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(1) In Arthurian legend, one of the most famous knights of the Round Table, figuring especially in the quest for the Grail. Percival's first appearance in literature is in the French poem Perceval, ou le conte du Graal,

written c1175, by Chretien de Troyes. Peredur, Son of Efrawg, a medieval Welsh tale of Arthurian romance included in The Mabinogion, is parallel to Chretien's Perceval. From the time of Chretien on, he appears in almost all the Arthurian romances; he is Sir Percival in Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the Parzifal of the German versions.

In general, his story begins with his boyhood in the forest and his complete ignorance of the ways of knights and warriors and of courtly manners. He then goes to King Arthur's court, where he commits one gaucherie after another; he is trained as a knight, however, and goes on to become one of the best knights of the Round Table. His quest for the Grail is the main incident of the story and ends with his being awarded a sight of it. Late versions of his story usually present him as a virgin knight. Malory's Morte d'Arthur was Tennyson's source for his version in Idylls of the King.

(2) In Virginia Woolf's novel The Waves, the childhood friend of the six leading characters. Percival does not appear in the novel but acts as a unifying force, since he is admired deeply by all the others. He is a symbol of balance and pleasantness and all that the other characters aspire to be. He is killed in a fall from a horse in India, and his death serves as a symbol for the death which all the characters approach.

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 3rd ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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