Glossary of Names

Names of Characters and Places Appearing in Romances or Wagner Operas

Image: Family Tree
Above: Family Tree of Parzival according to Wolfram von Eschenbach. Wagner omitted a generation, making Amfortas the son of Titurel, and in his libretto did not give any hint that Herzeleide -- and therefore also her son Parsifal -- were members of the Grail family.


Right: Detlef Roth as Amfortas, Bayreuth 2009. Detlef Roth as Amfortas in 'Parsifal', Bayreuth 2009

  • Amfortas

    Keeper of the Grail, Fisher King. In Wagner's music-drama he is the son of Titurel. In Act 1 of the music-drama Wagner makes a pun on the word Amt, server, and the name Amfortas. Wagner described the suffering Amfortas as my third-act Tristan inconceivably intensified (letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, 30 May 1859).

    Amfortas is Wagner's version of the Fisher King, also called the Wounded King or the Grail King, of the medieval Grail romances. In Wolfram's Parzival he was called Anfortas.

  • Ananda

    Disciple of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In Wagner's unfinished music-drama Die Sieger, the love of Prakriti for Ananda is a central element of the story.
  • Anfortas

    In Wolfram's poem Parzival, the Grail King Anfortas is the grandson of Titurel, brother of Herzeloyde and therefore maternal uncle to Parzival. The name has been derived from the Latin, infirmitas and also from the Old French, enfertez, combined with the Provençal ending -as, both words meaning infirmity. Wagner renamed the king to Amfortas.

  • Barlaam

    The missionary who converts Josaphat to Christianity in the early medieval tale of Barlaam and Josaphat. Later Barlaam becomes a hermit living by a spring in the desert. After long wandering, his convert finds the old man again. Barlaam was probably an important element in Wagner's development of his character Gurnemanz.

  • Blancheflor

    In the Perceval, Blancheflor or Blanchefleur is a maiden who is rescued by Perceval when her castle is under siege. Ultimately Blancheflor and Perceval are married.

  • Clinschor

    In Wolfram's poem, a magician who traps knights in his marvellous Castle of Maidens. The most obvious basis for Wagner's Klingsor, although Wagner did not take much more than a name from Wolfram's character. In Parzival although Clinschor does not appear in the events of the story, we are told that he owns the Castle of Maidens, which is also the Castle of Wonders and the Proud Castle, and that he had imprisoned the women there with a magic spell. Wolfram relates that Clinschor had been castrated by a cuckolded husband and that this enabled him to develop magical powers. Wagner adapted the castration sorceror for his Klingsor although in his case the mutilation was self-inflicted. See also: Mára, Theodas.

  • Condrie or Cundrie or Kundrie

    In Wolfram's poem, the Loathly Damsel is called Condrie. There is also a sweet Cundrie, sister of Gawain, who is one of the maidens imprisoned by Clinschor and released by her brother. One element of Wagner's Kundry.
  • Condwiramur

    or Kondwiramur. In Wolfram's poem, the wife of Parzival and mother of Loherangrin and Kardeiz. She is the cousin of Sigûne, and therefore somehow related to the family of Grail kings, and the maternal niece of Gurnemanz. Although Condwiramurs does not often appear directly in Wolfram's poem, Parzival's fidelity to her is a continuing theme of the poem. Her name has been derived from the Old French coin de voire amour, "to guide true love".

  • Frimutel

    In Wolfram's poem, the son of Titurel and father of Anfortas, Herzeloyde, Repanse de Schoye, Schoysiane and Trevrizent. Wagner simplified the family tree by making Anfortas the son of Titurel.

  • Gamuret

    In both Wolfram and Wagner, the father of the eponymous hero, who dies in far Arabian land without having seen his new- born son.

  • Gawan

    In the first act, Amfortas asks about the knight Gawan, more usually "Gawain". It is not clear whether Gawan has joined the Grail knights, or whether he has found and followed the path to the Grail domain but failed in the Quest. Wagner had no use for Gawan, unlike Wolfram, who contrasted the two heroes, Gawan and Parzival.

  • Gawain or Walewain

    Gawain is generally said to be the nephew of Arthur. His parents are Lot of Orkney and Morgause (though his mother is said by Geoffrey of Monmouth to be Anna, a daughter of Uther Pendragon). Upon the death of Lot, he becomes the head of the Orkney clan, which includes in many sources his brothers Aggravain, Gaheris, and Gareth, and his half-brother Mordred. Gawain figures prominently in many romances. In the French romances he is generally presented as one who has adventures paralleling in diptych fashion but not overshadowing the hero's, whether that hero be Lancelot or Perceval. In the English tradition, however, it is much more common for Gawain to be the principal hero and the exemplar of courtesy and chivalry, as he is in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the other Arthurian romances of the Alliterative Revival. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, however, he has a role similar to that in the French romances, in that Lancelot is the principal hero. Loomis has pointed out that there are multiple references to Gawain as a healer in the Dutch Lancelot and that in Chrétien's Perceval appear the lines:

    Right: Gawain meets a wounded knight in this painting from Ludwig's castle of Neuschwanstein. Sir Gawain meets a wounded knight

    Of wounds and healing lore
    Did Sir Gawain know more
    Than any man alive.
    To make the sick knight thrive,
    A herb to cure all pain
    That in a hedge had lain
    He spied, and thence he plucked it.
    The attentive reader will have made the connection to the first scene of Wagner's drama. Gawain is singular (at least in the Arthurian tradition) as a knight who is also a physician. Tolkien fans might note this and other similarities between Gawain and Aragorn.
  • Gundryggia

    In Act 2 of Wagner's music-drama, one of the names by which Klingsor addresses Kundry. Cosima's diary relates, ... at lunch he tells me: "She will be called Gundrygia (sic), the weaver of war", but then he decides to keep to Kundry [14 March 1877]. Although it has been speculated that the name was that of a Valkyrie, the author has not been able to find the name Gundrygia or Gundryggia in any of the Old Norse sources, which contain many Valkyrie names. There is, however, a striking resemblance to the name Gunn (meaning strife or battle), one of Odin's principal Valkyries, and this might have been the inspiration for Wagner to transform Kundry into Gundryggia. In conjunction with the name Herodias, a reference to Gunn who rides with Odin in the Wild Hunt would reinforce the connection between Kundry and Herodias, the Princess of Judea, who in Heinrich Heine's Atta Troll also joins the Wild Hunt.
  • Gurnemans

    The spelling used by Wagner in his prose draft for the character he later called Gurnemanz.

  • Gurnemanz

    Wagner's first act narrator is most obviously based on a character in Wolfram's Parzival. Gurnemanz de Graharz (from the French 'Gornemant') is Parzival's first tutor and the maternal uncle of Condwiramurs. Parzival has grown up without knowing his father and in the company of women and girls. In the poem Gurnemanz becomes a kind of father-figure to young Parzival. Some of this relationship is detectable in Wagner's very compressed encounter between Parsifal and Gurnemanz, who has now become a senior knight of the Grail order. Gurnemanz is also Wagner's third act hermit, but here it was another character in Parzival who was a model. This is the hermit Trevrizent whom Parzival met on Good Friday. Wolfram makes him the brother to Anfortas and Herzeloyde and therefore a maternal uncle of the young man.

    Gurnemanz might also be identified with the hermit Barlaam who converts Josaphat to Christianity in the medieval religious tale of Barlaam and Josaphat. Like Gurnemanz, Barlaam appears early in the story but he loses touch with his convert and becomes a hermit. At the end of the story Josaphat wanders for two years in the desert in search of Barlaam before he finds the old man again. This is actually closer to Wagner's story in that Josaphat searches for the hermit Barlaam, while Parzival apparently stumbles upon the hermit Trevrizent while seeking the way to Amfortas.

  • Gwalchmai or Gwalchmei

    A Welsh hero (the hawk of May) who appears in the Mabinogion. In the tale of Peredur we meet Gwalchmei son of Gwyar where Chrétien (in his Perceval) presents Gawain. Therefore it has been traditional to identify Gwalchmei with Gawain, even to the extent of regarding Gwalchmei as the Welsh original of the character who became Gawain in the medieval romances.

  • Herodias

    In Act 2 of Wagner's music-drama, one of the names by which Klingsor addresses Kundry. This might have been her original name. Herodias (as described by Eugène Sue in his novel, Le juif errant of 1844) is the female equivalent of Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. Heine's Herodias, in his poem Atta Troll of 1841, corresponds either to Wilde's Salome or to her mother Herodias.
    Right: Gamuret and Herzeloyde in this painting from Ludwig's castle of Neuschwanstein. Gamuret and Herzeloyde, the parents of Parzival. A painting from Neuschwanstein.

  • Herzeleide

    In Wagner's music-drama, the mother of Parsifal. Like Tristan, her son is the innocent cause of his mother's death.

  • Herzeloyde

    In Wolfram's poem, the sister of Anfortas and mother of Parzival.

  • Itonjè

    A sister of Gawain. From the French Idonie. Corresponds in Chrétien's poem to Clarissant.

  • Josaphat or Joasaph

    From the Greek Ιωασαϕ. The hero of the medieval story of Barlaam and Josaphat, which, although it has been ignored by most commentators on Wagner's drama, is after Wolfram's Parzival the most important medieval source used by Wagner in the development of his Parsifal. Although most widely circulated in Greek, Barlaam and Josaphat has been found in medieval translations into sixty different languages. Wagner's copy (now at Haus Wahnfried) was a modern edition of the German translation made by Rudolf von Ems in the early 14th century.

  • Klingsor

    In Wagner's music-drama, the magician who had once tried to gain acceptance as a Knight of the Grail. Unable to remain chaste, Klingsor castrated himself and was rejected by Titurel. Since that time, he has desired both the Spear and the Grail. Wagner described Klingsor as the embodiment of a peculiar quality that Christianity brought into the world (not, as the sentence is mistranslated in Gutman's notorious biography of Wagner, a characteristic evil). Although Wagner took and modified the name of the sorcerer from Wolfram's Clinschor, Klingsor appears to perform the same function in the story of Parsifal as did the sorcerer Theodas in the story of Josaphat. In both cases the sorcerer attempts to turn the spiritual hero from his path by sending to him a beautiful seductress who promises to allow her soul to be saved on condition that the hero spends with her a night of passion. It is possible that another model for Klingsor was the demon Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable.

    Right: Klingsor and Kundry, by Henri Fantin-Latour. Klingsor and Kundry, by Henri Fantin-Latour

  • Kundry

    In Wagner's music-drama, the High Messenger of the Grail, who reveals to Parsifal his name and tells him of the death of his mother. In the domain of the Grail, Kundry is a strange, wild woman who often is found sleeping in the undergrowth. When she awakes, she serves the Knights of the Grail, not least in seeking a cure for Amfortas. Then she mysteriously disappears. On the other side of the mountains, in the domain of Klingsor, Kundry is transformed into a beautiful maiden who seduces Knights of the Grail, enabling Klingsor to capture and destroy them. As a result of an ancient curse, she is trapped in an eternal cycle of rebirth. Her name suggests a messenger, since Kunde means "news".

    There is little resemblance between Wagner's Kundry and Wolfram's Condrie. There is something of Condrie in Wagner's creation, but there are also elements of at least two other female characters from Wolfram's poem: Sigûne and Orgelûse. More importantly, Kundry was blended from both Herodias and Prakriti.

    Wagner's first act Kundry appears to be a blend of Wolfram's Condrie (the messenger who is also a heathen sorceress) and Sigûne (the cousin who tells Parzival about himself and about the death of his mother). The Kundry of the second act is partly Herodias, partly Wolfram's Orgelûse (the haughty lady who caused the wounding of Anfortas) and (when transformed by the power of the sorcerer) the beautiful, nameless princess who attempted to seduce Josaphat. Wagner's third act Kundry is primarily Wagner's own creation, a penitent Magdalen. She might also be identified with the Prakriti of Die Sieger, whom Wagner intended to present as the first woman to be admitted to the Buddha's community. In fact the last words that Wagner wrote dealt with this very subject.
    Right: Seduction by Willy Pogany.

    Seduction by Willy Pogàny

  • Loherangrin

    In Wolfram's poem, the Swan Knight, son of Parzival and Condwiramurs. Wagner chose a variant of the name for his opera, Lohengrin.

  • Mára

    Probably the most important single literary source for Wagner's character Klingsor. Mára appears in Buddhist literature as the Lord of Death or the Lord of Illusion, who attempted to prevent the enlightenment of the Buddha Shakyamuni. In these scriptures he is invariably a symbol of evil, sin, desire and temptation. His domain is one of sensuous pleasure. In Sanskrit texts he is a deva, lord of desire and lust, and appropriately his daughters are named Rati (lust or attachment), Arati (aversion, discontent or unrest) and Trsná (craving, desire or thirst). These are the three daughters who are sent to seduce Shakyamuni as he approaches total enlightenment.

  • Monsalvat

    The mountain, hidden in a forest, on which resides the castle of the Grail. In Wolfram's poem, the mountain is called Munsalvæsche, or the savage mountain. This might be derived from Montsegur, the last refuge of the Albigensians or Cathars of southwestern France. The castle fell to the crusaders in the spring of 1244.

  • Orgelûse

    In Wolfram's poem, the haughty lady of Logres, who is loved by Anfortas. In Chrétien's Perceval and the First Continuation of that poem, the haughty lady is nameless. Her name in Parzival is derived from the French orguelleuse, meaning "proud lady". She lives in a castle owned by Clinschor that is referred to by respectively Chrétien, Wolfram and the anonymous author of Peredur as "Proud Castle" or "Castle Pride", which is also the "Castle of Marvels" or "Castle of Wonders". In the poems by Chrétien and Wolfram it is identified with the "Castle of Maidens", when many women and girls are held captive; in the Welsh/Breton tale of Peredur there is only one maiden held captive in the Proud Castle. In Chrétien's poem Orgelûse meets the wandering Gawain and treats him with scorn, although he remains courteous. Wolfram develops the story, writing that the Grail King Anfortas received his wound while fighting for Orgelûse. Therefore she can be seen as one of the elements of Wagner's Kundry.

    Right: "Parsifal in Quest of the Holy Grail", Ferdinand Leeke. Parsifal in Quest of the Holy Grail, Ferdinand Leeke

  • Parsifal

    The spelling of the hero's name that Wagner finally adopted, taken from a dubious etymology by Joseph Görres, in his 1813 edition of Lohengrin. It was claimed that fal parsi was Arabic for pure fool, and "Parsifal" was derived as an anagram of this phrase.

  • Parzival

    The hero of Wolfram's poem.

  • Perceval

    The hero of Chrétien's poem and its continuations.

  • Peredur

    The hero of a story in the Mabinogion, who appears to be a derivative of the Celtic original (or equivalent) of Perceval and Parzival. Wagner found the story Peredur Son of Evrawc in Comte de Villemarque's Contes populaires des anciens Bretons. Peredur of the long lance was an ancient traditional hero of the Old North, whose name is found in the Gododdin together with that of Gwalchmei. With Owein and Geraint ab Erbin this tale is known as one of the Three Romances in the Mabinogion. The three tales are united in their similarity of style and subject-matter: the names of the protagonists in all three have close parallels in those of their counterparts in the corresponding poems of Chrétien de Troyes - Perceval li Gallois, Yvain, Erec et Enide. In the Welsh version, Peredur's story contains within it the germ of the Grail legend, which was developed more explicitly by Chrétien de Troyes. See Goetinck's Peredur: A Study of Welsh Tradition in the Grail Legends.

  • Prakriti

    The self-sacrificing heroine of Die Sieger, Wagner's unfinished Buddhist drama. In an earlier incarnation, Prakriti had rejected, with mocking laughter, the love of the son of a Brahmin. Wagner wrote that the Buddha's acceptance of Prakriti into what had been, until that time, an all-male community was a beautiful feature of the legend.

  • Ragnelle (Ragnel, Ragnell, Ragnall)

    A loathly damsel in the fifteenth century romance The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. She gives Arthur the answer to a riddle that will save his life and in return, demands to marry Gawain. Despite her ugly appearance, Gawain agrees, and on their wedding night she appears beautiful. She says that he must choose whether she is to be beautiful at night when they are alone together, or in the day when they appear in public. Gawain gives Ragnelle the choice and by doing so breaks the spell.

  • Repanse de Schoye

    In Wolfram's poem, the Grail Bearer, sister of Anfortas. Perhaps one of the elements of Wagner's Kundry. Her name has been derived from the Old French, Repense de Joie.

  • Schmerzeleide

    In Wagner's prose draft, the name (meaning Pain-sorrow) given to Parzival's mother, later renamed to Herzeleide (Heart's sorrow).

  • Shakyamuni

    (son of the clan of Shakya). A character in Wagner's unfinished Buddhist drama Die Sieger. The historical Shakyamuni is commonly known as the Buddha, although Buddhists refer to him as the Buddha of the present age. Both Wagner and Schopenhauer referred to the Buddha by his title of the Victoriously Perfect.

  • Sigûne

    In Wolfram's poem Parzival, a granddaughter of Titurel and hence a cousin of Parzival. Sigûne is found in another poem by Wolfram, Titurel. One of the elements of Wagner's Kundry.

    Right: Pogàny's "Titurel Bears the Sacred Spear". Titurel Bears the Sacred Spear, Willy Pogàny

  • Theodas

    The name of the sorcerer who sends a nameless, beautiful maiden to seduce Josaphat in the early medieval tale of Barlaam and Josaphat. Together with Mára he was probably one of the sources for Wagner's magician Klingsor.

  • Titurel

    In both Wolfram and Wagner, the original Winner of the Grail and the founder of the Community of Grail Knights. Titurel was, for Wagner, a Wotan who had attained redemption through denial of the world. His role in Parsifal seems to be primarily a symbolic one: he represents extreme old age in the same way that Amfortas represents extreme sickness and intense suffering. Possibly from the Provençal Treu = peace + rezems = redeemed.

  • Trebuchet

    In Wolfram, Anfortas presents Parzival with a magic sword, whose hilt is made of ruby. This sword, which Anfortas has carried into battle many times, was forged by the smith Trebuchet. Parzival's cousin Sigûne later reveals to him that the sword will shatter at the second blow, but that it might be repaired in the magic spring at Karnant.

  • Trevrezent

    In Wolfram's poem, the brother of Anfortas, for whose sake he has renounced chivalry and become a hermit. He is the second tutor to Parzival. In Wagner's music-drama, this character is renamed Gurnemanz.

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