THE HOLY GRAIL by Norma Lorre Goodrich


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 Exploring 2000 years of Christian, Hebraic, Celtic, and academic lore, Goodrich brings to her own quest for the Grail that same successful combination of learning, common sense, energy, and romance that distinguished her Guinevere (1991) and Merlin (1987). From the ``marvelously mysterious'' surviving Grail tests, most written in Old French during the 12th and 13th centuries in Wales, France, Germany, and Spain, Goodrich traces a history of belief in the Grail--an ``awful and terrible mystery'' variously conceived as a chalice (perhaps containing Christ's blood), a silver platter, a reliquary, a sword, a spear, or a book by Jesus, Solomon, or any of the Apostles. Allegedly rescued from Jerusalem in A.D. 700, the Grail apparently appeared in Marseilles, where it is still honored in ceremonies at the Church of the Saints Marie; in Scotland, at Glastonbury, as an integral part of the Arthurian legends; in Spain, where it appears in the writings of Cervantes and St. Teresa and is associated with the cathedral at Valencia; and in Germany, where Wolfram von Eschenbach immortalized it in Parzival, Wagner revived it in Parsifal, and Hitler supposedly worshiped it as an affirmation of his power. In whatever form, country, or period, the Grail always appears, Goodrich contends, in times of war, religious bigotry, and the persecution of women and children, offering an aristocratic version of peace, spirituality, and female power. The rituals, castles, and queens associated with it; the experiences of hallucination, blindness, and confusion in its presence; and the elevation of women around it--these recur in all Grail texts except Wagner's, making the association that Goodrich draws to Hitler (based partly on her firsthand observations of Nazi symbols) seem strained. Refuting contemporary scholars, Goodrich argues convincingly for the historicity of many of the legends, particularly the Arthurian, and for the power of the Grail as, if not a fact, then a necessary illusion. A reading adventure. (Ten line drawings.)

Pub Date: June 17th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-016686-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992


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