Family Tree of Parzival, according to Wolfram von Eschenbach
Wagner omitted a generation, making Amfortas the son of Titurel, and did not given any
hint that Herzeleide -- and therefore also her son Parsifal -- were members of the
For those interested in a more complete analysis of the characters in Parzival
and their families, the entire
fictional aristocracy has been mapped by
Dr. Rolf Sutter: the results are
in a chart made by Sam Jakobsson of Swedish Radio. Click to zoom in, then scroll across.
Right: Detlef Roth as Amfortas in the recent Bayreuth production (2009)
Keeper of the Grail, Fisher
King. In Wagner's music-drama he is the son of Titurel. In Act
1 of the music-drama Wagner makes a pun on the word Amt, server, and the
name Amfortas. Wagner described the suffering Amfortas as
third-act Tristan inconceivably intensified (letter to Mathilde
Wesendonk, 30 May 1859).
Amfortas is Wagner's version of the Fisher King, also called
the Wounded King or the Grail King, of the medieval Grail
romances. In Wolfram's Parzival he was called Anfortas.
Disciple of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In Wagner's unfinished music-drama Die Sieger,
the love of Prakriti for Ananda is a central element of the
In Wolfram's poem, the Grail King Anfortas is the grandson of Titurel, brother of Herzeloyde and therefore
maternal uncle to Parzival. The name has been derived from
the Latin, infirmitas and also from the Old French, enfertez, both
words meaning infirmity. Wagner renamed the king to Amfortas.
The missionary who converts
Josaphat to Christianity in the early medieval tale of
Barlaam and Josaphat. Later Barlaam becomes a hermit
living by a spring in the desert. After long wandering, his convert finds the old man
again. Barlaam was probably an important element in Wagner's development of his
In Wolfram's poem, a magician who traps knights in his marvellous
Castle of Maidens. The most obvious basis for Wagner's Klingsor, although Wagner did not take much more than a name from
Wolfram's character. In Parzival although Clinschor does not appear in the
events of the story, we are told that he owns the Castle of Maidens, which is also
the Castle of Wonders and the Proud Castle, and that he had imprisoned the women
there with a magic spell. Wolfram relates that Clinschor
had been castrated by a cuckolded husband and that this enabled him to develop
magical powers. Wagner adapted the castration sorceror for his Klingsor although in his case the mutilation was self-inflicted. See
also: Mára, Theodas.
Condrie or Cundrie or KundrieIn Wolfram's poem, the Loathly Damsel is
called Condrie. There is also a sweet Cundrie, sister of Gawain, who is one of the maidens imprisoned by Clinschor and released by her brother. One element of Wagner's
In Wolfram's poem, the wife of Parzival and mother of Loherangrin and
Kardeiz. She is the cousin of Sigune, and therefore somehow
related to the family of Grail kings, and the maternal niece of Gurnemanz. Although Condwiramurs does not often appear directly in
Wolfram's poem, Parzival's fidelity to her is a continuing theme of the poem. Her
name has been derived from the Old French conduire amours, "to guide
In Wolfram's poem, the son of Titurel and father of Anfortas,
Herzeloyde, Repanse de Schoye, Schoysiane and Trevrizent. Wagner simplified the
family tree by making Anfortas the son of Titurel.
In both Wolfram and Wagner, the father of the eponymous hero, who dies
in far Arabian land without having seen his new- born son.
In the first act, Amfortas asks about
the knight Gawan, more usually "Gawain". It is not clear whether Gawan has joined the
Grail knights, or whether he has found and followed the path to the Grail domain but
failed in the Quest. Wagner had no use for Gawan, unlike Wolfram, who contrasted the two heroes.
Gawain is generally said to be the
nephew of Arthur. His parents are Lot of Orkney and Morgause (though his mother is
said by Geoffrey of Monmouth to be Anna ). Upon the death of Lot, he becomes the head
of the Orkney clan, which includes in many sources his brothers Aggravain, Gaheris,
and Gareth, and his half-brother Mordred. Gawain figures prominently in many
romances. In the French romances he is generally presented as one who has adventures
paralleling in diptych fashion but not overshadowing the hero's, whether that hero be
Lancelot or Perceval. In the English tradition, however, it is much more common for
Gawain to be the principal hero and the exemplar of courtesy and chivalry, as he is
in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the other Arthurian romances of the
Alliterative Revival. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, however, he has a role
similar to that in the French romances, in that Lancelot is the principal hero.
Loomis has pointed out that there are multiple references to Gawain as a
healer in the Dutch Lancelot and that in Chrétien's Perceval appear the lines:
Right: Gawain meets a wounded knight in this painting from Ludwig
's castle of Neuschwanstein.
Of wounds and healing lore
Did Sir Gawain know more
Than any man alive.
To make the sick knight thrive,
A herb to cure all pain
That in a hedge had lain
He spied, and thence he plucked it.
The attentive reader will have made the connection to the first scene of Wagner's drama.
Gawain is singular (at least in the Arthurian tradition) as a knight who is also a physician.
Tolkien fans might note this and other similarities between Gawain and Aragorn.
In Act 2 of Wagner's
music-drama, one of the names by which Klingsor addresses
Kundry. Cosima's diary relates,
... at lunch he tells me:
"She will be called Gundrygia (sic), the weaver of war", but then he decides to keep
to Kundry [14 March 1877]. Although it has been speculated that the name was that
of a Valkyrie, the author has not been able to find the name Gundrygia or Gundryggia
in any of the Old Norse sources, which contain many Valkyrie names. There is,
however, a striking resemblance to the name Gunn (meaning strife or battle), one of
Odin's principal Valkyries, and this might have been the inspiration for Wagner to
transform Kundry into Gundryggia. In conjunction with the name
Herodias, a reference to Gunn who rides with Odin in the
Wild Hunt would reinforce the connection between Kundry and Herodias, the Princess of Judea, who
in Heinrich Heine's Atta Troll also joins the Wild
The spelling used by Wagner
in his prose draft for the character he later called Gurnemanz.
Wagner's first act narrator
is most obviously based on a character in Wolfram's
Parzival. Gurnemanz de Graharz is Parzival's first tutor
and the maternal uncle of Condwiramurs. Parzival has grown up without knowing his father and in the company
of women and girls. In the poem Gurnemanz becomes a kind of father-figure to young
Parzival. Some of this relationship is detectable in Wagner's
very compressed encounter between Parsifal and Gurnemanz, who
has now become a senior knight of the Grail order. Gurnemanz is also Wagner's third
act hermit, but here it was another character in Parzival
who was a model. This is the hermit Trevrizent whom
Parzival met on Good Friday. Wolfram makes him the brother to
Anfortas and Herzeloyde and
therefore a maternal uncle of the young man.
Gurnemanz might also be identified with the hermit Barlaam who
converts Josaphat to Christianity in the medieval religious
tale of Barlaam and Josaphat. Like Gurnemanz, Barlaam appears early in the story but he loses touch with his convert
and becomes a hermit. At the end of the story Josaphat
wanders for two years in the desert in search of Barlaam
before he finds the old man again. This is actually closer to Wagner's story in that
Josaphat searches for the hermit Barlaam, while Parzival apparently stumbles
upon the hermit Trevrizent while seeking the way to
A Welsh hero
(the hawk of May) who appears in the Mabinogion. In the tale of Peredur we meet Gwalchmai son of Gwyar where Chrétien (in his Perceval) presents Gawain. Therefore it has been traditional to identify Gwalchmai with
Gawain, even to the extent of regarding Gwalchmai as the Welsh
original of the character who became Gawain in the medieval
In Act 2 of Wagner's
music-drama, one of the names by which Klingsor addresses
Kundry. This might have been her original name. Herodias (as
described by Eugène Sue in his novel, Le juif errant of 1844) is the female
equivalent of Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. Heine's
Herodias, in his poem Atta Troll of 1841, corresponds either to Wilde's
Salome or to her mother Herodias.
Right: Gamuret and Herzeloyde in this painting from Ludwig
's castle of Neuschwanstein.
In Wagner's music-drama,
the mother of Parsifal. Like Tristan, her son is the innocent cause of his mother's
In Wolfram's poem, the sister of Anfortas and
mother of Parzival.
From the Greek
Ιωασαϕ. The hero of the medieval story of Barlaam and Josaphat, which, although it has been ignored by most
commentators on Wagner's drama, is after Wolfram's Parzival the most
important medieval source used by Wagner in the development of his Parsifal.
Although most widely circulated in Greek, Barlaam and
Josaphat has been found in medieval translations into sixty different languages.
Wagner's copy (now at Haus Wahnfried) was a modern edition of the German translation
made by Rudolf von Ems in the early 14th century.
In Wagner's music-drama, the
magician who had once tried to gain acceptance as a Knight of the Grail. Unable to
remain chaste, Klingsor castrated himself and was
rejected by Titurel. Since that time, he has desired both the
Spear and the Grail. Wagner described Klingsor as the embodiment of
quality that Christianity brought into the world (not, as the sentence is
mistranslated in Gutman's notorious biography of Wagner,
evil). Although Wagner took and modified the name of the sorcerer from Wolfram's
Clinschor, Klingsor appears to perform the same function in
the story of Parsifal as did the sorcerer Theodas in
the story of Josaphat. In both cases the sorcerer attempts
to turn the spiritual hero from his path by sending to him a beautiful seductress who
promises to allow her soul to be saved on condition that the hero spends with her a
night of passion. It is possible that another model for Klingsor was the demon
Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable.
Right: Klingsor and Kundry, by Fantin-Latour.
In Wagner's music-drama, the High
Messenger of the Grail, who reveals to Parsifal his name and tells him of the death
of his mother. In the domain of the Grail, Kundry is a strange, wild woman who often
is found sleeping in the undergrowth. When she awakes, she serves the Knights of the
Grail, not least in seeking a cure for Amfortas. Then she mysteriously disappears. On
the other side of the mountains, in the domain of Klingsor,
Kundry is transformed into a beautiful maiden who seduces Knights of the Grail,
enabling Klingsor to capture and destroy them. As a result of
an ancient curse, she is trapped in an eternal cycle of
rebirth. Her name suggests a messenger, since Kunde means "news".
There is little resemblance between Wagner's Kundry and Wolfram's Condrie. There is something of Condrie in Wagner's creation, but there
are also elements of at least two other female characters from Wolfram's poem:
Sigune and Orgeluse. More importantly,
Kundry was blended from both Herodias and Prakriti.
Wagner's first act Kundry appears to be a blend of Wolfram's Condrie (the messenger who is also a heathen sorceress) and Sigune (the cousin who tells Parzival about himself and about the death
of his mother). The Kundry of the second act is partly Herodias, partly Wolfram's Orgeluse (the
haughty lady who caused the wounding of Anfortas) and (when
transformed by the power of the sorcerer) the beautiful, nameless princess who
attempted to seduce Josaphat. Wagner's third act Kundry is
primarily Wagner's own creation, a penitent Magdalen. She might also be identified
with the Prakriti of Die Sieger,
whom Wagner intended to present as the first woman to be admitted to the Buddha's
community. In fact the last words that Wagner wrote dealt with this very subject.
In Wolfram's poem, the Swan Knight, son of Parzival and Condwiramurs.
Wagner chose a variant of the name for his opera, Lohengrin.
Probably the most important single literary
source for Wagner's character Klingsor. Mára appears in
Buddhist literature as the Lord of Death or the Lord of Illusion, who attempted to
prevent the enlightenment of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In these scriptures he is invariably a symbol of evil,
sin, desire and temptation. His domain is one of sensuous pleasure. In Sanskrit texts
he is a deva, lord of desire and lust, and appropriately his daughters are
named Rati (lust or attachment), Arati (aversion, discontent or unrest) and Trsná
(craving, desire or thirst). These are the three daughters who are sent to seduce
Shakyamuni as he approaches total enlightenment.
The mountain, hidden in a
forest, on which resides the castle of the Grail. In Wolfram's poem, the mountain is called Munsalvæsche, or
the savage mountain. This might be derived from Montsegur, the last
refuge of the Albigensians or Cathars of southwestern France.
The castle fell to the crusaders in the spring of 1244.
In Wolfram's poem, the haughty lady, who is loved by Anfortas. One of
the elements of Wagner's Kundry. Her name is derived from the
French orgueilleuse, meaning "proud lady". She lives in a castle owned by
Clinschor that is referred to by respectively Chrétien,
Wolfram and the anonymous author of Peredur as "Proud
Castle" or "Castle Pride", which is also the "Castle of Marvels" or "Castle of
Wonders". In the poems by Chrétien and Wolfram it is identified with the "Castle of
Maidens", when many women and girls are held captive; in the tale of Peredur there is only one maiden held captive in the Proud Castle.
Left: "Parsifal in Quest of the Holy Grail" by Ferdinand Leeke (1859-1925).
The spelling of the hero's name
that Wagner finally adopted, taken from a dubious etymology by Joseph Görres, in his
1813 edition of Lohengrin. It was claimed that
fal parsi was Arabic for pure fool, and "Parsifal" was derived as
an anagram of this phrase.
The hero of Wolfram's poem.
The hero of Chrétien's poem and its continuations.
The hero of a story in the
Mabinogion, who appears to be a derivative of the Celtic original (or
equivalent) of Perceval and Parzival.
Wagner found the story Peredur Son of Evrawc in
Comte de Villemarque's Contes populaires des anciens Bretons. Peredur of the
long lance was an ancient traditional hero of the Old North, whose name is
found in the Gododdin together with that of Gwalchmai. With Owein and Geraint ab Erbin this
tale is known as one of the Three Romances in the Mabinogion. The three
tales are united in their similarity of style and subject-matter: the names of the
protagonists in all three have close parallels in those of their counterparts in the
corresponding poems of Chrétien de Troyes - Perceval
li Gallois, Yvain, Erec et Enide. In the Welsh version,
Peredur's story contains within it the germ of the Grail legend, which was developed
more explicitly by Chrétien de Troyes. See Goetinck's
Peredur: A Study of Welsh Tradition in the Grail Legends.
The self-sacrificing heroine of
Die Sieger, Wagner's unfinished Buddhist drama. In an earlier incarnation,
Prakriti had rejected, with mocking laughter, the love of the son of a Brahmin.
Wagner wrote that the Buddha's acceptance of Prakriti into what had been, until that
time, an all-male community was
a beautiful feature of the legend.
In Wolfram's poem, the Grail Bearer, sister of Anfortas. Perhaps one
of the elements of Wagner's Kundry. Her name has been derived
from the Old French, Repense de Joie.
prose draft, the name (meaning Pain-sorrow) given to Parzival's mother, later renamed
to Herzeleide (Heart's sorrow).
(son of the clan of
Shakya). A character in Wagner's unfinished Buddhist drama Die
Sieger. The historical Shakyamuni is commonly known as the Buddha, although
Buddhists refer to him as
the Buddha of the present age. Both Wagner and
Schopenhauer referred to the Buddha by his title of
the Victoriously Perfect.
In Wolfram's poem Parzival, a granddaughter of Titurel and hence a cousin of Parzival. Sigune
is found in another poem by Wolfram, Titurel. One of the elements of
Right: Pogàny's "Titurel Bears the Sacred Spear".
The name of the sorcerer who sends
a nameless, beautiful maiden to seduce Josaphat in the
early medieval tale of Barlaam and Josaphat. Together with
Mára he was probably one of the sources for Wagner's magician
In both Wolfram and Wagner, the original Winner of the Grail and the
founder of the Community of Grail Knights. Titurel was, for Wagner, a Wotan who had
attained redemption through denial of the world. His role in Parsifal seems
to be primarily a symbolic one: he represents extreme old age in the same way that
Amfortas represents extreme sickness and intense
In Wolfram, Anfortas presents Parzival with a
magic sword, whose hilt is made of ruby. This sword, which Anfortas has carried into
battle many times, was forged by the smith Trebuchet. Parzival's cousin Sigune later reveals to him that the sword will shatter at the second
blow, but that it might be repaired in the magic spring at Karnant.
In Wolfram's poem, the brother of Anfortas,
for whose sake he has renounced chivalry and become a hermit. He is the second tutor
to Parzival. In Wagner's music-drama, this character is renamed Gurnemanz.