Friday, January 18, 2008

The Fisher King

In the world of medieval romance there are many weird and wonderful creatures – there are golden dragons and green knights, sinister enchantresses and tragic kings, strange magicians and spears that bleed and talk. And yet, in all this panoply of wonder, few figures are more mysterious than the Fisher King. Entrusted as the keeper of the Holy Grail itself, he resides in a castle made of magic where he lies blighted by a wound that does not heal. He is a complex and poetic figure and has meant many things to many people. From the age of chivalry to that of psychoanalysis and beyond, he has been Christian and pagan, tragic and enduring, a sinner, a fertility god and a symbol of sexual fear and desire.
Melvyn's guest explainers on the consistently wonderful "In Out Time" this week included Stephen Knight, Distinguished Research Professor in English Literature at Cardiff University, and Juliette Wood, Associate Lecturer in the Department of Welsh, Cardiff University.

In honour of these academics from my native land I have decided to believe the more or less arbitrary assertion that the Fisher King is derived from the figure of Bran the Blessed in the Mabinogion, and is therefore Welsh.

1. It is impossible to read of "Bran the Blessed" without thinking of the robust and bushy bearded Brian Blessed. This is a good thing.
2. In his newsletter, Lord Bragg talks of the Fisher King's influence on Eliot's "The Waste Land" and observes that "with a book like Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, the idea of a sterile landscape post some ecological holocaust is hovering at the edge of possibility". We're reading "The Road for the next El Grupo. This is a good thing.
3. Finding a lance in a tangled Welsh wood and storming the magic citadel of London. This is a good thing.

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