- there is only one to whom I am unwilling to offer loyal servitude.
- My anger is always new against her
- ever since I detected her in deviance
- I am Wolfram von Eschenbach and I know a little of singing
- and I am a pair of tongs holding my anger against one woman in particular:
- she inflicted such wrong upon me that I have no choice but to hate her.
Wolfram writes the above in his own defense after describing how Herzeloyde stares between the new-born Parzival’s legs at his ‘pizzle’ , caresses his manly limbs and kisses him repeatedly, and puts him to her breast to nurse ‘as if she had called Gahmuret (her beloved) back into her arms’. While it is normal for mothers to caress and dote on their newborn children, it is not normal to treat them as substitutes for absent lovers. It is truly remarkable to me that in all the verbiage created around Parzival and his quest over the last thousand years, it is nearly unheard of to mention that it arises out of this kind of mother/son incest that starts at birth, never mind any one daring to address Wolfram’s outrage at it. On his part, he has no qualms about pointing out the source of the problem:
- Lady Herzeloyd said in her wisdom
- The HIghest Queen offered her breasts to Jesus
- who afterwards, for our sake,
- accepted the cruelest death on the cross
Having given up her lands and her own life Herzeloyde withdraws to the ‘Waste of Soltane’ to conceal her son from all chivalry. Which worked out while Parsival was a babe in arms, but not so well as he got older.
- One day she saw him (Parzival) gaping up at the trees towards the song of the birds,
- and then she realized that it was their voices that made her child’s bosom swell.
- His heritage and his desire thus compelled him.
- Without quite knowing why, Lady Hertzaloyde (hearts sorrow)
- turned her anger against the birds and wanted to destroy their song.
- She bade her plowmen and her field hands
- to make haste to snare the birds and twist their necks
Her son is ‘cheated of all kingly ways’ except for a bow and a few arrows he makes himself. ‘ignorant of anxiety except for the bird song above him’, he shoots his arrows at the source of his distress, but finds himself more distraught when they die. His mother’s response when she finds out is to have the her workmen try to trap and kill the birds. Finding that killing the birds that call to her son’s heart, she tries other ways of sabotaging his journey into adulthood. When none of it stops him leaving her, she lies down in the wasteland and dies. She is a frighteningly ‘good’ mother and while Parzival is often an oblivious ass, that he neither dies a martyr or becomes a murderous Bluebeard (click here) but chooses life is enough to make me attend closely to Wolfram’s tale. It is a challenge given that what Wolfrham says about his own work is this:
- my German
- however is so crooked on occasion
- that a man may readily prove to stupid for me
- if I do not convey the meaning to him hastily.
The essence of his story was purposefully hidden in riddles and conundrums, and its master was one who who wrestled his own meaning from it. It was meant to be difficult for those who shared both a language and a cultural context. It is a major leap for those of us lacking both of those. What has not changed is the essential nature of the horse, the stars in the heavens, and our human desire to transcend our own limitations. Archetypal stories, in the end, are anchored in the experience of the individual as they deal with the universal issues of life, death, desire, and loneliness.