Parzival is a young naive boy who is brought up by his mother as far away from knighthood and chivalry as she can control. Until he runs into three knights on the road and decided he too wants to become a knight. We learn that his mother recognizes the dangers of chivalry and how violent it is. Interestingly enough, chivalry is what brings Parzival to near ruin. He’s too polite and doesn’t ask an important question. I can’t say much more about the plot of Parzival without spoiling the plot.
There’s a lot of the stock elements of a medieval lay, Arthur and his court, religious iconography (i.e. Holy Grail) and your random supernatural events. Oddly enough, Parzival ends up wandering the wilderness in order to complete his quest and restore himself back in good graces with society and he keeps running into his cousin. His cousin is a young woman who has lost her husband in a joust with Parzival’s rival. Throughout the who story she randomly encounters Parzival. I don’t know what was going on in Medieval culture, but a young woman who was without a male escort was really vulnerable. Yet she seems to be ok showing up in random places to confront Parzival. Weird.
In the end, I think the story of Parzival is highly ironic and would really disappoint his mother. Parzival “breaks” with chivalry, apparently, because he doesn’t want to intrude on a king’s medical condition. Because he doesn’t ask about the king, he’s ejected from the castle and everyone he meets, including the random cousin, curses him for his “thoughtlessness” and he’s kicked out of Arthur’s court and made to appear unchivalrous. Thus begins his quest to right this “wrong”. Due to his questing, his wife has given birth to twin boys and has raised them all by herself, JUST LIKE HIS MOTHER! Once again, due to chivalry, a mother has had to raise children by her self. This point wasn’t developed a lot in the story, but it’s a plot line that I found hides underneath several medieval lays. Chivalry isn’t the nice, clean, everyone-treats-everyone-with-respect behavior plan. There’s a real dark side to it.