‘The Queste del Saint Graal’ and Malory’s ‘Tale of the Sankgreal’ (18th November 2015)

BNF Français 343 Queste del Saint Graal / Tristan de Léonois f. 59

Next meeting: 18th November / Room 2.46 / 3-5pm

The quest for the Grail captured the interest and imagination of medieval writers no less than it has their modern successors. While each of the Grail narratives (post Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval) amplifies material found in earlier sources, there is a particularly close relationship between the Vulgate Cycle Queste del Saint Graal (c. 1225) and Thomas Malory’s Tale of the Sankgreal (1469).


After each successfully completing a set of unique and spiritually significant aventures Galahad, Bors, and Perceval find themselves travelling together on a rudderless boat, which itself becomes a marker of their success in the quest thus far. Just after this episode, Lancelot, who the narrative leaves asleep by the water, is instructed to enter the first boat that he sees. This boat is also a rudderless boat, and his partial success in the Grail Quest is reflected by his journey in the boat and shadowed view of a Grail miracle at Corbenic. The episode that we are reading also marks one of the last aventures encountered by the successful Grail knights before they also reach Corbenic and are allowed a partial glimpse of the mysteries of the Grail.

  • What is the significance of this episode within the Grail quest as a whole?
  • The rudderless boat is a commonly recurring figure in medieval narratives, but why might it be specifically relevant to travel on the Grail quest? How do these boats compare to rudderless boats in other texts?
  • What role does Perceval’s sister play in each narrative?
  • What function do the biblical episodes have within the present of the Arthurian narrative?
  • Solomon occupied an important but slightly ambiguous place in medieval texts. What significance does Solomon have within this episode and how does this compare with the role he plays in other narratives?
  • The Ship of Faith is constructed as a answer to Solomon’s problematic preoccupation with his lineage and the question of transmitting messages across different generations.