June 9, 2013

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: The Holy Grail in Ancient and Modern Times -- And The Movie of A Young Friend of Mine

A young friend of mine – whom I had the privilege of writing with in a class he took from me when he was very young (he’d already had three short stories published by then) – premiered a movie for which he conceived the idea, wrote the screenplay, directed and edited. For the complete story, read the article here:


As I shared the basic idea with my daughter’s good friend – a teenager’s favorite hat, one he wears only on the weekend, disappears so he sets off to find it and ends up crossing with gangs and twisting and turning with humor in what is billed as a “thriller with comedic twists” – I suddenly realized that I was watching LORD OF THE RINGS the next night (talk about comedic twists!).

My reflections on WEEKEND HAT and LORD OF THE RINGS abruptly began to range all over the place, lighting on MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL as well as other modern interpretations of the legend like THE FISHER KING, and THE DA VINCI CODE.  Ancient literature such as Conte de Grale, Percival, Morte dArthur depends heavily on the legend, but modern lit and speculative fiction in particular has mined the trope. From Samuel R. Delany’s Nova, to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books, to Judith Tarr’s Kingdom of the Grail, Elizabeth Bear’s Grail, and Charles Stross’ Accelerando and the expectation that someday Humanity will transcend itself with the help of technology. 

“Why is the Grail legend, traditionally known as an emblem of Christianity, still so popular in a culture that has generally turned away from traditional religion? How does a legend steeped in medieval supernaturalism thrive amid modern skepticism and secular humanism? How does the Grail maintain relevance long after the culture that created it?” (The Science Fiction Film Reader by Greg Rickman)

This myth; this powerful image is diminished and made simple by our longing for a trinket or place or loved one taken too soon – something that I have lost or had taken from me. The concept seems echoed in everything we do.

From the loss of the cup Jesus and his followers used to drink and dine during the very first Jewish Passover that became Christian Communion to civilizations far flung in both time and technology seeking their origins, lost fleets, sons or daughters of Emperors or even the “glory of forgotten days” – all of these are recreated in speculative fiction of the past and today.

The Quest for the Holy Grail with its cascade of amplifying and diminishing movies and literature is also reflected in a little movie by a great young adult in the arts-friendly city of Minneapolis.

If you’d like, please share any other reflections of the Holy Grail you’ve read or watched lately!

Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_axr1lLAbpwc/SfmhOiDMAiI/AAAAAAAAAcM/9kyRF1fWoxw/s320/1indy-idol-holy-grail.jpg

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