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Percival (/ˈpɜːrsɪvəl/)—or Perceval, Percivale, Parzival, Parsifal, etc.—is one of King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table. First made famous by the French author Chretien de Troyes in the tale Perceval, the Story of the Grail, he is most well known for being the original hero in the quest for the Grail, before being replaced in later literature by Galahad.

Matter of Britain character
Rogelio de Egusquiza - Parsifal.jpg
Parsifal by Rogelio de Egusquiza (1910)
OccupationKnight of the Round Table
FamilyPellinore, Lamorak, Aglovale, Tor, Lohengrin, his sister


In Arthurian legendEdit

Percival in Newell Convers Wyeth's illustration for Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1922)

Chrétien de Troyes wrote the first story of Percival, Perceval, the Story of the Grail in the late 12th century. His story was allotted to the fictional figure of Peredur son of Efwc in the Welsh adaptation of Chretien's tale titled Peredur, Son of Efrawg. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and the now-lost Perceval of Robert de Boron are other famous accounts of his adventures.

There are many versions of Perceval's birth. In Robert de Boron's account, he is of noble birth; his father is stated to be either Alain le Gros, King Pellinore or another worthy knight. His mother is usually unnamed but plays a significant role in the stories. His sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail; she is sometimes named Dindrane. In the tales where he is Pellinore's son, his brothers are Aglovale, Lamorak and Dornar, and by his father's affair with a peasant woman, he also has a half-brother named Tor.

After the death of his father, Perceval's mother takes him to the forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of 15. Eventually, however, a group of knights passes through his wood, and Perceval is struck by their heroic bearing. Wanting to be a knight himself, the boy leaves home to travel to King Arthur's court. In some versions his mother faints in shock upon seeing her son leave. After proving his worthiness as a warrior, he is knighted and invited to join the Knights of the Round Table.

Arthur Hacker's 1894 illustration of a scene from Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, in which Percival is tempted by a devil in the form of a beautiful woman

In the earliest story about him, he is connected to the Grail. In Chrétien's Perceval, he meets the crippled Fisher King and sees a grail, not yet identified as "holy", but he fails to ask a question that would have healed the injured king. Upon learning of his mistake he vows to find the Grail castle again and fulfill his quest but Chretien's story breaks off soon after, to be continued in a number of different ways by various authors, such as in Sir Perceval of Galles. In later accounts, the true Grail hero is Galahad, the son of Lancelot. But though his role in the romances had been diminished, Percival remained a major character and was one of only two knights (the other was Bors) who accompanied Galahad to the Grail castle and completed the quest with him.

In early versions, Perceval's sweetheart was Blanchefleur and he became the King of Carbonek after healing the Fisher King, but in later versions he was a virgin who died after achieving the Grail. In Wolfram's version, Perceval's son is Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan.

Modern interpretationsEdit

In modern times his story has been used in various retellings, including Richard Wagner's 1882 opera Parsifal.

  • Richard Monaco's 1977 book Parsival: Or, a Knight's Tale is a re-telling of the Percival legend.[1]
  • Éric Rohmer's 1978 film Perceval le Gallois is an eccentrically staged interpretation of Chrétien de Troyes's original poem.[2]
  • John Boorman's 1981 film Excalibur in a retelling of Le Morte d'Arthur in which Percival (Perceval) is given a leading role.
  • The 1991 film The Fisher King written by Richard LaGravenese is, in ways, a modern retelling in which the parallels shift between characters, who themselves discuss the legend.
  • In the comic series based on the cartoon Gargoyles, Peredur fab Ragnal (Percival's Welsh name) achieves the Holy Grail and becomes the Fisher King. To honour his mentor Arthur, he establishes a secret order who will guide the world to greater prosperity and progress, which eventually becomes the Illuminati. Part of achieving the Grail is the bestowal of immense longevity upon Peredur and his wife, Fleur, along with certain other members of the order being granted longer lifespans. He is still alive and even appears young by 1996, when his organisation comes into conflict with the re-awakened Arthur and the other characters of the Gargoyles story.[3]
  • In the 1997 television series Stargate SG-1 Season 10, Episode 11 "The Quest, Part 2", Merlin's memories, possessing Daniel Jackson, state that Cameron Mitchell looks just like Percival.
  • He is the protragonist of the 2000 book Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight by Katherine Patterson, based on Wolfram's Parzival.
  • The 2003 novel Clothar the Frank by Jack Whyte portrays Perceval as an ally of Lancelot in his travels to Camelot.
  • He appears in the French comedy TV series Kaamelott as a main character, portrayed as a clueless yet loyal knight of the Round Table.
  • In the BBC television series Merlin,[4] Percival is a large, strong commoner. After helping to free Camelot from the occupation of Morgana, Morgause, and their immortal army (which is supplied by a grail-like goblet called the Cup of Life), he is knighted along with Lancelot, Elyan and Gwaine, against the common practice that knights are only of noble birth. He is also one of the few Round Table knights to survive Arthur's death.[5]
  • Percival is portrayed in the 2009 video game Sonic and the Black Knight as Blaze the Cat.
  • In Philip Reeve's Here Lies Arthur, he appear as Peredur, son of Peredur Long-knife, who is raised as a woman by his mother, who had already lost many sons and her husband to war. He befriends the main character, Gwyna/Gwyn. He is one of the few major characters to survive to the end, and travels with Gwen (in a male disguise) as 'Peri', his childhood shortened name as a woman, playing a harp to Gwen's stories.
  • The main character of Ernest Cline's 2011 novel Ready Player One (and its film adaptation) names his virtual reality avatar "Parzival" as a reference to Percival and to his role in Arthurian legend.
  • A version of Percival appears in Season 5 of the American TV series Once Upon A Time in which he acts against Regina without Arthur's consent.
  • Patricia A. McKillip's 2016 novel Kingfisher includes many elements of the story of Percival and the Fisher King. Young Pierce (Percival meaning "pierce the valley"), after a chance meeting with knights leaves his mother, who has sheltered him from the world, and travels to become a knight.
  • In the 2017 television series Knightfall, Percival (rendered as "Parsifal") appears as a young peasant farmer who joins the Knights Templar as a novice knight.
  • In the mobile game Granblue Fantasy, Percival appeared as a playable character.


Percival's attributed arms
  1. ^ Fries, Maureen, and Thompson, Raymond H. (1991). "Richard Monaco". In Norris J. Lacy (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia p. 326. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
  2. ^ Lacy, Norris J. (1991). "Eric Rohmer". In Norris J. Lacy (Ed.), The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, p. 389. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.
  3. ^ Gargoyles: Clan-Building – Vol 2, #7 – "The Rock" – ISBN 978-1593621674
  4. ^ Jeremy Webb (director) (4 December 2010). Merlin: Season 3, Episode 13, The Coming of Arthur: Part Two (Television Series). "Merlin", Season 3, Episode 13, "The Coming of Arthur: Part Two" on IMDb : BBC. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  5. ^ Justin Molotnikov (director) (24 December 2012). Merlin: Season 5, Episode 13, The Diamond of the Day: Part Two (Television Series). "Merlin", Season 5, Episode 13, "The Diamond of the Day: Part Two" on IMDb : BBC. Retrieved 8 August 2013.


  • Chrétien de Troyes, Nigel Bryant (translator) (1996) Perceval, the Story of the Grail, D. S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-224-8.
  • Chrétien de Troyes, D. D. R. Owen (translator) (1988) Arthurian Romances, Tuttle Publishing, reprinted by Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87389-X.
  • Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-4377-4.

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