In Christianity, the Holy Grail is the plate or cut that caught Jesus` blood during the time of his crucifixion. In mythology of old ages, a dish had the power to heal all illnesses and wounds. During Medieval Period this symbol was very popular as Christ`s blood itself. In this paper, I will try to identify the symbolic meaning of Holy Grail and Holly Blood in Christianity during Medieval Ages. In addition, I will explore and research two films – The Fisher King and Dracula, and analyze the meaning of Holy Grail and Blood on their example.
In Christian mythology and religion, the Holy Grail is regarded as the dish in which Jesus' blood during the crucifixion was dropping (Barber, 2004). It is believed to have the power to heal all wounds. A theme, which is clarified in the Christianized Arthurian mythos, is similar to the meaning of the Holy Grail. Firstly, this notion appears in written text on old French initially appears in “Perceval le Gallois”, an unfinished romance by Chrétien de Troyes in 1180 (Sherman, 1991). In this period of about 50 years, several literary works were written. The most known story is about the Grail from the Crucifixion to the death of Arthur. Arthurian legends were popular during that time. Myth about “The Fisher King” is one of the most well-known stories about Grail of the Medieval Period. Now it is one of the most enduring legends of those times.
Speaking about the Holy Grail and its role in Middle Ages, it is possible to say that it was not actually identified as a cup or any dish. It is considered to be the power and the key to happiness, too. Christ`s blood had the similar function in Christianity. The blood of Christ functioned as a purification of the soul and as a cure from all the sufferings. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews). Those ideas and legends always were one of the hot discussions in literature and in cinematography. For example, Gilliam`s “The Fisher King” and Coppola`s “Bram Stocker`s Dracula” are based on the idea of the legend about the Grail and Holly Blood.
In the Gilliam`s film, the focal point is made on the legend about “The Fisher King”. The Fisher King guards the Holy Grail, which in Medieval Period was recognized as a cup from the last supper of Jesus (Barber, 2004). It also served as a dish for collecting drops of the Christ blood in the day of his execution. This story tells about one king, who was weak because of his misunderstanding and mistakes regarding the meaning of the life. The Fisher King is dying and everything around him does, too. Once he went to the woods at night to demonstrate his bravery. Suddenly, he saw a vision with the Holy Grail. In this moment, he heard the voice. It was telling him that he would be the keeper of Grail. He reached out to the cup, but other visions came onto him. The king burned the hand in fire trying to reach for the Holy Grail. Later this wound became more and more profound during his growth and reign. At one moment, the king realized that he is dying because of this wound. He lost the Grail; however, Grail is the one thing that can save him, which he cannot see anymore. Once one fool comes to king, and he sees a real human in a big despair and depression. The king asks for water and suddenly the fool gives him a cup that heals his deep painful wound. The healed king asks the fool, where has he found a Grail, but the fool answers that he did not know anything about the Grail. The one thing he was sure of is that the king wanted to drink. The fool, pure and innocent, demonstrates in this moment all his compassion and kindness.
The Grail in this myth is a cup of wisdom and the power that can heal all the wounds. On the other hand, it could bring misfortune and destroy a person completely together with his or her heart. In Gilliam`s “The Fisher King”, there is an accent on the role of the fool, who tries to get a cup. It is Parry, who has such a clear and innocent soul. "Parry is a man with a previous life that was so damaged that he had to create another personality," Williams says. "It's like post-traumatic stress syndrome: Some people respond to traumatic or tragic events by withdrawal; some even create other personalities. Parry is a creation - somewhat Don Quixote, somewhat Groucho Marx - but he's a creation designed to avoid a past event" (Stubbs, 2003). Jack, another main character, is pictured as a cynical but romantic fellow. He helps his friend to recover, and cures his heart with the help of his kindness. The main character, Jeff Bridges, as well as Parry, divides a role of a king, whose heart was wounded because of the misfortune in the past. The fool talks with little people, who give him an idea to get the Holy Grail. He believes that he will be happy when he will receive it. He regards Grail as a symbol of divine mercy, and his new friend as a Good`s elect. He regards this thing not as a cup of a millionaire, but a real Holy Grail of the Good.
This idea of giving and taking in another interpretation also has its place in the Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Bram Stoker's Dracula”. “This film carries some associations with the Fisher King myth, which tells of a wounded ruler, whose physical injury matches an injury of the heart that must be healed” (Clarke, 2003). According to his own words, Coppola also shows the Holy Grail as a relic that, for all its glory and mystical power, exacts misery from those who seek it, and even from those who actually find it (Phillips and Hill, 2004).
While comparing those two films, there is a major difference coming up, which is the symbol of holiness in “The Fisher King” that teaches love and compassion, giving and forgiving, and the symbol of Holy Blood in “Dracula” that is represented as a curse for a man. In both cases, a person acquires power, but it has the different nature. The Grail in “The Fisher King” plays a role of a cure from all pains, and in “Bram Stocker`s Dracula” Holy Grail with Holly Blood is a symbol of inhuman sufferings. Dracula in his insanity cursed God and as a result, he transformed into a vampire. An immortal that is always has a thirst for blood. In “The Fisher King” tale, main heroes try to become happy searching for a cup. Parry has visuals with a red knight, who has a symbolic role in this movie. He characterizes his misunderstanding and despair inside himself. It is Perry`s manifestation and shout of pain. Fool helps the king, and the king Jeff helps his poor friend. It is clear that the main point is to give happiness to other and listen to the heart. Another thing we see in Dracula is mental changes. In his insanity, Dracula does not see any fortune in life and seeks only blood. Only woman that has the same appearance helps him to become free and happy. Dracula makes crazy macabre things and seeks only blood, but his heart is in pain. That is why only a young woman with an appearance of his wife plays a role of savior, bringing him back in time. Dracula is not a fool, but he is insane. In “The Fisher King”, Parry sometimes is being a bit insane too, while carrying the truth and the real sense of happiness.
To sum up, it is possible to say that during this research we figured out the meaning of Holy Grail and Holy Blood, characterized their functions in mythology and regarded those symbols in the concept of two different movies. In “Bram Stocker`s Dracula”, the notion of Holy Blood was interpreted as a curse for an insane man, while his real cure is love and understanding of deep feelings. Holy Blood was a curse for him but not an escape from all the sufferings and pain. In another movie, “The Fisher King”, we see an interpretation of an old medieval legend about a king, who searched for a Grail but could not find it. Only fool showed him the real way to happiness, while he cannot find his own. Those two different movies show a real meaning of Holy Grail and Holy Blood and that is why they can serve good examples of medieval tale interpretation. The most important thing in the perception of Holy Grail and its symbolic meaning is an art of giving and seeing things as they are.
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