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The story of Perceval is part of the incomplete work authored by Chrétien de Troyes which dates back to between 1180 and 1191. The work is dedicated to the author’s patron Phillip Count of Flanders, who offered Chrétien the source from which he builds the basis of his authorship. The literary work explores the adventures of Perceval who ascends in to knighthood and makes great conquering ventures. The highlights of Perceval later break off and give way to the adventures of Gawain, who demonstrates similar cases of conquering knights wherever he travels. The adventures of both Perceval and Gawain break off suddenly without conclusive highlight. However, the work is extended by later extensions by other authors that make contributions referred to as the four continuations. In spite of the sudden breaks in the story, there are three significant themes that emerge from the story and these themes tell a lot about the medieval society and the kind of life that they led.
Military might and knighthood emerge as very important elements of medieval society. At the beginning of the story Perceval is a common young boy raised in the forest by his mother and totally oblivious of the world around him and the glamour of knighthood. The fact that his deceased father and two brothers were knights is hidden from him by his mother lest he gets interested to join knighthood (Chrétien de Troyes, 1985). However, in his daily encounters with knights Perceval develops great interest and when he grows up he defies his mother and goes out to pursue knighthood under King Arthur. He is however rejected and does not get knighted, but the king’s handmaiden laughter foretells his future success. After this incident Perceval goes out on a conquering spree in which he beats several knights and thereafter sends them to King Arthur. In fact, the work states that he defeated 60 knights in a five year period: “Perceval has gone 5 years without entering a church, and has sent 60 defeated knights to Arthur's court (McGoodwin, 2002).”Fascinated by his valor King Arthur goes out seek Perceval. Throughout the story knighthood emerges as an important element to society because the knights were an army that conferred security to the monarchy, its leadership and citizens under it. The numerous encounters of war by the protagonist show that the medieval society was characterized by constant fights, wars and insecurity, all of which made knights an important group in society. This conferred honor on knighthood and perhaps explains the quest of Perceval in seeking the status of knighthood. In conclusion, wars, military might, knights, monarchial kingdoms and kings were basic elements of what made up order in the medieval society and defined leadership.
Religious faith and life is also a common characteristic that also emerges in the story of Perceval. Elements of religious faith appear when Perceval visits his uncle who is a hermit. After announcing the death of Perceval’s mother, his uncle requires him to repent for sins of defying and causing his mother grief and death. “…Perceval's uncle tells him how his mother had died from sorrow at his departure, a sin which requires repentance and which caused him to fail to ask about the grail (McGoodwin, 2002).” The belief that his sins were connected to the failure to ask questions about the grail is also an element of religion. In the mention of his adventures Perceval is said to have conquered sixty knights without entering a church and at some point in the story he narrates about his mother to a group of nuns and monks. The mention of clerical persons such as the monks and nuns as well as the church shows that this medieval society was religious in nature (Chrétien de Troyes, 1985).
Leadership through monarchy is also an identifiable element of this medieval society. The mention of King Arthur and his knights shows that leadership was defined in terms of kingdoms under the monarchy of a king. In the story King Arthur fights and defeats other kings such as King Ryon, and this implies that Perceval’s society and others around it were under the leadership of kings (Chrétien de Troyes, 1985). This implies that most leadership was in form of monarchies, a characteristic that is actually true of medieval societies.
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