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Wolzogen on the Traditional Material of Parsifal

First published in the Bayreuther Blätter of 1891

Introduction: Concerning Hans von Wolzogen

The writer Hans von Wolzogen was a central figure in late 19th century and early 20th century Bayreuth. His interpretations of Parsifal and other Wagnerian dramas were influential in the early reception of these works and his influence remains detectable in much that has been written about them since. The following extracts have been taken from the introduction to his Thematic Guide to the Music of Parsifal (in the English translation by J.H. Cornell, 1891). Here Wolzogen first provides a summary of his view of the relation of Wagner's dramas to Indo-European traditions that predate and underlie the medieval romances. Then he examines central elements of Wagner's drama in relation to those medieval sources that Wolzogen considered relevant. It should be noted that his account is not free from factual error, nor does it always agree with the analysis of contemporary writers such as Jessie Weston. It might be argued that Wolzogen's interpretation of Wagner's Parsifal tells us little more about the drama than we might gain from a superficial reading of Wagner's poem — but rather more about the reception of Parsifal in its earliest decades and well into the 20th century.

Cosima and Richard Wagner, with Liszt and von Wolzogen
Left: Cosima Wagner, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt and Hans von Wolzogen in the salon of Haus Wahnfried. From a painting that can be seen in the Wagner Museum, Bayreuth.

Hans von Wolzogen was originally invited to Bayreuth to become the editor of a journal, the Bayreuther Blätter, which Wagner intended to provide a forum in which the Festival patrons (the Patronatverein) could discuss Wagner's ideas about art and society. This journal became Wolzogen's life's work; it ceased publication as soon as its editor died, in 1938. When it was founded in 1878, the poem of Parsifal was newly published and the music yet unheard. The new drama was at once a topic discussed in the Blätter, to which Wolzogen contributed many articles himself. The most significant among his early articles is the five-part series, Zur Kritik des 'Parsifal', in the 1881 issues of the journal.

Preliminary Observation

Those who have criticised Richard Wagner's dramas have for the most part made the mistake of measuring them, because they treated of ancient German or medieval legendary materials, according to the standard of already existing Teutonic poems based on materials of the same kind. For Tristan, the epic of Godfrey of Strassburg afforded the standard; for The Ring of the Nibelungen, the Nibelungenlied. Those who had perceived that Wagner's Nibelung-poem has but little in common with the Nibelungenlied brought forward instead the Edda-songs and treated the new drama as a dramatization of those ancient skaldic poems; which brought upon our poet the reproach of having forsaken German soil to gather his materials in the foreign soil of Iceland.

All this is erroneous and very foolish. Wagner's "materials", to indicate them thus briefly, are far more ancient than the Skaldic settings of ancient dogmatic and legendary memory in the Northern country, which have been handed down to us only confused and dismembered; to say nothing of the epical compilations by the knightly and commoner singers of the 13th century in Germany. Their characteristic features were brought over from Asia with the Aryan nomadic peoples, and from that time have become, in ever new transformations and condensations, the acquired possession, in the strict sense, of the Germanic, especially of the German nation. For while the Edda-songs, in so far as they treat of the Siegfried-myth, are demonstrably based upon elements brought over from Germany itself, Keltic-French mythical formations, like those of Tristan and of Parsifal, have, on the other hand, attained in German poesy alone to the consummate, ethical realization of the universally-human material hidden in them, and thus have become the property of the German nation.

Originally, however, the entire legendary material distributed among the peoples of Western Europe was essentially Aryan-Germanic property; and every German poet who again laid hold of it, as of a primitive form of poetical fancy peculiar to our national spirit, sought only to give us this property afresh and to make it so much the more sincerely our own. What he created for us with it, when he was really successful with it, was then not only a new independent form of the old material but at the same time a new enlargement and interpretation of the intellectual and moral subject-matter. Both of these depended, however, upon the special tendencies of the new poet, upon the peculiarity of his art-tendency and art-form, and this peculiarity, again, was determined by the period in which he poetized. The medieval singer created medieval epics only; and no other period would have allowed itself to think of such a thing as to touch these finished art-works, the expression of another epoch, with a view to modifying them. It was therefore folly to imagine, that, after having recast into dramatic form the material peculiarly shaped in those epics, one had satisfied the modern taste and had created a real Tristan- or Nibelungen-drama for the public of today. This public was justified in withholding its sympathy from such literary sleights- of-hand.

It is not in the outward change of form, nor in the simple adoption of the subject-matter shaped in the best poetical setting, that a new realization of the ancient material must consist. In fact, this material must be daily conquered anew; and it is such a conquest that Wagner achieved when he poetized anew the materials for the form of the new musical drama, and for the participation of an age filled with enthusiasm through this species of art. The universally-human fundamental essence of this multifariously transformed world of legends had, as by every true poet, first of all to be again clearly segregated and put in relief. But after that it had to be shaped and developed in that manner that, in the first place, was conformable to the national spirit that had in the mean time continued to display itself in its own way, to its knowledge and its contemplation of the world, — and secondly, that corresponded to precisely this art- form which, begotten of the same spirit, was destined to provide for it a truthful and refined expression.

With this view the singer of the Nibelungenlied once poetized that ancient legendary material, as far as the poetic knowledge of that day had supplied him with it, according to the needs of the epic of that time, and with the power and in the peculiar method of the Christian-German spirit of the period, into an entirely definite new form. But the farther the national spirit evolved itself from its former historical incrustations, so much the nearer was it able to come again to the universally-human nucleus of the material, and therewith to the possibility of a truly styleful art. That which lives in this spirit today, first of all as actual German nature, then as feeling of existence sympathetically turned toward the universally-human, lastly as artistically- idealistic outline, all this concentrated itself in the artistic personality of a tragic poet whose creative breath was music; — and this personality again put the import of the national spirit thus continually moulded, into the corresponding reorganized form of the ancient national materials.

Precisely because of the fact that music, as the new and most highly developed artistic mode of expression of the true German nature, had been bestowed on him as his own mother tongue, Wagner was enabled to cause these materials even of our most modern time to come again to life in that thrilling manner which we experience in its effects upon the auditors at every good performance of his works. The sublime ideality of these materials allowed them to take as the basis of their imaginary formations not only that heathen mythological world to which they originally belonged — to wit, the heroic images of the poetizing national mind of the ancient Germans themselves — but also the realm of the sublimest ideal of the Christian religion, as it appears symbolized in the Grail. But the possibility of realizing this ideality would have to be denied to us, as it was in part denied to the Nibelung-singer of the Hohenstaufen-period, who poetized with word only, if we had not music, extending from Bach to Beethoven. This German music elaborates, in its sphere, even the ideal most estranged from us into a new familiar and sublime truthfulness. In the musical drama the gods of former times are vivified as magnificent types of those passions and thoughts which are the fundamental bearers of the entire poetic material itself; and the celestially rapt sublimity of the Christian idea of God, as deposited in the tradition of the Grail, is also vivified in the musical drama, ever since Wolfram von Eschenbach has been inseparable from the material of Parsifal.

Not as if Wolfram had first poetized the religious spirit into the legend — the connection of the heroic Parsifal-legend with the religious Grail-legend existed already before him and had been fully turned to account in the poem of the Frenchman Chrétien de Troyes; but in Wolfram's case the spirit of the Grail-legend penetrated the entire poem with a solemnity and a profoundness which, indeed, rendered the whole significance of the connection of both legends recognizable. But again, precisely Wolfram's conception is by no means the standard for all time [since] it also decidedly bears the stamp of his own epoch; his knightly order of the Grail is an ecclesia militans in the full brilliancy of medieval chivalry, his Christian spirit is the spirit of the Church of his time, although attained, in the mind of a genial poet, to individually poetic power. One who, poetizing after Wolfram's time, should newly arrange the ancient material, would have no right to separate Parsifal again from the Grail; he, too, would have to represent in the Grail the sum total of the most profound religiousness which can arrive at perfect development in a genuine Christian mind of our time on condition of enlightened intellectual powers. That which, in the sense of the religious ideal thereby indicated, was to be utilized, out of Wolfram's poetry or out of any other traces and conceptions of the ancient material, for the new musical drama, was fitted together in the mind of the poet Wagner for the structure of his religious tragedy, now quite freely wrought out from the idea, and named, festival play for inaugurating a theatre (Bühnenweihfestspiel).

We shall add here a brief examination of these separate portions of the legend, especially as they had to form also the basal features of the musical performance of the poem, which are to be discussed in this work.

Elements of the Drama

The Grail

refers to those sacred vessels in the most ancient legends of the Aryan peoples, in which the latter sheltered the divine beverage, the intoxicating result of ancient work of cultivation, the spiritualized product of nature. In the soma, haoma, wine, mead, they believed that they themselves partook of the divine nature, and that in drinking they received the divinity within themselves. Interior exaltation, purification, invigoration for the service of the divinity, united the participants in a mysteriously consecrated brotherhood; thus especially in Eleusis, where Demeter (Ceres) and Dionysius (Bacchus) were partaken of in bread (sesam) and wine (kykeon). It is the prototype of the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist. The Gael of the British Isles also knew the sacred cauldron of Ceridwen, their Ceres = Demeter; in a far later, post-Christian legend it appears as a dish, in which a bloody head is lying. The blood of the god (as of the lacerated Dionysius Zagreus of the Greeks) assumed here in the North that materialized image for which the legend of John the Baptist might have served as model. This legend, related in the so-called Mabinogi (manuscript of the 14th century), is, however, that of Peredur, which exactly corresponds with the story of the French Perceval. Whether it be of Gaelic or French origin is indifferent; at all events, it is in France that the designation Grail and the story of this sacred vessel as of the dish at Christ's last supper first make their appearance. Concerning this a narration after more ancient sources is given by Robert de Boron in the Petit St. Graal (12th century). This chalice of the Last Supper, with the paten, was given by the Saviour to Joseph of Arimathea, who had also collected in it the blood of the Crucified One, as a sacred inheritance, to prolong his life in prison until Titus set him free and received baptism at his hands. (Here we find in "Titus" the first trace of the guardian of the Grail, "Titurel", who makes his appearance later on.)

Chrétien de Troyes (d. 1190) also has this sacred vessel of the Grail in his Perceval le Galois or Contes de Graal, and, indeed, as a healing, nourishing, purifying miracle from Joseph's legacy to the kindred of Perceval. In Wolfram, who poetized about 1210 in imitation of Chrétien, suddenly appears in the place of the vessel a stone, brought by an angelic host down to earth and placed under the care of the "Templists", the pious chivalry of Titurel on Monsalvat, the "Mountain of Salvation", inaccessible to sinners. Every Good Friday strengthened in its miraculous power by means of the wafer of the dove from heaven, this Grail of Wolfram's, a revelation of the divine essence itself, has likewise an express bearing upon the Last Supper and the death of Christ. Wolfram asserts that he received the knowledge of this stone, which points to oriental Sabianism1, from a poet named Kiot, after the statement of a Spanish-Arabian half-Jew Flegetanis (i.e. in Arabic, astronomer). In Spain, where formerly the Gothic Christians, under Pelayo, had retreated before the heathen Moors with the sanctuary of their pure faith into the mountains of the North, there, indeed, history afforded an especially significant prototype for:

The Grail Quester

The Knightly Order of the Grail

This represents the antique community of mysteries, the consecrated brotherhood, in the ideal form of a medieval order of spiritual knights. The knights are called, in Wolfram's poem, Templeisen2, and exhibit traits in common with the Knights Templars, among whom, moreover, the head on a dish was also to be found, as object of worship, as in the Gaelic legend. They were also powerfully represented precisely in Northern Spain as the successors of the Gothic conquerors of the heathen. Wolfram's "Templists" are nourished and strengthened by means of the Grail; from afar they hear the cry for help of the suffering, and march out into the world to the defence of innocence and the punishment of wrongdoing. The names of the chosen ones appear on the Grail. They are the knightly embodiment of the divine love in earthly heroism. As a tragically significant symbol of their chivalrousness, there appears with them, besides the divine Grail, in all relevant traditions:

The Bloody Spear

The Mabinogi does not know it as a Christian relic; on the other hand, Chrétien de Troyes, without ceremony, indicates it as the spear of Longinus3 which pierced the side of the crucified Saviour. In Wolfram's poem this signification has again disappeared; the bleeding spear which the company of the Grail salute with loud lamentations, as it is being carried around in the hall, is there a poisoned weapon, which, in the hand of some heathen or other, who strove with the knights for the acquisition of the Grail, inflicted on the king of the Grail, Amfortas, Titurel's successor, an incurable wound on the occasion of a love-adventure. This Amfortas is:

The Infirm King

whose form is likewise common to all the relevant traditions. In the Mabinogi he appears as a lame old man, Peredur's uncle; but his sickness has but slight relation to the action; the spear and the bloody head are there referred to the murdered father of Peredur, and the mission of the hero is vengeance for his father's death. With Chrétien the infirm king (le roi pécheur, — fisher and sinner4) is the king of the Grail, and with Wolfram the name Amfortas, i.e. the weak and suffering one, is added, but near him the "old man", his ancestor Titurel, is also seen in the castle of the Grail, on a couch. The figure of Amfortas represents an affliction that has obtruded itself upon the association of the Grail, and that was founded, indeed, upon guilt. The guilt is sensuality, transgression of a fundamental law of the holy order; the punishment emanates from the spirit of paganism, which itself embodies sinful sensuality. The cure is said, in both conceptions, to be be effected through a promised knight who is to come and "inquire". This knight is the hero of the Parsifal-legend connected with the legend of the Grail:

Peredur - Perceval - Parzival - Parsifal

He is a counterpart of Lohengrin, inasmuch as we recognise in the latter the consecrated knight of the Grail going forth on an errand of deliverance, while Parsifal is he who only seeks and inquires after the Grail — or who does not inquire after it and goes astray. The Grail, hidden from every sinner and heathen, is the supreme object of the ideal aspiration of the pious knightly mind; it is even the (religious) ideal sought for in the battle of life, revealed in the death of Christ, represented and imparted for the faith in this sacrament. The Gaelic name Peredur is elucidated through Pergedur, which is said to signify the "seeker after the basin". The hero could, however, become seeker after the Grail on French soil only. To interpret also the name "Parzifal" in the same manner from the Gaelic "Per-kyfaill" was therefore more hazardous than Görres' derivation from the Arabic "Parsch-fal", i.e. the innocent fool. As such, first of all, the seeking hero makes his appearance in all the legends. It is innocence and simplicity which merited the vocation to the supreme act of redemption.

The story of the infancy of the hero perfectly agrees in the Mabinogi with the later accounts in Chrétien5 and Wolfram. Fatherless, brought up by his mother far from the world, the ignorant child of the forest is decoyed into the world by means of a brilliant pageant of chivalry; according to Chrétien he issues forth in rustic attire; according to Wolfram in harlequin's dress: the latter calls him the "tumbe klare", thus likewise "innocent fool", and regards him as descended from the lineage of Anjou, as the son of Gamuret and Herzeloyde. In the Mabinogi he arrives, after divers absurd adventures, at that castle of his lame uncle, where, however, he does not inquire as to the signification of the spear and the bloody head. According to Chrétien and Wolfram, it is the castle of the Grail, where he has been before announced to the Grail as that one who by his inquiry shall heal the infirm king. Still, the fool does not inquire. He enters anew into the world, intent upon knightly adventures. Here the curse befalls him on account of his neglect; in the Mabinogi, by means of a fierce black-haired maiden, called, according to Chrétien, la demoiselle; according to Wolfram, Kondrie la sorcière, the witch, and yet messenger of the Grail also. He must now wander and seek until he again finds the "Wonder-castle". He meets everywhere6 the clergyman or the penitent knight, who rebukes him for bearing weapons on Good Friday. To this is joined the instruction concerning the Grail by the knightly hermit, in Chrétien and Wolfram. In the Mabinogi also a hermit is the host of Peredur; his figure is divided7, in Chrétien and Wolfram, into an earlier teacher of knightly virtues (Gurnemans) and that later instructor as to the Grail. At last the seeker finds the castle; in the Mabinogi he avenges his father, in Chrétien he makes a broken sword whole again8, and heals the king by inquiring after spear and Grail; and in Wolfram by the question: What ails thee, uncle?. He becomes king in his stead.

Wagner's Use of the Material

Parsifal, According to Wagner

unites in his simple story all these principal features of the legendary material. He, too, is the innocent fool, Gamuret's and Herzeleide's son, born fatherless, enticed from the forest into the world by the appearance of the knights. In ignorance and with the foolish act of the slaughter of an animal, he sets foot upon the realm of the Grail. There the affliction of the king Amfortas has been brought on by a combat with the representative of paganism, Klingsor (the famous magician of German legend); and, indeed, this befell him likewise on the occasion of a love-adventure. The lance is the holy spear of Longinus; the king entered into the combat with this holy relic; Kundry, who was under Klingsor's jurisdiction, allured him within her arms; the spear was taken from him by Klingsor and he himself was wounded by it; only the touch of the spear (which in Wolfram also "cools" the wound) can heal the king. But only the "innocent fool" who is promised through the writing on the Grail can retrieve the spear from Klingsor's hand, in that he preserves his purity amid the danger of sensual allurement; this can be the case only in virtue of consciousness of the guilt of Amfortas; and this consciousness is acquired only through deepest sympathy with the sufferer. Hence the motto on the Grail runs thus:

open quotesBy pity [en]lightened, the guileless fool — Wait for him, my chosen tool.close quotes

Parsifal: a staging design for the final scene of Act 3. Alfred Roller, 1913. Above: a staging design for the final scene of Parsifal Act 3. Alfred Roller, 1913. From the collection of the Theatermuseum Wien.

Thus the epic moment of inquiring becomes a dramatic motive. The question in the abstract is, strictly speaking, superfluous in Wolfram, because Parzival, when he inquires, has already learned that after which he is inquiring; it denotes, however, in a manner so as to make epically present, the feeling of sympathy with the king and thus symbolizes a necessary act of sympathy on the part of the hero. Now, this act of sympathy is, in Wagner's poem, quite dramatically, the acquisition of the spear; thus, instead of the merely symbolically-epic and scenically ineffective formula of the inquiry, the main point with him is the actual touching of the wound with the reconquered spear as the act of redemption of the sympathy which has become conscious. Gurnemanz, the armourer of the holy order of knights, in whose figure the epically separated personages of the hermit and the knight are dramatically reunited, thinks that he has found in the fool, who has miraculously come into the territory of the Grail, the Promised One, and conducts him into the castle, to the love-feast; but although deeply affected by an unknown sorrow, Parsifal does not yet understand the affliction of Amfortas. He is again sent forth into the world of fools and wicked ones, and now comes into the domain of seduction, into the enchanted garden of Klingsor. But in the very arms of Kundry he resists the temptation, since the recollection of the sorrows of Amfortas now, in a like occurrence, awakens in him to the full consciousness of their guilty signification.

Right: Parsifal heals Amfortas. A Bayreuth postcard.
A Bayreuth postcard shows Parsifal healing King Amfortas.

Having become conscious in actual fellowship of suffering, he regains the spear from the annihilated power of the pagan sensual charm. Yet Kundry's curse sends him upon a long pilgrimage; the innocent one must, amid fierce struggles, by his own strength preserve the sacred thing that he has acquired, the cognizance of guilt and of suffering, in the dangers and enmities of the world, and by deeds confirm them; then only shall he find the way back to the Grail. On Good Friday he sets foot upon the holy domain, he must lay aside the secular knightly weapons on the day of redemption, and with the divinely consecrated and expiated weapon he closes up the wound of sin in the house of salvation, freed from affliction. He becomes king in the stead of Amfortas.

The Grail in Wagner's Poem

appears, as does also the spear, in its full Christian-religious meaning. Both symbols have, like the stone in Wolfram, been transmitted from heaven by a multitude of angels to Titurel, who has built for them the sanctuary which no sinner finds in the North-Spanish mountains, the ancient asylum of the pure faith. With this agrees also the statement of Wolfram's successor, Albrecht von Scharfenberg the poet of the so-called jüngeren Titurel (1270); but if with him everything appears epically blazoned forth for the delineation of knightly splendour, with Wagner everything is kept within, religiously absorbed, entirely pervaded as it were by the spirit of the most Christian sacrament, the Lord's Supper, the Divine Sacrifice. This is denoted by the visible participation of the community of the holy and pure in the solemn fruition of God, i.e. in the interpenetration of their own blood and body with the Divine, for carrying out the spirit of heavenly love in earthly deeds of sympathy with innocence and right. In the sin-wound of Amfortas, however, the Saviour himself suffers, the spirit of divine love given up in human care to the world of sin. Nevertheless, the same divine power of conscious sympathy delivers him from the suffering of human guilt, and brings redemption to the Redeemer9.

Grail Scene, Parsifal act 1, Bayreuth 1956

With this enhancement of the legend, which on the one hand led back to the most ancient signification of the mystery of the sacred vessel, and on the other hand rendered an ideal conception of the pure Christian notion of the redemption feasible, only paganism itself could step forward as dramatic antithesis to the Christendom embodied in the worship of the Grail, as it had, indeed, been foreshadowed in the previous legendary formations but, precisely in the great epic poems of chivalry, had not been carried out. Rather, the epic of chivalry, in opposition to the Grail, as to the life of religious knighthood, represented the life of secular knighthood in the famous Round Table of King Arthur. In all relevant legendary poems, from the Mabinogi onward, Parsifal makes his appearance at the court of Arthur. Wolfram has conceived the antithesis still more profoundly; for it is at the court of Arthur, in the utmost worldly splendour of chivalry, that the curse of the messenger of the Grail falls upon the hero; but it is at the court of Arthur that she also announces to him, upon his returning penitent, the release from the curse. This court of Arthur, a specifically medieval fantasy picture, was in no wise to be any longer made use of for the religious drama of our time; its whole character is that of the epic of chivalry, which lives upon the exuberant, adventurous spirit of the Arthurian knights, even with Wolfram, although its insertion into the intimate alliance of the legends of the Grail and of Parsifal was in the beginning only a heterogeneously external makeshift of the epic, craving material. The true antithesis to the castle of the Grail is found in the châtel merveil, the enchanted castle of the pagan Klingsor, which in Wolfram comes to the surface by way of episode only. In Wolfram, the master of the enchanted mirror, of the enchanted forest and of the four hundred captive virgins,

Klingsor in Wagner

is identified with that pagan with whom paganism actually encroaches upon the action of the legend, that is to say, with Wolfram's unnamed antagonist of the Grail, whose spear inflicted the wound on Amfortas. If, besides Parsifal, Gawan plays in Wolfram an important part as representative of secular chivalry, and allies himself precisely with Klingsor and the latter's seductive confederate Orgeluse, and if, mingled with this, all sorts of suggestions of enchanted flowers, chaplets and names of flowers act a part10, which suggestions, moreover, are also not lacking in the love-adventure of the king of the Grail himself; Wagner has condensed all this and developed it in regard to his own hero Parsifal, who, as we know, is mentioned in Wolfram as a predecessor of Gawan's who had rejected Orgeluse's love, and has in this way invested the temptation of the fool driven by pagan sensuality out into the world with a simple dramatic form, which, moreover, coincides in all its individual features with cognate vestiges of tradition. Orgeluse, the seducer, is, besides, identified by him with Kundry, the blasphemous messenger of the Grail, as mistress of Klingsor's flower-spirits.


Kundry in Wagner

is the most interesting delineation of character which the poet found to take in hand for his drama. In this form are united almost all the personifications of the womanly element which appear, in the epical settings of the legendary material, multifariously divided according to their intrinsic law. All these women of the relevant poems may be traced back to an originally homogeneous mythical formation, viz.: to the form of the Germanic Valkyræ, and furthermore to the mother of the gods, wife of the gods, merely multiplying themselves again in the Valkyræ. Kundry appears in all the relevant legends like a Valkyr11, and therefore also now as hostile, now as helping, healing. Thus she represents the two sides of womanly nature, which the ancient German had mythically personated in his combating and slaying, protecting and fostering Valkyræ. In all the legends she curses the hero and then removes the curse from him or benevolently declares to him his fault, in doing which she shows herself (for instance, in the Mabinogi) transformed into a beautiful young man. Wagner has poetized this twofold character into a dramatic motive, in that he has furthermore identified Kundry with the Herodias of the German legend. Herodias, too, is a Valkyr-figure, a Dame Hera or Herke, a storm-spirit ever roaming restlessly through the world; and in this is founded her affinity with Kundry, the wild horsewoman of the Grail, whose name (in the northern language Gundryggia) is to be found, moreover, in the Edda 12 as denoting the office of the Valkyræ, to make ready for battle. Herodias is said to have laughed, when she bore the head of John the Baptist on the charger; thereupon the bloody head blew upon her, so that she has been ever since condemned to everlasting vagrancy; thus she became changed into the female Ahasuerus, a consort of the Wild Huntsman, of Hackelberg, i.e. pall-bearer, Wotan as God of the tempest and of the dead. This demoniacal alliance exists, in Wagner, between Kundry and the magician Klingsor, whose Gaelic counterpart bears the name Gwyddao13, i.e. Gwodan, Wotan. Just as the bloody head of the Gaelic form of [the] legend becomes, in the Grail- legend, the symbol of the suffering Saviour himself, i.e. the Grail, so, according to Wagner's interpretation, did Kundry not mock the head of John the Baptist but the cross-bearing Christ himself; thereupon his glance struck her, and now, condemned to "accursed laughter", she wanders through the world in despair to find the Saviour again, that he may through love redeem her from the curse. Thus she desires to do penance in good works, as in the service of the Grail; but the curse of her sin continually impels her anew to evil.

The representative of paganism, the sworn enemy of Christ and of his saints, Klingsor, secured against her seduction by his own infamy alone, has power over her in the magic sleep of her exhaustion and, having transformed her into a wonderfully beautiful woman, forces her into his service to cause the dangerous and seductive side of feminality, the power of pagan sensuality, to operate for the corruption of the knights of the Grail. Thus has she seduced Amfortas; but Parsifal, the innocent one, resists her. Out of her desperate longing for redemption through love, the unhappy wretch seeks, in the very seduction which her beauty must demoniacally perpetrate, the enjoyment of the divinely rescuing love for which her accursed nature is striving. The only one, Parsifal, who has become conscious in the true love of sympathy, perceives the insane mistake of this longing, and tears himself away from her embrace. For this, the rejected one lays upon him the curse of going astray; but Klingsor's power also is broken through the victory of purity, and the spear is in Parsifal's hand. Kundry, freed from her diabolic master, seeks, humbly penitent, the service of the Grail; and when Parsifal also returns to its sacred domain, the ever-laughing one weeps during the benediction of baptism at the affectionate hand of its new king. Thus the Christian power of redemption is bestowed upon the unhappy woman also. The redeemed woman dies in the sunshine of the grace of God; but the redeemed knights, strengthened by the light of the newly revealed Grail, continue to do the works of healing and charity of pure Christianity in the service of the holy shrine of divine love delivered from the calamity of guilt.

Thematic Guide Through the Music of Parsifal. With a Preface Concerning the Traditional Material of the Wagnerian Drama. Tr. J.H. Cornell. 6th US Edition, 1891.
Footnote 1: Clearly Wolzogen means here Sabaism or Sabianism, the worship of angels, which should not be confused with Sabeism, the faith of a sect that practised baptism. (Editor).
Footnote 2: A German word, now obsolete, which may be rendered by a word like "Templists". (Translator).
Footnote 3: Here Wolzogen errs. The bloody lance was not identified as the spear of Longinus by Chrétien but this identification was made in the First Continuation to the unfinished poem. See the English translation on page 132. The absence of this identification in Wolfram's poem suggests that, although he knew Perceval, he did not know the First Continuation. (Editor).
Footnote 4: A question that remains unanswered concerning Chrétien's poem is that of whether he had access to pre-existing sources, oral or written. The same is debated even of Wolfram, who wrote of an otherwise unidentified book (not by Chrétien although there are clear signs of some other French source) that was Wolfram's main source for the story of the Grail quest (this is the Kiot or Kyot problem). There can be little doubt that Chrétien drew upon an oral tradition and it is possible that he used one or more written sources, none of which have survived. So when we consider the character of the Fisher King, it is impossible to know whether the name of this character is a play on words invented by Chrétien, or alternatively whether the poet (or his predecessor) misunderstood "le roi pécheur" (the sinner king) as "le roi pêcheur" (the fisher king). It is highly probable that in some earlier version of the story, there was a sinner king and not an angler. (Editor).
Footnote 5: It is far from certain that the story of Peredur, of which the earliest written version dates from about 1325, predates Chrétien's poem, left unfinished in 1190. (Editor).
Footnote 6: I.e. in each of these accounts, variously as Peredur, Perceval or Parzival. (Editor).
Footnote 7: The reader will understand that here Wolzogen turns the matter on its head. Chrétien and Wolfram divide nothing, for their tutor and hermit are entirely separate characters. It was Wagner who combined them into a single character, his Gurnemanz. (Editor).
Footnote 8: Once again, Wolzogen treats the First Continuation as part of Chrétien's poem. He overlooks a significant difference: the hero of the First Continuation, who mends the broken sword, is Gawain. See the English translation on page 131. (Editor).
Footnote 9: In his article Erlösung dem Erlöser (in the Blätter of 1890, pages 341-45), Wolzogen calls the Grail, das heiligste Symbol der Erlösung and interprets the concluding phrase of the work as meaning that Parsifal releases the Grail. (Editor).
Footnote 10: Wolzogen does not make a convincing case for the origin of the Magic Flowers in Wolfram's poem. It is beyond any doubt that Wagner found his inspiration for them elsewhere. (Editor).
Footnote 11: To the extent that a hag riding on a mule resembles a valkyrie. (Editor).
Footnote 12: The word "Gundryggia" does not, in fact, appear in the Edda either as name or title. The name "Gunn" (battle) does appear, however, as that of a Valkyrie who rides with Wotan. (Editor).
Footnote 13: The Celtic magician is better known as Gwydion. The hypothesis that he was originally a Celtic deity has not been established with any certainty. Gwydion appears in the Mabinogi as a shapeshifter, which provides a link with Wotan, albeit a weak one. (Editor).