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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. To


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)
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)
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.
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
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Penguin Group
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930L (what's this?)
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165 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

People are always asking me questions I don't have answers for. One is, "When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?" The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.

Another question I can't answer is, "When did you begin writing?" I can't remember. I know I began reading when I was four or five, because I couldn't stand not being able to. I must have tried writing soon afterward. Fortunately, very few samples of my early writing survived the eighteen moves I made before I was eighteen years old. I say fortunately because the samples that did manage to survive are terrible, with the single exception of a rather nice letter I wrote to my father when I was seven. We were living in Shanghai, and my father was working in our old home territory, which at the time was across various battle lines. I missed him very much, and in telling him so, I managed a piece of writing I am not ashamed of to this day.

A lot has happened to me since I wrote that letter. The following year, we had to refugee a second time because war between Japan and the United States seemed inevitable. During World War II, we lived in Virginia and North Carolina, and when our family's return to China was indefinitely postponed, we moved to various towns in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, before my parents settled in Winchester, Virginia.

By that time, I was ready to begin college. I spent four years at King College in Bristol Tennessee, doing what I loved best -- reading English and American literature -- and avoiding math whenever possible.

My dream of becoming a movie star never came true, but I did a lot of acting all through school, and the first writing for which I got any applause consisted of plays I wrote for my sixth-grade friends to act out.

On the way to becoming a missionary, I spent a year teaching in a rural school in northern Virginia, where almost all my children were like Jesse Aarons. I'll never forget that wonderful class. A teacher I once met at a meeting in Virginia told me that when she read Bridge to Terabithia to her class, one of the girls told her that her mother had been in that Lovettsville sixth grade. I am very happy that those children, now grown up with children of their own, know about the book. I hope they can tell by reading it how much they meant to me.

After Lovettsville, I spent two years in graduate school in Richmond, Virginia, studying Bible and Christian education; then I went to Japan. My childhood dream was, of course,to be a missionary to China and eat Chinese food three times a day. But China was closed to Americans in 1957, and a Japanese friend urged me to go to Japan instead. I remembered the Japanese as the enemy. They were the ones who dropped the bombs and then occupied the towns where I had lived as a child. I was afraid of the Japanese, and so I hated them. But my friend persuaded me to put aside those childish feelings and give myself a chance to view the Japanese in a new way.

If you've read my early books, you must know that I came to love Japan and feel very much at home there. I went to language school, and lived and worked in that country for four years. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life among the Japanese. But when I returned to the States for a year of study in New York, I met a young Presbyterian pastor who changed the direction of my life once again. We were married in 1962.

I suppose my life as a writer really began in 1964. The Presbyterian church asked me to write some curriculum materials for fifth- and sixth-graders. Since the church had given me a scholarship to study and I had married instead of going back to work in Japan, I felt I owed them something for their money. So I began writing. By the time the books were published I had moved three more times, acquired three children, and was hooked on writing.

But I decided I didn't want to write nonfiction. I wanted to write what I love to read -- fiction. I didn't know that wanting to write fiction and being able to write fiction were two quite separate things. In the cracks of time between feedings, diapering, cooking, reading aloud, walking to the park, getting still another baby, and carpooling to nursery school, I wrote and wrote, and published practically nothing.

A friend in the church in Maryland, where we were living, felt sorry for me. There I was, four babies in just over four years (two adopted and two home-made), trying to write but with no success. So she decided to take me to an adult education course in creative writing one night a week. Eventually the novel that I wrote in the course was published, and I had become a writer. Do I like being a writer? I love it. I often tell my husband that it's the only job I could hold now. I'm spoiled. I work at home in my own study, wearing whatever I please. I never have to call in sick. From time to time, I get to go to schools and other places where I meet delightful people who love books as much as I do.

But there are days when I wonder how on earth I got involved in this madness. Why, oh why, did I ever think I had anything to say that was worth putting down on paper? And there are those days when I have finished a book and can't for the life of me believe I'll ever have the wit or will to write another.

Eventually a character or characters will walk into my imagination and begin to take over my life. I'll spend the next couple of years getting to know them and telling their story. Then the joy of writing far outweighs the struggle, and I know beyond any doubt that I am the most fortunate person in the world to have been given such work to do.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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