Sometimes they appear under different names but are still recognizable. For example Dumalawi appears in another story as Kanag along with his mother and father Aponibolinayen and Aponitolau respectively, who also appear in other stories sometimes in different guises.  Presented here is reworked version of The Story of Dumalawi.  This is followed by a few observations that seem pertinent to a complete beginner in Philippine folktales.

tinguin_men_of_sallapadin

An old photograph of Tinguan men – Public Domain

The Story of Dumalawi

Aponitolau was the husband of Aponibolinayen and together they had a son they named Dumalawi.  As Dumalawi grew from a boy to a young man his father grew very angry and dissatisfied with him and began to think up ways to kill him.  One morning he told his son to go and sharpen his knife because they would go into the forest to cut bamboo.

Dumalawi had no idea that his father hated him and wanted him dead so he did as he was told and sharpened his knife.  Aponitolau took Dumalawi deep into the forest to a place where bamboo grew.  Together they cut many sticks and his father told his son to sharpen one end of each stick into a point.  Dumalawi wondered greatly at this but did as his father told him sharpening the point of each stick making them into spears. When Dumalawi had completed this task his father said to him, “Now my son you must throw them at me so we can then find out which of us is the bravest.” But Dumalawi was not happy with that and said to his father, “No, you must throw first if you are trying to kill me!”

So Aponitolau went first and threw the spears at his son who side-stepped them and no matter how hard he tried he could not hit him.  When Aponitolau had thrown all the spears at his son and failed to hit him he then told Dumalawi that it was his turn to throw the spears at him.  But Dumalawi said, “I am sorry but I cannot.  You are my father and I cannot kill you.”

Dumalawi was very sad and full of sorrow because now he knew his father wanted to kill him but he would not throw the spears at his father.  They returned home and his mother had prepared dinner for them but he could not eat because he was too upset.

The next day Aponitolau said to Dumalawi, “Today we will go to our house in the field and repair it so that we can shelter in it when the rains come.”  So together they went to the house in the field.   When they arrived Aponitolau pointed to a place on the ground and told his son to dig there, saying, “When I was a boy I buried a jar of basi there and after all these years it should be good now.”  So Dumalawi did as his father said and sure enough found a jar of basi.  They drank it together but Dumalawi unaccustomed to strong drink became drunk and fell asleep.

Aponitolau now saw this as a good chance to be rid of his son for good.   Summoning up his magical power he created a great storm with powerful winds that lifted Dumalawi into the sky while he slept and carried him far, far, away.  Satisfied that he had disposed of his son, Aponitolau went home smiling.

The field

Dumalawi was sound asleep and had no idea that he was being carried away on the wings of a great storm.  The storm bore him many miles before gently setting him down in the middle of a great field.  Eventually, Dumalawi woke, rubbed his eyes and looked around him.  He was astonished to find himself in the middle of a huge field.  The field was so big that Dumalawi could see no houses, no trees and no people no matter which way he looked around the field.  An overwhelming feeling of loneliness swept over him at such desolation.

Betel nuts

To overcome this feeling Dumalawi used his magic to create and grow betel-nuts and they flourished in the field and bore fruit covered in gold.   Dumalawi was pleased with this and decided he would scatter the betel nuts around the field so that they could grow into people and become his friends and neighbors.  He set about this task in the middle of the night cutting the golden betel nuts into small pieces and then scattering the pieces in all directions.  When he had finished he was tired so he went to sleep.  Early in the morning he woke to the sound of many people talking and the sound of cocks crowing.  Dumalawi then knew he was no longer alone and now had friends and neighbors. He got up and walked around talking to the people and making friends and visited everyone.

Dapilisan

As he walked around meeting and visiting people he met a most beautiful maiden named Dapilisan.  He had never seen anyone so beautiful and as he talked and chatted with her he became enchanted by her and fell in love.  She introduced him to her parents and they talked and chatted with Dumalawi very cordially for a while and then he left and went on to meet other people.  Now although Dumalawi  was meeting and talking to lots of other people he could not get Dapilisan out of his mind and he saw her face and heard her voice everywhere he went.

At last after he had met everyone he returned to talk to her and asked her to marry him.  She wanted to very much but rightly said he must ask her parents first. So he asked the permission of her parents but they were reluctant to give it because they thought Dumawali’s parents might object.  Dumawali explained that his father did not want him and had tried to get rid of him.  On hearing this they changed their minds and gave their blessing to him marrying their daughter and the two were married.

They had not been married for long when they decided they would hold a special ceremony to the spirits to give thanks.  Dapilisan then sent for the golden betel nuts and said to them, “Golden betel nuts anoint yourselves with oil and go and invite everybody in the world to come to our ceremony of thanks to the spirits.”  The golden betel nuts anointed themselves with oil and went off to all the towns and villages inviting all the people to the spirit ceremony of Dumawali and Dapilisan.

Aponibolinayen

Dumawali’s mother had no idea where he was or what had happened to him and did not know he was married.  She mourned for him and had not eaten since his disappearance. Suddenly she was overcome by the desire to chew a betel-nut.  She had thought to fast until he returned but the desire was very strong so she went to a basket of betel nuts she kept.  She looked to choose one and then saw that there was one golden one among the others.  Taking up that one she was about to cut it in half when it suddenly spoke to her saying, “Please don’t cut me for I have come to invite you to the spirit ceremony of your son, Dumawali and his wife!”

Aponibolinayen was delighted because she had no idea where he was or what had happened and feared her son to be dead.  She went round to her neighbors and told all of the people to wash themselves and their clothes and attend the ceremony.  So everyone washed their clothes and hair and made themselves look as good as they could.  Then they followed Aponibolinayen in a procession to Dumalawi and his wife’s  home to attend the ceremony to the spirits.  Following along behind came Aponitolau, Dumalawi’s father with a mad look in his eyes.

When the procession reached the river that they had to cross to reach Dumalwai’s home they stopped because it was too deep and swift. Then Dumalawi seeing this on the other shore used his magic to summon alligators who ferried everyone safely across the river to where he was.  The last one left to cross the river was Dumalawi’s father, but when he got on the alligator’s back it dived deep into the water and he fell off and was swept back to the bank.  Aponitolau struggled back up the bank and shouted and gestured manically at Dumalawi on the other side.  Dumawali then sent another alligator to ferry his father safely across to him.

When all had arrived Dumalawi brought food for everyone and Dapilisan his wife passed around a small jar of basi for everyone to drink from. Although there were many guests the drink was passed around and everyone had a small drink from it and there was still plenty left in the jar.

When the eating and drinking had finished Aponibolinayen spoke to everyone saying how thrilled and glad she was to have Dapilisan for her daughter-in-law and she said to everyone, “As is our custom it now time for the marriage price to be paid and we will fill the spirit house with various jars nine times over!, ”  and she called on the spirits saying, “Spirits of the springs fetch the jars to pay the price for the marriage of my son, Dumawali to Dapilisan.”

The spirits obeyed Aponibolinayen and they filled the house nine times over with various jars.  Aponibolinayen then said to Dapilisan’s mother and father,  “The marriage price is now paid for your daughter are you satisfied?”

Then Dalonagan, the mother of Dapilisa said, “There is more to pay!”

“Name your price and we will pay it!” said Aponibolinayen.

Dalongan had a pet spider and called it to come to her and told it, “You my big spider walk around the town and spin a thread as you go.  Aponibolinayen must follow on behind and string gold beads upon the thread.”

The spider obeyed Dalonagan.  Aponibolinayen called once again on the spirits of the springs and they appeared and strung the thread with gold beads.  When this was done Dalonagan pulled upon the tread and it did not break and she declared the marriage price to be paid.  Then everyone rejoiced and was happy and when the festivities at last came to a halt they all went home. Aponibolinayen asked Dumalawi to return home with her but he refused.  He told her that he and his wife wanted to live in the town he had made with the people he had made and so the story ends there at least for now for now.

A magical place

As someone who has never been to the Philippines or knows very little of the culture and history of its people the world of this story seems a magical place.  A place where people have magical powers and turn betel-nuts into humans, spirits obey people, alligators tamely ferry people across a river, and huge spiders spin threads for gold beads to be hung upon and a lot more besides. It also tell how a young man created his world out of nothing, creating his own happiness after being rejected by his father.  This is just one of many, many, wonderful folktales and part of a rich and vibrant culture that evolved in the Philippines and deserves to be told for the benefit of the world.

                                                             © 10/05/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May 10th, 2016 zteve t evans

Vixiana, the witch of Vixen Tor, Dartmoor

aliorumnas

Vixiana, the witch of Vixen Tor

Dartmoor is a place of many strange legends and folktales featuring the most extraordinary characters. One of the most extraordinary must surely be Vixiana the Witch of Vixen Tor. She was also known as Vixana and had an evil reputation among the local people who greatly feared her. There are a number of different versions of her story and the one presented here has been pieced together from more than one source. A brief description of the tor followed by the story of how Vixiana came to meet her match is presented here and concludes with a few conundrums to think about.

Vixen Tor

The tor is situated between Tavistock and Princetown on Dartmoor. It is also called ‘The Sphinx of Dartmoor” because of its sphinx-like appearance when viewed at certain angles. Some say it’s a vixen. Others say that when seen in silhouette to the sky it can also resemble an old man wearing a cap who has his back turned on his wife. Different people tend to see different things but essentially it is a mass of granite that appears to be made from rocks piled on top of each other.

Vixen Tor became a place of ill omen and foreboding in the lifetime of Vixiana who had a terrifying reputation. According to tradition at her bidding, creatures from the Underworld had hollowed out a cave which ran underneath the tor. There on bleak and wild Dartmoor she lived in that cave alone.

Vixiana

She was ugly and so old that the local people could only ever remember her as being old even when they were children. She just got older and older, uglier and uglier and more evil as the years passed by.  Read more
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Sir Galahad the Perfect Knight

640px-arthur_hughes_-_sir_galahad_-_the_quest_for_the_holy_grail

Sir Galahad first appeared in medieval Arthurian romance in the Lancelot-Grail cycle of works and then later in Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.  He was the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic and became one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.  When he came of age he was considered the best knight in the world and the perfect knight and was renowned for his gallantry and purity becoming one of only three Knights of the Round Table to achieve the Holy Grail.  The other two were Sir Bors and Sir Percival.  Pieced together here is a brief look at his early life and how through his immaculate behavior he rose to such an exalted status  achieving the Holy Grail and a spiritual dimension which remained frustratingly out of reach of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and most of the the other Knights of the Round Table and concludes by comparing his achievements with those of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot.

King Pelles

King Pelles the lord of Corbenic the Grail Castle, in the land of Listeneise  and was Galahad’s maternal grandfather.  He was also one of the line of the guardians of the Holy Grail. In some Arthurian romances  Joseph of Arimathea brought the Grail to Britain and gave it to Bron, his brother-in-law, to keep safe and Pelles was descended from Bron. In some versions of Arthurian romance Pelles is also known as the Fisher King or Maimed King.

Pelles had been wounded in the legs or groin resulting in a loss of fertility and his impotence was reflected in the well-being his of kingdom making it infertile and a Wasteland. This is why he was sometimes called the Maimed King.  The only activity he appeared able to do was go fishing.  His servants had to carry him to to the water’s edge and there he would spend his time fishing which is why  he is sometimes called the Fisher King.   Galahad was important to King Pelles as he was the only one who could heal his wound.

Elaine and Lancelot

King Pelles had a daughter named Elaine and he had been forewarned by magical means that Lancelot would become the father of his daughter’s child.  This child would grow to become the world’s best and most perfect knight and be chosen by God to achieve the Holy Grail.  He was the chosen one who would be the only one pure enough to be able to heal his wound.  There was a problem though. Lancelot was dedicated solely to Guinevere, his true love and would never knowingly sleep with another woman.   Nevertheless Pelles was desperate for the liaison to take place and decided to seek magical help from Dame Brusen.  She was one of Elaine’s servants who was skilled in the art of sorcery to help his cause.  She gives Pelles a magic ring for Elaine to wear which gives her the likeness of Guinevere.

Elaine wears the magic ring and transforms into the a double of Guinevere.  Lancelot is fooled by the masquerade and they sleep together.  When he discovers the deception he is angry and ashamed and threatens to kill her.  She tells hims she is with his child and he relents but leaves Corbenic.

Elaine in due course gives birth to his son who she names Galahad.  This is the name Lancelot was baptized with when he was born.   It was the Lady of the Lake who fostered and raised Lancelot in her magical realm and it was she who named him Lancelot du Lac, or Lancelot of the Lake.

The madness of Lancelot

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Soon afterwards Elaine goes to a feast at Arthur’s court.  Although Lancelot is also there he refuses to acknowledge her, making her sorrowful and lovelorn.   She calls her servant Dame Brusen to her and tells her how she is feeling and asks for her help.  Dame Brusen tells Elaine that she will fix it so Lancelot lies with her that night.  Pretending to Lancelot that Guinevere has summoned him she leads him to her chamber, but it is Elaine waiting there for him in bed in the dark and again he sleeps with her.

While he is with Elaine, Guinevere summons him and is furious to discover he is not in his bed chamber and even more so when she discovers him lying with Elaine in hers.  She tells him that she never wants to see or talk to him again and will have nothing more to do with him.  Lancelot is so upset and disturbed at what has happened and with Guinevere’s admonishments that madness takes him and he leaps out of the window running off into the wilderness.

Lost in madness and consumed by grief and sorrow he wanders alone through the wild places before he eventually reaches Corbenic where Elaine finds him insane her garden. She takes him to a chamber in Corbenic Castle where he is allowed to view the Holy Grail, but only through a veil.  Nevertheless this veiled sight of the holy relic is enough to cure him of his insanity.  Although he sees it through the veil, having committed adultery he is not pure enough so he can never be the perfect knight that achieves the Grail.

When his son is born he finally forgives Elaine but will not marry her and instead returns to the court of King Arthur.  The child is named Galahad, after his father’s former name and given to his great aunt to bring up in a nunnery.  Merlin foretells that Galahad will be even more valiant than his father and will achieve the Holy Grail.

Galahad’s quest for the Holy Grail

It was not until Galahad became a young man that he was reunited with Sir Lancelot, his father, who makes him a knight.   Lancelot then takes Galahad to Camelot at Pentecost where he joins the court.  A veteran knight who accompanied him leads him to the Round Table and unveils an empty chair which is called the Siege Perilous or the Perilous Seat.  At the advice of Merlin this seat was kept vacant for the knight who was to achieve the Quest for the Holy Grail.

This was his first test or worthiness as this chair in the past had proved deadly for any who had previously sat there who had hoped to find the Grail.  Galahad sits in the seat and survives.  King Arthur sees this and is impressed seeing that there is something special about him and leads him down to a river  where there is a floating stone with a sword embedded in it which bears an inscription  which says,

“Never shall man take me hence but only he by whose side I ought to hang; and he shall be the best knight of the world.”

Galahad tries and takes the sword from the stone and Arthur immediately declares that he is the greatest knight ever.  Arthur invites Galahad to become a member of the Round Table which he accepts.  Not long after the mystical presence of the Holy Grail is briefly experienced by those at King Arthur’s Court and the quest to find the grail is immediately begun. All the Knights of the Round Table embark on the quest leaving Camelot virtually empty.  Arthur is sad because he knows many will die or not return and fears it is the beginning of the end of his kingdom.

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Galahad mainly traveled alone and became involved in many adventures. In one he saves Sir Percival when he was attacked by twenty knights and rescued many maidens in distress.  Eventually he meets up again with Sir Percival who is accompanied by Sir Bors and together they find the sister of Sir Percival who takes them to a ship that will take them over the sea to a distant shore.  Sadly when they reach the shore Percival’s sister has to die that another may live.  To ensure she gets a fit and proper burial Sir Bors takes her body back to her homeland.

Sir Galahad and Sir Percival continue the quest and after many adventures arrive at the court of King Pelles and his son Eliazar.  Pelles and Eliazar are holy men and take Sir Galahad into a room to show him the Holy Grail and they request that he take it to a holy city called Sarras. After being shown the Grail, Sir Galahad asks that he may he may choose the time of his own death which is granted.

While he is on the journey back to Arthur’s court Joseph of Arimathea comes to him and he experiences such feeling of ecstasy that he asks to die there and then.  He says his goodbyes to Sir Percival and Sir Bors and angels appear and he is carried off to heaven as his two friends watch.  Although there is nothing to say that the Holy Grail will not once again be seen on earth it was said that since the ascension to heaven of Galahad there has not been another knight with the necessary qualities of achieving the Holy Grail.

Galahad’s achievement of the Holy Grail

Sir Galahad and the quest for the Holy Grail is one of the later stories that appeared as Arthurian romances grew in popularity.   The thought is that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were not pure enough to achieve such an important religious task. Galahad was introduced into the fold as one of the few who had the purity and personal qualities to qualify him as worthy enough to achieve the Holy Grail.  Just as when Arthur drew the sword from the stone and became the chosen one, Galahad did the same and also became the chosen one. He chose the kingdom of God whereas Arthur built a kingdom on earth.  In taking up the quest for the Holy Grail the priority is to the spiritual rather than the earthly life and Galahad fulfills the spiritual dimension of Arthurian romance and becomes the example for his contemporaries and those coming after him to aspire to.

© 03/05/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May 3rd, 2016 zteve t evans