Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight

Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight

by Katherine Paterson

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Acclaimed storyteller and Newbery medalist, National Book Awardwinner, and Laura Ingalls Wilder award recipient Katherine Paterson breathes new life into this classic tale of action, adventure, and romance. Raised in the wilderness, Parzival knows nothing of his destiny as the Grail Knight—the one who is fated to seek the sacred vessel of hope and eternal life


Acclaimed storyteller and Newbery medalist, National Book Awardwinner, and Laura Ingalls Wilder award recipient Katherine Paterson breathes new life into this classic tale of action, adventure, and romance. Raised in the wilderness, Parzival knows nothing of his destiny as the Grail Knight—the one who is fated to seek the sacred vessel of hope and eternal life. To succeed in his quest, Parzival must struggle against countless obstacles. His triumphant story is one that will move readers to joy and despair, laughter and tears.

Editorial Reviews

Molly E. Rauch
Readers already entranced by Arthurian legends will enjoy this one....Paterson slips in wonderful details about the conventions of the time. -- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) performs a service for young readers and for Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century German epic with this supple adaptation. Parzival, born of royal blood but raised as a peasant, leaves his humble home as a boy to seek adventure. His nobility is immediately recognized in Arthur's court, where, despite his lack of gallantry, he wins the Red Knight's armor in a duel. Still a green youth, he stumbles from one adventure to another, learning lessons about chivalry, compassion and God's grace. During a quest to find the keeper of the Holy Grail and break a curse plaguing the mysterious "Wild Mountain," Parzival commits a nearly tragic error, but in his struggle to atone for his mistake, he sheds his childlike innocence and grows into a respected hero. The author judiciously trims all but the most essential branches from the legend, at the same time amplifying Wolfram's humor, irony and strong Christian message. Her economy of language propels the reader forward (e.g., when Parzival's mother explains God to him, "Why, Dear Boy, God is he who is King of Heaven. He has made the world and in his love took human form to save it"). For readers enamored of Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy or medieval-type fantasies, this fast-paced, highly accessible romance could easily prove a gateway to the literature of the Middle Ages. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) (PW best book of 1998)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Twice a Newbery winner and recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, Katherine Paterson can handle anything she tackles. This time she harks back to the oldest form of the romance in her narrative based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's epic Arthurian poem of the 13th century. An innocent and sheltered young man sets out to make his way in the world in the most magnificent profession he can imagine-that of a knight. En route to fame in King Arthur's court, Parzival naively makes several serious mistakes and must spend years correcting his youthful errors. Paterson cares most about these "lost" years in which Parzival comes to an understanding of God's power, love and forgiveness. Surely many young readers will be able to grasp this moral. Along the way, they will also be entranced by the trappings of the courtly world of feasting, jousting, and fair maidens whose honor needs defending.
VOYA - Margaret Miles
Multiple-award-winning author Paterson offers something different from her usual realistic historical and contemporary fiction in this retelling of one of the lesser-known Arthurian tales. Parzival, the son of a king, has been raised in ignorance of his heritage. When he learns of his family's past and the wrongs done his mother and father, he sets out to avenge them and become one of Arthur's knights. His cheerful ignorance of the rules of chivalry and good society cause him to disgrace a lady of the court, and he sets off on quest to attempt to right this wrong and learn to be a proper knight. He has many adventures but continues, humanly, to make errors of judgment, the most serious of which leads him to lose a chance of healing the pain of his uncle Anfortas, called the Fisher King, who is the keeper of the Holy Grail. Finally, having learned true compassion, Parzival succeeds to his uncle's crown and holy trust. Paterson's source for this story is a thirteenth-century epic poem by the German Wolfram von Eschenbach, a version of the story less well known to English-language readers than the related stories of Sir Percival. Paterson, clearly, was attracted to Parzival by the deep spiritual emphasis of the story; the hero's progression from a childish "Who is God?" questioning to a really mature understanding of the compassionate behavior Christianity demands stands at the heart of the story. The style of this retelling-spare, brief, and rather formal, though not weighed down by forsoothy language-fits the nature of the story. While the approach is very different from something like Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood (Ace, 1989), in which the legendary characters believably take on very contemporary personalities within the framework of their story, either approach can appeal to readers who have some familiarity with the stories, and may encourage other YAs to begin their own quests for more of the larger tale. The format of this small volume (a slim hardcover about the size of a mass market paperback) will not hurt its appeal, projecting both by size and by cover art the aura of a medieval Book of Hours. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
To quote KLIATT's March 1998 review of the hardcover edition: Paterson turns her formidable storytelling ability to the medieval tale of Parzival, based on a 13th-century epic poem written by a Bavarian nobleman. Parzival's story, even though it contains King Arthus and the Holy Grail, is from a different tradition than we English-speaking people have generally followed Paterson does retain the style of the epic genre, emphasizing hero motifs rather than realistic characterizations and events. Parzival is the young man, raised apart from the world, who eventually ventures out to find his identity and to prove himself a hero. He engages in battle, makes terrible blunders, but eventually grows in wisdom, embraces his destiny, and finds true love. I am reminded of Rosemary Sutcliffe's retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend for young people, but her tale differs because she creates fully developed characters whose passion we can identify with. Paterson stays closer to the tradition where symbol means more than realistic detail. She says in her notes about the original poem, "We, in our turn, wonder how it was possible for a knight of such humble station and education to enshrine in his poetry an understanding of the Christian message deeper and truer than that of all the popes and saints of his day." I think that without some guidance from adults, young readers might miss the nuances of religious faith that are part of this epic. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. Penguin/Puffin, 130p, 20cm, 97-23891, $4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5 UpPaterson brings her considerable talent to this retelling of the story of Parzival (Parsifal, Percevel, etc.), the Grail Knight, working from Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century epic poem. Nearly 800 years old, the story has freshness, humor, grace, and depth. In the spate of Arthurian adaptations for children, Parzival has been overlooked in favor of Merlin, Arthur, Lancelot, and Gawain. Furthermore, the story will be new to Wagner fans, as his Parsifal bears minimal resemblance to this one. Paterson's Parzival is the traditional fool, raised in the woods by his mother, sent out questing in rags on a swayback nag worthy of Don Quixote. In his bumbling progress, he goes through humiliation, trial, and much error, loss, and degradation to the brink of despair and loss of faith, before attaining the Grail. Paterson clarifies much of the Christian doctrine that is the basis of the story, but she is never dull or pedantic. As an additional help, she provides readers with a cast of characters, annotated, before beginning her story. Background notes appear at the end. The author's fans, who are myriad, will enjoy this book and look forward to those Grail stories, including that of Lohengrin, which Paterson hints may follow.Helen Gregory, Grosse Pointe Public Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Written in high-toned but not ornately formal language, this abridged rendition of a 13th-century, pre-Galahad Arthurian legend highlights the Grail Knight's spiritual growth. Having had all knowledge of his family, the world at large, even his name, kept from him since birth, Parzival sets out for King Arthur's court a complete innocent. Several ritualistic knightly adventures later, taking some bad advice not to seem foolish by asking questions, he sees the Grail, but by remaining silent, leaves its keeper Anfortas with a wound that will not heal. Condemned by all for his inaction, Parzival angrily blames God for allowing so much misfortune. Although fond of jousting, Parzival nearly always spares his opponents' lives, and the tally of his deeds is illuminated both by flashes of humorhe's forever having to wash off the rust when he doffs his armorand the exotic names of those he encounters, from his wife Condwiramurs to his half-Moorish half-brother Feirefiz. After years of searching, Parzival repents with the help of a holy hermit, and not only finds the Grail again, but becomes its keeper. Paterson never explains the Grail's origin, which has the effect, for readers who don't already know, of making it a less specifically Christian talisman; she analyzes the story's metaphorical underpinnings, discusses her rendition, and introduces the author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, in a closing note. (Fiction/folklore. 12+)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.38(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Katherine Patersonis the renowned author of many classic children’s books, including Bridge to Terabithia; The Great Gilly Hopkins; Lyddie; Jacob Have I Loved; Come Sing, Jimmy Jo; and The Master Puppeteer, among many others. Her work has won two Newbery Medals and a Newbery Honor, two National Book Awards, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. She also served a term as the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. Katherine lives in Vermont.

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