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Herbert Wohlfahrt ("Sir Parsifal")
Nationality German
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Born 5 June 1915, Kanagawa, Japan
Died 13 August 1982, Villingen, Germany
Nickname Was known in naval circles as "Sir Parsifal"
Career
April 1933 Entered the navy (Crew 33)
1 July 1934 Fähnrich zur See
1 April 1936 Oberfähnrich zur See (Midshipman)
1 Oct. 1936 Leutnant zur See (Sub-Lieutenant)
May 1937 Joined the U-boat force
1 June 1938 Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant Junior Grade)
19 Oct. 1939 - 1 June 1940 Commander of U-14 (sank 9 craft, 12,362 tons)
15 June.1940 - 14 Dec. 1940 Commander of U-137 (sank 6 craft, 19,557 tons)
1 Oct 1940 Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander)
1940 -1941 Construction training U-556 (Blohm & Voss boat)
6 Feb. 1941 - 27 June 1941 Commander of U-556 (sank 5 craft, 23,557 tons)
July 1941 - July 1947 Prisoner of war
14 July 1947 Returned to Germany

Origin of the Name
Sir Perceval/Parzival/Parsifal
Sir Perceval is known from the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

With the exception of Sir Galahad he was the most peerless Knight in holy deeds. He accompanied Sir Galahad on their successful quest for the Holy Grail where he met the Lady Blanchefleur, the Holy Grail maiden.

Percival married Blanchefleur, lived at Cartomek where their son, the Black Knight, became King.

Perceval is the Grail knight or one of the Grail knights in numerous medieval and modern stories of the Grail quest. Perceval first appears in Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished Perceval or Conte del Graal (c.1190). The incomplete story prompted a series of "continuations", in the third of which (c.1230), by an author named Manessier, Perceval achieves the Grail. (An analogue to Chrétien's tale is found in the thirteenth-century Welsh romance Peredur.) Chrétien's story was also the inspiration for one of the greatest romances of the Middle Ages, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (c. 1200-1210). As in Chrétien's story, Wolfram's Parzival is initially naive and foolish, having been sheltered from the dangers of the chivalric world by his mother. In both versions Perceval/Parzival is the guest of the wounded Fisher King (called Anfortas by Wolfram but unnamed by Chrétien) at whose castle he witnesses the Grail procession and fails to ask--because he has been advised of the impoliteness of asking too many questions--the significance of what he sees and, in Wolfram's romance, what causes Anfortas's pain. This failure is calamitous because asking the question would have cured the king. Other medieval versions of the story of Perceval can be found in the French texts known as the Didot-Perceval and Perlesvaus (also called The High Book of the Grail or Le Haut Livre du Graal).

Perceval is the central character in the fourteenth-century Middle English romance Sir Perceval of Galles, which is apparently based on Chrétien's tale but which omits the Grail motif entirely. Perceval is one of three Grail knights in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the others being Galahad and Bors. Perceval functions as the narrator of the dramatic monologue which comprises most of Tennyson's idyll "The Holy Grail." In this idyll, much of what Perceval tells focuses on Galahad as the central Grail knight. Richard Wagner, drawing his inspiration primarily from Wolfram von Eschenbach, though greatly simplifying Wolfram's plot, wrote the opera Parsifal in 1882. As in the medieval stories, Parsifal is presented initially as a fool, but is pure enough to heal the wounded Anfortas and to become himself the keeper of the Grail.

Among the twentieth century works to deal with Perceval/Parsifal are the poem "Parsifal" by Arthur Symons, several of Charles Williams's Arthurian poems, Robert Trevelyan's The Birth of Parsival (1905) and The New Parsifal: An Operatic Fable (1914), and the novels Percival and the Presence of God (1978) by Jim Hunter, Parsifal (1988) by Peter Vansittart, and Richard Monaco's tetralogy (containing Parsival [1977], The Grail War [1979], The Final Quest [1980], and Blood and Dreams [1985]). One of the most interesting Arthurian films is Eric Rohmer's Perceval le Gallois (1978), a fairly faithful rendition of Chrétien's Conte del Graal. The story of Perceval is recast in a modern setting in the film The Fisher King (1990).


© John Asmussen, 2000 - 2013. All rights reserved.