Sarah Clinch Dr. Bussell ENG 460D 25 March 2010 There’s No Place Like Home… For Perceval Sir Perceval’s Questing within Chretien de Troyes’ epic Arthurian tale Perceval: The Story of the Grail leads him to many locations, from which he either gains glory, or suffers pain and loss; however, as he makes his way through the various chivalric tasks, Perceval learns and grows, from the young and ignorant child into “the finest knight in all the world” (Chretien 202). Within this evolution he undergoes, Perceval struggles to overcome many obstacles in his way; one such obstacle is the death of his mother, and whether Perceval’s actions caused her death. Her death also lost Perceval his home, and starts him on his wanderings and his pursuit for glory. Along his journey, Perceval twice visits the castle of Beaurepaire, where he meets his love Blancheflor. Perceval’s actions upon his first visit to the castle earn him the lordship of Beaurepaire, and therefore a new home, as well as Blancheflor’s undying love. This castle and its inhabitants undergoes its own transformation between Perceval’s initial influence and accidental return; however, upon looking at Perceval’s influence upon the people and landscape of Beaurepaire, its future remains bleak. Because of the knight’s unswerving devotion to his Quest for glory, Perceval may have aided Beaurepaire in the short term, but his Midas’ Touch will indeed tarnish should he never return to the castle and his lady, his home. Perceval’s initial stay at Beaurepaire includes imagery of a wasted castle, dying people, and wilting landscape; because of Clamadeus’ aggressive tactics to convince Blancheflor to become his, the castle’s conditions strike Perceval (and Chretien’s audience) as despondent and needing chivalric aid. Though he does defeat Clamadeus in battle, Perceval’s intentions lack true chivalry: he acts not for Blancheflor’s honor, but for his own through upholding hers. Perceval’s success allows him to transcend his mother’s tangential hold on him and his learning curve as a knight (which she has held since his departure from her); yet, giving Perceval the reins, and allowing him to grow out of his mother’s influence may not precipitate the best end: once he “[conquers] and [slays] Blancheflor’s oppressor, he will claim the soreplus, promising to make her his drue, not his wife” (Levy 858); clearly, through his actions, Perceval’s intentions lack chivalric honesty and integrity. While Perceval may not act upon true good, unselfish objectives, his success cleanses Beaurepaire of its Wasteland characteristics, healing the wounds caused by Clamadeus, and setting up his future home for when he is ready to claim it. Beaurepaire exists as a possible happy ending for Perceval; because he fails to see its potential, however, he never reaches a point wherein he can settle and live his life in one place. Perceval’s plague, his character flaw, is not one common to epic heroes; rather, he suffers from loss of home, family, and love, and so his flaw rests in his attempts to fill this void with Quest, rather than true substitutions, such as Beaurepaire offers. The ruins of Beaurepaire, from Perceval’s first visit, represent what R. Howard Bloch describes as the “Arthurian Wasteland,” which is “always geographically situated; it is a landscape and a relation of men to their environment that is characterized by depopulation, the infertility of nature, the failure of agriculture, and a crisis of kingship and of political order” (Bloch 257). This Arthurian Wasteland within Beaurepaire is unique, in that the cause of this wasted land stems from act of human hand: Clamadeus starves out Beaurepaire in hopes of winning Blancheflor’s hand (Chretien 24). It stands to reason that what occurs by work of human action must be overturned by similar actions, and so Perceval’s defeat of Clamadeus paves the way for Beaurepaire’s healing; however, Perceval’s actions alone are not enough to save the people. The state of the castle and its surrounding landscape is such that without an act of God, the people would starve before they could grow crops or travel to find aid; so, “by God’s will” (30), through a device commonly known as deus ex machina, “a mighty wind had driven a vessel across the sea with a great cargo of wheat and other supplies on board” (30). This event brings up two interesting points: firstly, that Perceval clearly is merely human, and while he has the power to save Beaurepaire from destruction by human hand, he does not have the ability to turn back time quickly enough to save a people from starvation and natural depletion of resources. Secondly, Perceval’s twisted and insincere chivalric intentions may have managed to win out over Clamadeus’ dark and aggressive intentions; however, the deus ex machina event serves to prove that the knight’s selfish desires only help Beaurepaire ward off human attack, and that Beaurepaire requires something of more divine weight and true goodness to aid the healing process. As Perceval gallantly returns from his victorious defeat of Clamadeus, his actions start to become tangible: the dominoes begin to fall, culminating eventually into the bountiful and fulfilling home he has (unknowingly) created for himself. As mentioned above, the “theme of the Wasteland is also synonymous with a crisis of kingship and of general social order” (Bloch 260), and because Perceval has set up his future home, and impending Lordship, through defeating the antagonistic Clamadeus, Perceval has in effect overcome the Wasteland and sought to correct this “crisis of kingship and of general social order” (260), creating his own opportunity to fulfill the void of authority within Beaurepaire. The problem, however, lies in his intentions: Perceval clearly desires his Quest, and while his next step once he takes his leave of Beaurepaire lies in finding his home, for “his heart was fixed on his mother whom he had seen faint and fall, and he longed more than anything else to go and see her” (Chretien 34), what he finds leads him toward a quest for Quest. Upon discovering that he caused his mother’s death and therefore inadvertently destroyed his home, Perceval becomes a Wanderer, intent upon nothing except distracting himself through Questing from his lack of a true home. Upon returning to Beaurepaire, and seeing the blossoming landscape he encouraged through his (albeit selfish) actions, Perceval learns that he has inherited the Lordship over the land, and has earned Blancheflor’s unconditional fidelity, and therefore has found a home for himself (Chretien 160). While these gifts entice Perceval, and unlock his long-dormant and suppressed desires for roots and a home, the nature of his life, the eternal pursuit of Quest, has buried itself deep within his being, to where he cannot escape his adventuring. While he explains to Blancheflor that he must finish the Quest he paused when he happened upon Beaurepaire, “for [he’s] undertaken a journey that [he] wouldn’t give up for all the wealth in Friesland” (Chretien 160), his true dilemma lies in the fact that “wandering itself is without end” (Mela 267). By creating this elaborate distraction for himself, Perceval has in fact adopted an ethos which, while it leads him toward greatness, leads him also toward unhappiness and dissatisfaction. As wandering has become a part of Perceval’s nature, it thus follows that the dichotomy of what he wants to be and what he is materializes in his decision over whether to remain with Blancheflor at Beaurepaire, or to continue his Quest. Truly, “to remain with Blancheflor would be to lose himself, but to pursue his wandering would be to lose her” (Mela 267). Whether Perceval’s learning curve can extend from growing out of his mother’s grasp to growing out of his own created character confines relies upon his strength of self; however, from his decision to leave Beaurepaire and continue on in his Quest, this strength of self remains questionable. Perceval remains true to himself and his character with this decision; however, “from now on, the hero, dispossessed of his self by the hostess’ grace, should no longer remain in one pace in order not to belie the experience of desire which he now recognized” (267). Perceval’s most interesting quality by far is this struggle he suffers: whether to follow his character as a wanderer and knight (perpetual Quester), or his heart’s desire for home and stability. Perceval’s dedication to his Quest suggests the marriage, of sorts, that a knight has to his Quest and duties of chivalry. In viewing the Quest-as-wife scenario, Perceval’s decisions to leave Beaurepaire clearly stem from his fidelity to his present marriage. Though Perceval earned the rights to Blancheflor by conquering Clamadeus in his first visit to Beaurepaire, as explained by Kathryn Gravdal in her article “Chretien de Troyes, Gratian, and the Medieval Romance of Sexual Violence” when she quotes the “country’s rape law”: “if some knight desires [a damsel], is willing to take up his weapons and fight for her in battle, and conquers her, he can without shame or blame do with her as he will” (582 emphasis Gravdal’s), he cannot as yet follow through by marrying her and claiming Beaurepaire, because he must remain faithful to his current marriage to his Quest. Only when his Wandering is successfully concluded, and his Questing fulfilled, can be become a Widower of his Quest and thereby seek out a new marriage with Blancheflor at Beaurepaire. Whether his Quest will ever end remains uncertain, as wandering by its very nature lacks a true purpose save for the sake of wandering itself; Perceval’s ethos prevents him from settling down with a wife, a home, and lordship over the people at Beaurepaire. Perceval struggles with the age-old problem of wanting to be something he inherently cannot: wanting home yet unable to escape his wanderer nature; and his return to Beaurepaire highlights Perceval’s inability to change his nature. His first trip to Beaurepaire serves to exhibit Perceval’s “Midas’ Touch,” in which everything he Quests after turns golden; however, with every Midas’ Touch comes great sorrow when things turn sour. Because Perceval’s intentions were for his own glory, rather than in upholding Blancheflor’s honor, the evolution of Beaurepaire cannot be said to be entirely from Perceval’s actions: clearly, “by God’s will” (Chretien 30) Beaurepaire’s people were saved. Perceval’s Wanderer nature and his obsessive search for Quest also highlights his desire for a home he can never have: during his first visit to Beaurepaire, his Quest was Beaurepaire (in defeating Clamadeus and halting the destruction of the people and landscape); however, his second visit was accidental, and so his focus was on the Quest-on-hiatus, and not on Beaurepaire. Because his intentions were obviously on leaving Beaurepaire, the Midas’ Touch that his focus gave Beaurepaire initially now will tarnish and fade, due to Blancheflor’s undying loyalty and love for her knight: “I waited for you from then till now, however long that is, and I shall wait again, whether it hurts me or not; for I’d rather suffer agony, and have my heart made dark and sad, then go against your will” (160). Because Blancheflor is unwilling to “take a husband if it meant being untrue to [Perceval]” (159), the Lord-less estate will undoubtedly wither back into the Arthurian Wasteland it was when Clamadeus surrounded the castle. While Perceval’s wanderings distract him from the home he truly desires, his home on the road, and marriage to the Quest, slowly destroys the home and marriage he lusts for. This paradox Perceval finds himself in proves the tortuous and tortured nature of the knight in Chretien’s epic grail quest. Works Cited Bloch, R. Howard. “Wasteland and Round Table: The Historical Significance of Myths of Dearth and Plenty in Old French Romance.” New Literary History 11.2 (1980): 255-276. Web. 19 Mar 2010. De Troyes, Chretien. Perceval: The Story of the Grail. Trans. Nigel Bryant. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1982. Print. Graydal, Kathryn. ”Chretien de Troyes, Gratian, and the Medieval Romance of Sexual Violence.” Signs 17.3 (1992): 558-585. Web. 19 Mar 2010. Levy, Raphael. “The Motivation of Perceval and the Authorship of Philomena.” PMLA 71.4 (1956): 853-862. Web. 19 Mar 2010. Mela, Charles and Catherine Lowe. “Perceval.” Yale French Studies No. 55/56 (1977): 253-279. Web. 19 Mar 2010.