Chapter Four: PERCEVAL'S SISTER AND HIS UNCLE
HE RODE SO FAR through the forests and through the thickets that he found many adventures; yet such adventures led him one day into the waste forest where his mother had lived, and his father also. And the castle remained now to a damsel who was Perceval's sister.
When Perceval came into the forest he did not recognize anything, for it had been a very long time since he had been there. But just as adventure led him he directed himself and he came into the castle on horseback, and when the damsel who was his sister saw him she ran to his stirrup and said "You are welcome to this hostel if you wish to stay until tomorrow." And Perceval answered: "Damsel, know that I came for naught else." Thereupon Perceval dismounted and the damsel ran to his stirrup and aided him most courteously and with her two of her damsels who were crushed in their bodies, and their sight was so darkened that they knew not what had happened. And they lost both reins and shield straps and fell to earth so roughly that their hearts almost broke within them, and you might have gone two arpents before they knew what had happened and before the one knew where the other had gone. And when sense and memory had returned to them, they arose and drew their swords and took up their shields and returned each toward the other.
The knight of the tomb attacked Perceval with great violence and struck him with the sword upon the helm; but it was so hard that he could not hurt it. And Perceval attacked him most sharply and followed him so closely that he made him give ground and he struck him with his sword on the helm so that he cut through it and the coif as well and wounded him in the head on the left side, and he struck him so hard that he made him stagger, and in truth if the sword had not turned in his fist, he would have killed him. But the knight caught up his shield strap and charged upon him with great anger, and Perceval defended himself. Then while they were there in the middle of the meadow there came a knight toward them well armed with all arms, and he took the head of the stag and the brach that the old woman held and then departed without saying a word.
When Perceval saw this he was much annoyed, for he could not follow him because of the knight who assaulted him most severely. Then in Perceval the strength and fierceness in creased, and he charged upon the knight with such great vio lence that the knight could not withstand him and feared him much and turned toward his tomb with great swiftness. And the tomb opened itself up, and the knight threw himself therein And Perceval thought to leap after the knight but he could not, for the tomb slammed shut behind the knight with such force that the earth shook around Perceval who marveled greatly at what he had seen, and he went to the tomb and shouted three times to the knight, but he did not answer. And when Perceval saw that he would not speak, he went back to his horse and mounted and followed swiftly after the knight who had carried away his head and his brach, and he said that he would never cease until he found them again. Just as he rode forth he saw the old woman before him who had informed him of the vault, her nieces. And they helped him to disarm, and when he was disarmed the damsel who was his sister bore him a most beautiful surcoat of silk, and she seated herself before him and looked at him very closely and began to weep. And when Perceval saw her weep he was very sad and he asked her what grief she had that thus she wept and she responded: "Sir, I will tell you.
"Sir, I have a brother, a young man, and I am his sister and we were both from one father and one mother. Now it happened our father died, as it pleased God. And in truth Jesus Christ sent there the voice of the Holy Spirit at his passing. When he was dead my brother went to the court of the noble King Arthur. Sir, my brother was very young and very little schooled, and my mother was very sad for this and she mourned so much that she was struck with such an illness that she died from it. Now I know well that the sin against my mother has encumbered him. And when Perceval heard her he said: "Dear sister, know that I am Perceval your brother who went to the court of the noble King Arthur. "When the damsel heard him she was very happy and sprang up weeping and embraced him and kissed him more than a hundred times, and Perceval did the same, and they enjoyed much the one in the other. And then the damsel asked him if he had been to the court of his grandfather the rich Fisher King. And Perceval told her: "Dear sister, I have not been there yet though I have sought it a long while, for more than three years I have gone seeking it; and know, dear sister, that I will never cease until I will have found it. " And the damsel answered: "Dear brother, may God let you so perform according to His will that you may be in His grace."
While the one spoke to the other and they rejoiced greatly the servants came to the damsel of the house. And when they saw that the damsel kissed Perceval so often they grieved much and said that the damsel was most foolish thus to kiss this strange knight. And the damsel called them before her and told them: "My household, know that this is Perceval my brother who went from here so young." When the servants had heard this they were very happy and enjoyed much in it. And when they had eaten the damsel called to him and said: "Dear brother, I have great fear for you who go thus, for you are very young, and the knights who go through the land are so very cruel and wicked, and be sure that if they can they will kill you in order to win your horse; but if you trust me, dear brother, you will leave this endeavor upon which you are entered and will dwell with me, for it is a great sin to kill a knight, and also you are each day in great danger of being killed.
"Dear sister," said Perceval, "know for certain that I would very willingly dwell here if I had completed the quest upon which I have entered, and as soon as I have completed it I will return to you and will advise and aid you within my power. But until I have completed it I will not stay. " And when the damsel heard him she wept most tenderly and said to him: "Perceval, dear sweet brother, then I wish to pray that you will do this which I will ask of you." And he answered her: "Dear sister, tell me what it is that you wish and I will do it." And she answered: "I wish that you would come with me to the house of an uncle of yours who is a hermit and also is a most worthy man, and who dwells in this forest a half a league from here, and that you would make confession to him and do penance for your mother who died because of you, and know that he will advise you as best he is able; and take care that you do whatever he will command, for he is a most holy man and came to this country from Jerusalem in the land of Judea and was one of the brothers of your father Alain li Gros. And know that if he asks in his orisons to Jesus Christ that God may let you find this that you seek, know that by his prayers you can much sooner attain it, for it is good to hear the words that he has recounted to me of your ancestor and of Joseph and of Enigeus his mother who was the sister of Joseph, and of Bron his father who is called the Fisher King. And he has told me that this Bron who is your grandfather has the vessel in which the blood of Christ was collected, and this is the vessel named the Grail; and he has told me that Our Lord said that it must revert to you, and it will be necessary for you to seek until you will have found it. "
When Perceval heard his sister speak thus he rejoiced greatly and said he would go most willingly to his uncle. Then Perceval armed himself at once and mounted on his horse and made his sister mount a hunting horse which was at the dwelling, and then both rode forth and held their way as far as the house of the hermit. And when they came to the door they struck with a mallet on the wicket, and the hermit who was a very holy and old man came leaning upon his crutch and opened the wicket. And Perceval dismounted and the maiden also, and they entered the house of the hermit, but their horses stayed outside for they were not able to enter into the house because the door was so low that it was necessary for Perceval to bend in order to enter. When the holy man saw his niece who had come with the knight, he marveled much and he asked her why it was that she came with this knight, or if he had seized or robbed her. And she said to him: "Dear uncle, know that this is Perceval my brother who is the son of Alain li Gros your brother, and who went hence to the court of the noble King Arthur to take arms, and, God be thanked, he has gone there and he has done this."
When the worthy man heard her he was very happy and he said: "Dear nephew, tell me, have you yet been to the house of the rich Fisher King who is my father and is your grand father?" And Perceval answered that he had sought it much but he had not yet been there. And the worthy man responded "Dear nephew, know that at the Lord's Supper there where we were, we heard the voice of the Holy Spirit who commanded us to go into alien lands toward the west and it commanded Bron my father that he should come in this direction where the sun sets; and also the voice said that an heir would be born to Alain li Gros who would have the Grail in his keeping, and it said that the Fisher King would not be able to die until you will have been to his court, and when you will have been there he will be cured and will give into your keeping his grace and his vessel, and you will be master of the blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
"Now take care to be a worthy man and I pray that you do not desire to kill knights, but that you spare them and endure in many ways for the soul of your mother. And pray to Our Lord that He may have pity on you, for know that your mother is dead because of the sorrow she had from you. Now there fore I pray that He remember you and that you may be careful to keep yourself from sin and not to do evil deeds, for you are of a lineage that Our Lord has loved much, and He has exalted them so much that He has given them His flesh and His blood to guard." And Perceval responded, "Sir, may God let me serve Him in whatever way that I may do His will. "And the worthy man prayed to Our Lord, and he said so many worthy things that I can not repeat them to you, but I can tell you for certain that Perceval stayed there all the night until the morrow when he heard Mass from the worthy man in the Chapel; and when he had heard Mass and the worthy man was divested of the arms of Our Lord, then Perceval came to him and knelt most humbly and took leave of him and said that he wished to go forth on the work that he had undertaken. And the worthy man prayed to Our Lord that He would allow him soon to find the house of his father. Then Perceval left the house and came to his horse and mounted and helped his sister to mount. Then he turned from there and the worthy man remained behind weeping, and Perceval rode forth at a swift pace, both he and his sister who enjoyed greatly in her brother.
In this fashion they rode until they came near their castle, and they stopped beside a cross where Perceval had often enjoyed himself when he had dwelt in the house of his mother. Then he saw coming a knight fully armed on a horse and as he came he cried very loudly: "By God, sir knight, know that you can not lead the damsel with you if against me you do not accept challenge." And Perceval heard him very well but never a word did he answer him, instead he was so thoughtful concerning his affairs that he thought nothing of this that the knight had cried. And the knight, who was much impassioned, came riding at a great speed, and brandished his spear and, in truth, he would have struck Perceval with it if his sister had not cried to him and said: "Perceval, dear brother, defend your- sell or this knight will kill you!" When Perceval heard her he marveled much, for he was thinking so deeply of his affairs and of the damsel who had given him her brach that he had taken no heed of the knight. But when he perceived him he turned the head of his horse and let him run toward him who approached, and the knight came toward him in the same manner and each showed his intent of afflicting his opponent.
The knight struck Perceval with his lance in the shield so that he pierced and broke it, but the hauberk was so strong that it could not be hurt and the spear handle flew into splinters. And Perceval had brought his shaft against the shield with such wrath that he used his total force there. And you may be sure that neither shield nor hauberk was sufficient protection to keep him from driving the lance into the knight's breast, and he struck him with such fierceness that he made him fly full length to the ground, and in the fall that he had, his heart burst and he died there without ever stirring foot or hand. And then Perceval said: "By God, sir knight, through your misdeed you have come to ill; and know that you would have done better if you had kept silent than to have pursued me in such a manner, and it oppresses me that I have killed you. I would have liked it better if I had only defeated you, for it is a great sin to kill a knight."
Then he took the horse of the knight and turned away and came to his sister and gave it to her. Then they left there at a swift pace and came to their manor and dismounted immediately. And the servants and damsels came to meet them and took their horses and put them in the stable and they were well cared for; but they marveled greatly at the horse that Perceval had brought. And they came to him and disarmed him very courteously, and when he was disarmed the servants brought the table and Perceval ate with his sister. And when he had eaten he lay down to sleep for a little while because he had kept vigil throughout the previous night, and after he had slept a little he arose and asked for his arms and armed quickly. And when his sister saw him donning arms, she mourned deeply in her heart and came to him and said: "Perceval, dear brother, what do you wish to do? Do you wish to go without me and leave me alone in this forest?" And Perceval said: "Dear sister, know that if I can return to you in any manner, I shall return and I shall advise you as best I can just as I ought to do; but I do not wish to stay longer at this time.
When the maiden heard him she felt deep pity, and she wept most tenderly. But Perceval comforted her as best he could and told her that as soon as he could he would return to her. Thereupon he asked for his horse and mounted swiftly as one who has no desire to stay, and he commended his sister to God and she him, all weeping and sad, but she could do nothing else about it.
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SOURCE: Didot Perceval, or, The Romance of Perceval in Prose. ed. and trans. Dell Skeels. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966.
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