"Shall we begin like David Copperfield? "I am born...I grew up." (Anne Rice Interview with a Vampire (movie quote)
I know this is a strange quote to start a blog on a famous Knight of the Round Table, but hey, I like it, and Percival does not do anything particularly remarkable as a child....he didn't pull a sword out of a stone, for example.
Percival was the son of someone noble - two names are often put forward as Percival's father - Alain le Gros and King Pellinore. But I can not tell you if either of these men have a claim on this remarkable boy. He may have been a son of a knight, Sir Percival senior perhaps? And he was probably Welsh.
Or, shock horror, he may be just another fictional character.
What? Surely not?! I hear you gasp.
I am afraid it is highly plausible...He seems to be the invention of the French poet, Chrétien de Troyes's and is first mentioned in de Troyes unfinished story Perceval, the Story of the Grail.
Back to the story...
Percival's father died, he was possibly killed by the Red Knight, and his mother, heartbroken and determined that her son will not share the fate of his father, runs to the safety of the forest, where she raises him alone and away from worldly temptations.
"In the woods should he be.
There should he nothing see
But the leaves on the tree
And the groves so gray,
And with the wild beasts play."
(Page-Esquire-Knight Marion Lansing)
Percival becomes an exceptional tracker and hunter.
But, Percival is destined for great things. When he was 15 years old, he caught sight of some of Arthur's noble knights riding through the wood. He had never seen a knight before, he had probably never seen a horse before either. He knew nothing of the outside word, for his mother had sheltered him from it.
But he was intrigued by these knights, they looked so chivalrous and he so wanted to be one of them. He leaves his mother...the poor woman had tried so hard to shield her son from the glamour of court, but like his father, Percival heard the call and had to answer it. It is said that she died of heartbreak.
Tom Hopper played Percival in the BBC adaptation Merlin
Percival's dream comes true and he is knighted, but he is not just any ordinary knight. In the story, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, Percival meets the crippled Fisher King and becomes a welcomed guest at his castle. Percival sees a vision of the Grail procession and he is curious as to what it means, but he has been told that it is rude to ask too many questions. Unfortunately, the only way the Fisher King can be cured is if Percival asks questions...oh the irony! Realising his mistake, he vows to find the Grail and fulfil his quest.....And that is where the story breaks off. But it is all right, because Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the German poet, takes it up again, as does a whole host of other poets and storytellers.
In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Percival is one of the three Grail knights....the others being Galahad and Bors. In later text such as Tennyson's The Holy Grail, Percival gives way to Galahad as the top Grail Knight, but he still holds onto his place as one of the chosen few who get to see the Grail.
He has even made it into Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.
He was portrayed as a strong, but loyal subject of King Arthur, in the BBC drama, Merlin. After a noble, selfless act, Arthur knights him - despite the long tradition of Knights having to be of noble birth.
All in all, he didn't do too badly, for a man bought up in a woods and away form civilisation.