Cousin Sigûne the Lamenting Maiden

  1. Wolfram's Sigûne
  2. Chrétien's Lamenting Maiden
  3. Sigûne in Kundry
The earliest appearance of Parsifal's cousin can be found in Chrétien's poem, where she is nameless. Wolfram considerably developed the character, both in his Parzival and in his unfinished poem Titurel; in these poems she is known as Sigûne.

Wolfram's Sigûne

Image: Michelangelo's pietà, in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome


Wolfram describes Sigûne as Parzival's cousin, the daughter of Kyot of Katelangen and Schoysiane who until her marriage had been the Grail Bearer. Thus Sigûne is a member of the Grail family. She becomes an anchoress, i.e. a female hermit who lives entirely alone in a cell with no door. Therefore she can be seen as a parallel to the hermit Trevrizent, both of them representing mainstream Christianity. We also learn that Sigûne was a childhood companion of both Parzival and his future bride, Condwiramurs, presumably at different times. In Wolfram's poem, he meets Sigûne (while alive) three times.

First Encounter

Parzival meets his cousin for the first time since childhood while he is still at an early stage of his moral and spiritual development. At this time he does not know his true name; when she recognises her cousin, Sigûne tells him his name, and that his mother is her mother's sister. She is holding, like a pietà, the body of her betrothed, the knight Schionatulander; she tells that he has been killed by Orilus. Parzival vows to avenge his death; this seems to be a residue of an earlier form of the Grail legend as a revenge story.

sus kom unser tœrscher knabe
geriten eine halden abe.
wîbes stimme er hôrte
vor eines velses orte.
ein frouwe ûz rehtem jâmer schrei:
ir was diu wâre freude enzwei.
der knappe reit ir balde zuo.
nu hœret waz diu frouwe tuo.
dâ brach frou Sigûne
ir langen zöpfe brûne
vor jâmer ûzer swarten.
der knappe begunde warten:
den fürsten tôt dâ vander
der juncfrouwen in ir schôz.
aller schimphe si verdrôz.
Now our simple lad
was riding down a slope,
when he heard a woman's voice
from behind a sharp rock.
A lady was lamenting, in grief
which had broken her joy apart.
The boy rode straight towards her.
Now hear what it was with the lady.
Lady Sigûne was sitting there
tearing out her long brown hair
by the roots, in despair.
The boy's eyes began to wander:
the prince, lay there dead
in the maiden's lap.
Her thoughts were all sorrowful.
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 3. 138,9-23]

The baldness of Sigûne is a curious feature of this encounter. Sigûne has begun to cut off her long, brown hair in grief at the death of her lover. In another text of the same period, Perlesvaus, there is a maiden who has lost her hair as a consequence of Perceval's failure at the Grail Castle. This is unlikely to be coincidence. It is generally accepted that Perlesvaus was written after the death of Chrétien (about 1185) but no later than 1210, and some scholars believe (although Jessie Weston did not) that it developed the story of Perceval and the Grail on the basis of Chrétien's unfinished poem. So probably the Bald Damsel in Perlesvaus resulted from a reinterpretation of the loss of Sigûne's hair. In Parzival, however, the loss of Sigûne's hair is not a result of the hero's failure; in fact, at this point he has not yet been tested.

Jessie Weston, first in her paper The Grail and the Rites of Adonis and later in her book From Ritual to Romance, drew attention to connections between the Grail legend and elements of middle-eastern vegetation rituals. Weston noted that in the Adonis cults, women were given the option of either cutting off their hair, in mourning for the annual death of the god, or prostituting themselves to a stranger for money that would be offered to the goddess. It is possible to see the baldness of Sigûne as a relic of the tradition of cutting off hair in mourning for Adonis.

si sprach zem knappen «du hâst tugent.
gêret sî dîn süeziu jugent
unt dîn antlütze minneclîch.
deiswâr du wirst noch sælden rîch.
disen ritter meit dez gabylôt:
er lac ze tjostieren tôt.
du bist geborn von triuwen,
daz er dich sus kan riuwen.»
ê si den knappen rîten lieze,
si vrâgte in ê wie er hieze,
und jach er trüege den gotes vlîz.
«bon fîz, scher fîz, bêâ fîz,
alsus hât mich genennet
der mich dâ heime erkennet.»
Dô diu rede was getân,
si erkant in bî dem namen sân.
nu hœrt in rehter nennen,
daz ir wol müget erkennen
wer dirre âventiur hêrre sî:
der hielt der juncfrouwen bî.
ir rôter munt sprach sunder twâl
«deiswâr du heizest Parzivâl.
der nam ist rehte enmitten durch.

grôz liebe ier solch herzen furch
mit dîner muoter triuwe:
dîn vater liez ir riuwe».
She said to the boy, "you have virtues.
All honour to your sweet youth
and your lovely looks.
One day you will find good fortune.
This knight fell in a joust:
no missile came his way.
You are noble and true
since you feel pity for him."
Before she would let the boy ride on
she wanted to know his name,
saying his looks were God's work.
"Bon fiz, cher fiz, bea fiz",
that's what they used to call me
when I lived at home."
At once she knew who he was,
she had known him by these names.
Now hear him named by his true name
so that you may know
who is the lord of this adventure,
as he stands there talking to the girl.
She of the red lips spoke thus:
"You are indeed Parzival.
Your name means pierced-through-
Such great love broke the heart
of your faithful mother:
your father left her sorrow."
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 3. 139,25 to 140,19.]

There are some echoes of this in Wagner's Parsifal. In act one it is Gurnemanz, who in this act is based on the character of the same name in Parzival, who tells the boy that he seems to be nobly born, despite his rough clothing and rougher manners. It is Gurnemanz who asks him his name, to which Parsifal can only reply that he had many names, now all forgotten. Kundry, who knows who the boy is, does not reveal his true name until the second act of the drama. Like Sigûne, she gives and holds back information. So in Wagner's adaptation, the function that Sigûne represents (in relation to the moral and spiritual development of Parzival/Parsifal) has been partly transferred to the knight Gurnemanz and partly to the wild woman Kundry. Whereas in this episode of Wolfram's poem the boy encountered death in the form of the dead prince Schianatulander, in Wagner's drama the boy is introduced to the reality of death in the form of a swan that he has killed.

Second Encounter

When Parzival meets Sigûne again, she is entirely bald; the body of her betrothed Schianatulander has now been embalmed, but not buried. Parzival has just left the Grail Castle, where he understood nothing of the mysteries he saw there. Sigûne tells him that its name is Munsalvæsche, and its lord is the lame king Anfortas; she asks Parzival what he did there.

«inre drîzec mîln wart nie versnitn
ze keinem bûwe holz noch stein:
wan ein burc diu stêt al ein.
diu ist erden wunsches rîche.
swer die suochet flîzeclîche,
leider der envint ir niht.
vil liute manz doch werben siht.
ez muoz unwizzende geschehen,
swer immer sol die burc gesehen.
Ich wæn, hêr, diust iu niht bekant.
Munsalvæsche ist si genant.
der bürge wirtes royâm,
Terre de Salvæsche ist sîn nam.
ez brâhte der alte Tyturel
an sînen sun. rois Frimutel,
sus hiez der werde wîgant:
manegen prîs erwarp sîn hant.
der lac von einer tjoste tôt,
als im diu minne dar gebôt.
der selbe liez vier werdiu kint.
bî rîcheit driu in jâmer sint:
der vierde hât armuot,
durch got für sünde er daz tuot.
der selbe heizet Trevrizent.
Anfortas sîn bruoder lent:
der mac gerîten noch gegên
noch geligen noch gestên.
der ist ûf Munsalvæsche wirt:
ungenâde in niht verbirt.»
si sprach «hêr, wært ir komen dar
zuo der jæmerlîchen schar,
sô wære dem wirte worden rât
vil kumbers den er lange hât.»
der Wâleis zer meide sprach
«grœzlîch wunder ich dâ sach,
unt manege frouwen wol getân.»
bî der stimme erkante si den man.
Dô sprach sie «du bist Parzivâl.
nu sage et, sæhe du den grâl
unt den wirt freuden lære?
lâ hœren liebiu mære.
ob wendec ist sîn freise,
wol dich der sælden reise!
wan swaz die lüfte hânt beslagen,
dar ob muostu hœhe tragen:
dir dienet zam unde wilt,
ze rîcheit ist dir wunsch gezilt.»
Parzivâl der wîgant
sprach «wâ von habt ir mich erkant?»
si sprach «dâ bin ichz diu magt
diu dir ê kumber hât geklagt,
und diu dir sagte dînen namn.
dune darft dich niht der sippe 
daz dîn muoter ist mîn muome.
wîplîcher kiusche ein bluome
ist si, geliutert âne tou.
got lôn dir daz dich dô sô rou
mîn friwent, der mir zer tjost lac tôt.
ich hânn alhie nu prüeve nôt
die mir got hât an im gegebn,
daz er niht langer solde lebn.
er pflac manlîcher güete
sîn sterben mich dô müete:
och hân ich sît von tage ze tage
fürbaz erkennet niwe klage.»
«ôwê war kom dîn rôter munt?
bistuz Sigûne, diu mir kunt
tet wer ich was, ân allen vâr?
dîn reideleht lanc prûnez hâr,
Des ist dîn houbet blôz getân.
zem fôrest in Brizljân
sah ich dich dô vil minneclîch,
swie du wærest jâmers rîch.
du hâst verlorn varw unde kraft.
dîner herten geselleschaft
verdrüzze mich, solt ich die haben:
wir sulen disen tôten man begraben.»
"For thirty miles around has been hewn
neither timber nor stone
to build any dwelling but one,
rich in earthly splendours.
If anyone sets out to find it
alas he will not do so;
although there are many who try.
It must happen unwittingly
if one should see the castle.
I presume, sir, that you know of it;
Munsalvæsche it is called.
This castle controls a realm
named Terre de Salvæsche.
It was bequeathed by old Tyturel
to his son, King Frimutel,
that was the warrior's name;
many laurels were won by his hand,
till in the service of love
he met his death in a joust.
He left four noble children,
of whom three are in in misery;
the fourth lives a life of poverty
as a penance in the name of God:
he is called Trevrizent.
His brother Anfortas is crippled:
he can neither ride nor walk,
nor lie down nor stand up.
He is the host of Munslvæsche:
and misfortune is his lot."
She continued, "Sir, if you'd been there
to that sorrowing company,
your host would have been rid
of suffering he has borne long."
The Welshman said to the maiden,
"I saw great marvels there
and many pretty girls."
Then she knew him by his voice,
and she said, "You are Parzival!
Now tell me, did you see the Grail
and bring joy to your host?
Let me hear the good news.
If his misery has been ended
then fortunate is your journey!
Above all that is in the air 
you will be carried
and creatures tame and wild
will serve you."
Parzival the warrior
asked, "How did you recognize me?"
She answered, "I am the maiden
who told you of her sorrows once before
and who told you your name.
No need to be ashamed of our 
your mother is my maternal aunt.
A woman chaste as a flower
that shines without any dew.
May God reward you for you pity
on my friend killed by a lance-thrust.
Now consider the grief
that God has given me
by not allowing him to live.
All manly qualities he had.
His dying tormented me
and since then, from day to day
I have come to know new sorrows."
"Alas, where are your red lips?
Can you be Sigûne, who told me
who I was, in all truth?
You head has been shaved 
of your long brown hair.
Once in the forest of Brizljan
I saw your loveliness
despite the sorrow you bore.
You have lost both colour and strength.
Such harsh company
as you keep, would burden me:
we must bury this dead man."
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 5. 250,22 to 253,8]

Sigûne has now provided Parzival with information that he really could have used, had she thought to give it to him at their previous meeting. Still she has left out one vital piece of information, however, which is that the fourth child of Frimutel was Parzival's own mother. Clearly Sigûne limits her confidences on a need to know basis. The idea that the Grail castle can only be found by one who is meant to find it, and that any deliberate attempt to find it will fail, is essential to the story; it is the reason for Parzival's long wandering until he stumbles upon the castle again. This element was retained by Wagner in his Parsifal, in which old Gurnemanz states that none can find the domain of the Grail, unless he has been led to it, along paths which no sinner can find. Sigûne asks again, more directly, about Parzival's visit to the Grail castle:

«lieber neve, geloube mir,
sô muoz gar dienen dîner hant
swaz dîn lîp dâ wunders vant:
ouch mahtu tragen schône
immer sælden krône
hôhe ob den werden:
den wunsch ûf der erden
hâstu volleclîche:
niemen ist sô rîche,
der gein dir koste mege hân,
hâstu vrâge ir reht getân.»
Er sprach «ich hân gevrâget niht.»
«ôwê daz iuch mîn ouge siht,»
sprach diu jâmerbæriu magt,
«sît ir vrâgens sît verzagt!
ir sâhet doch sölch wunder grôz:
daz iuch vrâgens dô verdrôz!
aldâ ir wârt dem grâle bî;
manege frouwen valsches vrî,
die werden Garschiloyen
und Repans de schoyen,
und snîdnde silbr und bluotec sper.
ôwê waz wolt ir zuo mir her?
gunêrter lîp, verfluochet man!
ir truogt den eiterwolves zan,
dâ diu galle in der triuwe
an iu bekleip sô niuwe.
iuch solt iur wirt erbarmet hân,

an dem got wunder hât getân,
und het gevrâget sîner nôt.
ir lebt, und sît an sælden tôt.»
"Dear cousin, believe me,
all will be at your service and
your life will be filled with wonders;
in bliss and majesty
you will wear a crown
high above the world;
and on earth your every wish
will be fulfilled;
none will be comparable
to you in splendour,
if you duly asked the Question."
He said, "I did not ask it."
"Alas that you are in my sight,"
said the sorrowful maid,
"since you failed to ask the Question!
You witnessed such great wonders;
but you failed to ask the Question!
In the presence of the Grail,
and all those blameless ladies,
the noble Garschiloyen
and Repans de Schoyen,
the keen-edged silver and bleeding spear.
O why did you come to me here?
Life without honour, accursed man!
You showed the teeth of a wolf
when your integrity went rotten
and your manners were forgotten!
You should have had compassion on your 
in whom God had worked a terrible sign
and inquired about his distress.
You live, yet you are as good as dead!"
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 5. 254,20 to 255,20]  

A Jungian View

In Jungian terms, Sigûne is an anima figure; this has been discussed by Emma Jung and Marie- Louise von Franz (The Grail Legend). Wolfram's statement that her mother, Schoysiane, was at one time the Grail Bearer can be seen as a clue that the cousin whom Parzival encounters in the forest is linked to the Grail Bearer seen by him the evening before in the castle.

open quotes [The Grail Bearer] like everything in the Grail Castle, appears sub specie æternitatis; she does not appear in direct relation to him but only indirectly (in that she sends him the cloak or sword). She is the anima, for she lives as a divine archetype in the unconscious, too exalted and distant to be addressed. When Perceval meets the anima again, in front of the castle gate, it is as a girl related to him who is lamenting over a dead man. With her he can talk. She is therefore a more human form of the anima, with whom he can enter into a personal relation. The dead man over whom she weeps actually represents an aspect of Perceval himself; he heedlessly observed a wonder without using his head or asking about it and therefore, from the point of view of the Grail world, he is like one dead. close quotes

[The Grail Legend, p177.]

Third Encounter

Finally Parzival arrives at the cell of an anchoress, who turns out to be Sigûne. She tells him that food is brought to her by Condrîe, and suggests that he might, by following Condrîe's tracks, find the way to the Grail Castle.

der helt si vrâgen began
umbe ir site und umb ir pflege,
«daz ir sô verre von dem wege
sitzt in dirre wilde.
ich hânz für unbilde,
frouwe, wes ir iuch begêt,
sît hie niht bûwes umb iuch stêt.»
Si sprach «dâ kumt mir vonme grâl
mîn spîs dâ her al sunder twâl.
Cundrîe la surziere
mir dannen bringet schiere
alle samztage naht
mîn spîs (des hât si sich bedâht),
die ich ganze wochen haben sol.»
si sprach «wær mir anders wol,
ich sorgete wênec umb die nar:
der bin ich bereitet gar.»
dô wânde Parzivâl, si lüge,
unt daz sin anders gerne trüge.

er sprach in schimpfe zir dar în
«durch wen tragt ir daz vingerlîn?
ich hôrt ie sagen mære,
klôsnærinne und klôsnære
die solten mîden âmûrschaft.»
si sprach «het iwer rede kraft,
ir wolt mich velschen gerne.
swenne ich nu valsch gelerne,
sô hebt mirn ûf, sît ir dâ bî.
ruochts got, ich pin vor valsche vrî:
ich enkan decheinen widersaz.»
si sprach «disen mähelschaz
trag ich durch einen lieben man,
des minne ich nie an mich gewan
mit menneschlîcher tæte:
magtuomlîchs herzen ræte
mir gein im râtent minne.»
si sprach «den hân ich hinne,
des kleinœt ich sider truoc,
sît Orilus tjost in sluoc.
Mîner jæmerlîchen zîte jâr
wil ich im minne gebn für wâr.
der rehten minne ich pin sîn wer,
wand er mit schilde und ouch mit sper
dâ nâch mit ritters handen warp,
unz er in mîme dienste erstarp.
magetuom ich ledeclîche hân:
er ist iedoch vor gote mîn man.
ob gedanke wurken sulen diu werc,
sô trag ich niender den geberc
der underswinge mir mîn ê.
mîme leben tet sîn sterben wê.
der rehten ê diz vingerlîn
für got sol mîn geleite sîn.
daz ist ob mîner triwe ein slôz,
vonme herzen mîner ougen vlôz.
ich pin hinne selbe ander:
ist daz eine, dez ander ich.»
Parzivâl verstuont dô sich
daz ez Sigûne wære:
ir kumber was im swære.
den helt dô wênec des verdrôz,
vonme hersenier dez houbet blôz
er macht ê daz er gein ir sprach.
diu juncfrouwe an im ersach
durch îsers râm vil liehtez vel:
do erkande si den degen snel.
si sprach «ir sîtz hêr Parzivâl.
sagt an, wie stêtz iu umben grâl?

Habt ir geprüevet noch sîn art?
oder wiest bewendet iwer vart?»
er sprach zer meide wol geborn
«dâ hân ich freude vil verlorn.
der grâl mir sorgen gît genuoc.
ich liez ein lant da ich krône truoc,
dar zuo dez minneclîchste wîp:
ûf erde nie sô schœner lîp
wart geborn von menneschlîcher fruht.
ich sen mich nâch ir kiuschen zuht,
nâch ir minne ich trûre vil;
und mêr nâch dem hôhen zil,
wie ich Munsalvæsche mege gesehn,
und den grâl: daz ist noch ungeschehn.
niftel Sigûn, du tuost gewalt,
sît du mîn kumber manecvalt
erkennest, daz du vêhest mich.»
diu maget sprach «al mîn gerich
sol ûf dich, neve, sîn verkorn.
du hâst doch freuden vil verlorn,
sît du lieze dich betrâgen
umb daz werdeclîche vrâgen,
unt dô der süeze Anfortas
dîn wirt unt dîn gelücke was.
dâ hete dir vrâgen wunsch bejagt:
nu muoz dîn freude sîn verzagt,
unt al dîn hôher muot erlemt.
dîn herze sorge hât gezemt,
diu dir vil wilde wære,
hetest dô gevrâgt der mære.»
«Ich warp als der den schaden hât,»
sprach er. «liebiu niftel, [gip mir] rât,
gedenke rehter sippe an mir,
und sage mir ouch, wie stêt ez dir?
ich solte trûrn umb dîne klage,
wan daz ich hœhern kumber trage
danne ie man getrüege.
mîn nôt ist zungefüege.»
si sprach «nu helfe dir des hant,
dem aller kumber ist bekant;
ob dir sô wol gelinge,
daz dich ein slâ dar bringe,
aldâ du Munsalvæsche sihst,
dâ du mir dîner freuden gihst.
Cundrîe la surziere reit
vil niulîch hinnen: mir ist leit
daz ich niht vrâgte ob si dar
wolte kêrn ode anderswar.
immer swenn si kumt, ir mûl dort stêt,
dâ der brunne ûzem velse gêt.
ich rât daz du ir rîtes nâch:
ir ist lîhte vor dir niht sô gâch,
dune mügest si schiere hân erriten.»
dane wart niht langer dô gebiten,
urloup nam der helt aldâ:
dô kêrter ûf die niwen slâ.
Cundrîen mûl die reise gienc,
daz ungeverte im undervienc
eine slâ dier het erkorn.
sus wart aber der grâl verlorn.
The hero began to question her
about her life and sustenance.
"You live so far out of the way
here in the wilderness.
I find it hard to understand,
lady, how you get by,
since no food grows around here."
She replied, "It is the Grail
that sends me nourishment.
Cundrîe the sorceress
brings my food punctually
every Saturday evening.
So I have no concerns about food
of which I always get enough."
She continued, "If only 
everything else went as well;
then I should be content."
Then Parzival wondered whether she lied,
and whether she might deceive him 
So he asked her,
"Why are you wearing a ring?
I have heard it said, that
anchorites and anchoresses
should not have love affairs."
She replied, "If your words had the power,
you would make me an imposter.
If ever I learn to deceive,
then tell me about it, if you will.
Please God, I am without deceit;
I do not have it in me to avoid truth."
She went on, "This engagement-ring
I wear for the sake of a man,
whose love I never knew
by any human action;
yet my maidenly heart
is compelled to love him."
She said, "He is here within,
the man whose jewel I have worn
since Orilus slew him in joust.
Through the joyless days that remain
I shall continue to love him.
It is true love that I bestow on him,
who fought with shield and spear
and in chivalric style
when he was killed in my service.
I am a virgin and unwed
yet before God he is my husband.
If thoughts could produce deeds
then I should bear no impediment
to my marriage to him
whose death wounded my life.
So safely will this ring
bring me to God.
My steadfast love is assured
by rivers flowing from my heart and eyes.
I live here with another:
is one and I am the other."
Parzival understood now
that it was Sigûne;
he was deeply moved by her sorrow.
The hero then bared his head
and revealed his face
before speaking to her again.
The maiden then saw the fair skin
showing through the rust
and recognized the gallant knight.
She said, "You are Parzival!
Tell me, how have you fared with the 
Have you discovered its nature?
Or what turn has your quest taken?"
He told the well-born maiden,
"I have forfeited much happiness,
for the Grail gives me no few cares.
I left a land over which I wore a crown,
and left a lovely wife;
on earth there is none fairer
who was born of human kind.
I miss her modest, courteous ways
and often pine for her love;
yet even more for the high goal
of seeing Munsalvæsche
and the Grail.  It remains unseen.
Cousin Sigûne, it is unfair of you,
since you do not know my troubles,
to treat me like an enemy."
The maiden said, "All good cause
to censure you, cousin, is forgiven.
For you have forfeited much happiness
and gained many burdens
by failing to ask the Question
when gentle Anfortas
was your unfortunate host.
It would have fulfilled your every wish;
now your happiness is denied,
and your high spirits are dampened.
Your heart knows only care,
that would have remained a stranger
had you asked to be told."
"I was as one unfortunate",
he said. "Dear cousin, advise,
since we are family,
and tell me how things are with you?
I should mourn your sorrows,
did I not bear greater sufferings
than any man has ever done.
My distress is great."
She replied, "May the hand of Him
to Whom all suffering is known help you!
What if you were so lucky
as to find a track
that would lead to Munsalvæsche
where you say you would find joy?
Cundrîe the sorceress rode
away not long since: I am sorry
that I did not ask whether
she was going there or somewhere else.
When she calls, her mule stands there,
where the spring gushes from the rock.
I advise you to ride after her;
she is not likely to be riding so fast
that you cannot catch up with her."
So, taking his leave of the maiden, 
the hero set out at once
following the fresh track;
Cundrîe's mule had gone that way
but thick undergrowth hindered him
from following the path he had chosen.
So was the Grail lost again.
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 9. 438,22 to 442,30.]

Parzival will never see his cousin alive again. When Parzival, accompanied by his Queen Condwiramurs returns to her cell, at the end of Wolfram's story, Sigûne lies there dead. Parzival, now Grail King, buries her in the tomb beside her beloved Schionatulander.

«zeiner zît ûf disem walde,»
sprach Parzivâl, «dâ sah ich stên
eine klôsen, dâ durch balde gên
einen snellen brunnen clâr:
ob ir si wizt, sô wîst mich dar.»
von sînen geselln wart im gesagt,
si wisten ein: «dâ wont ein magt
al klagende ûf friundes sarke:
diu ist rehter güete ein arke.
unser reise gêt ir nâhe bî.
man vint si selten jâmers vrî.»
der künec sprach «wir sulen si sehn.»
dâ wart im volge an in verjehn.
si riten für sich drâte
und funden sâbents spâte
Sigûnen an ir venje tôt.
dâ sach diu künegîn jâmers nôt.
si brâchen zuo zir dar în.
Parzivâl durch die nifteln sîn
bat ûf wegen den sarkes stein.
Schîanatulander schein
unrefûlt schône balsemvar.
man leit si nâhe zuo zim dar,
Diu magtuomlîche minne im gap
dô si lebte, und sluogen zuo daz grap.
Condwîr âmûrs begunde klagn
ir vetern tohter, hôrt ich sagn,
und wart vil freuden âne,
wand si Schoysîâne
der tôten meide muoter zôch
kint wesnde, drumb si freude vlôch,
diu Parzivâles muome was,
op der Provenzâl die wârheit las.
"Once in this forest",
said Parzival, "I saw
a cell, through which there ran
a fast, clear brook.
If you know it, show me the way there."
His companions told him 
that they knew one: "There dwells a maid
lamenting over her lovers' tomb;
she is a treasure-chest of virtue.
Our journey takes us close by.
One never sees her free of sorrow."
"We shall visit her", said the King,
and his followers complied.
They rode straight on
and late that evening found
Sigûne dead, on her knees.
There the Queen saw a harrowing sight.
They broke through the wall
and Parzival for his cousin's sake
had them raise the stone slab.
They saw Schianatulander
embalmed and undecayed.
By his side they laid her,
who had loved him chastely
and then they closed the tomb.
Conwiramurs broke out in lamentation 
for her cousin, I am told,
now that her happiness had left her;
since it had been Schoysiane
the dead maiden's mother,
Parzival's maternal aunt,
who had raised her; her joy departed,
if the Provençal spoke true.
[Wolfram's Parzival, book 16. 804,8 to 805,10.]

Chrétien's Lamenting Maiden

In the older poem, there is no meeting between the cousins until after Perceval has visited the Grail Castle. The cousin tells him that he has lodged at the house of the rich Fisher King; what did he see there? He describes the strange procession that he had seen at the Grail Castle. Did you ask them where they were going? He replies, Not a word crossed my lips. To which his cousin responds, God help me, so much the worse. What's your name, friend? Suddenly he knows the answer; he is Perceval the Welshman. She tells him that he should say, Perceval the wretched, because by his silence he has failed to heal the crippled king. She now knows that she is his cousin; they grew up together at his mother's house; and by the way, his mother is now dead. I know it to be true, for I saw her laid in earth. Later Condrîe the sorceress also upbraids Perceval for his failure at the castle of the Fisher King.

We note two major differences from Wolfram's version (the names of Sigûne and Anfortas, which Wolfram has introduced, are less important): (1) the cousin prompts Perceval to remember his own name; and (2) she reveals that his mother is dead -- she saw with her own eyes. In Wolfram, it is the hermit Trevrizent who informs Parzival of his mother's death, and that she died of anguish when her son left her. The version of the meeting with the cousin in Peredur is similar.

Sigûne in Kundry

There are echoes of Sigûne in two passages of Wagner's music-drama. It is obvious from the first of these, that Wagner had read both Wolfram and either Chrétien's poem or the story of Peredur. Kundry assumes the role of Sigûne during the first act, from Den Vaterlosen gebar die Mutter. She tells Gurnemanz and Parsifal that:

  • Parsifal is the son of a widow; his father was the noble Gamuret.
  • His mother brought him up in the forest, away from war and weapons.
  • Parsifal left his mother and fought with robbers and giants.
  • His mother grieves for him no more; she is dead. Kundry saw her dying.

When Gurnemanz asks of Parsifal his name, he can only reply that he has had many names, now forgotten. In the second act, it is the beautiful Kundry (transformed by the magic of Klingsor) who reveals to Parsifal his true name. Thus Wagner has changed the order of events; in Wolfram, the name was revealed before the fool visited the Grail Castle, but in Wagner this vital piece of information is not revealed until after he has entered Klingsor's magic garden.

© Derrick Everett 1996-2019. This page last updated (http to https) --- Thu 24 July 2019 09:25 ---