A Stone From Heaven
by Lindsay Clarke

Lindsay Clarke - A Stone From Heaven

BBC Radio 4: The Saturday Playhouse

Gahmuret was a born soldier. He could not bear to stay behind while there was fighting to be done and glory to be won, so he set off to lands well beyond Europe's borders. He served the Caliph of Baghdad, and eventually found himself on the shores of the African city of Zazamanc, where he fell in love with the Queen Belakane. He would leave her for the call of trumpets elsewhere, granting her a son, half white, half black. Eventually he would fight for a Welsh Queen, Herzeloyde, and win her hand, as well. He gave her a son, too, and left her, dying on the road to a new battle. She went mad, grabbing up her son and fleeing to the forest, where she raised him much like a wild animal.

That son's name was Parsifal.

Parsifal will leave her, too, to learn about being a knight where he will have a chance to get the Grail back for the world. When the opportunity arises, he remembers the advice he was given by his old tutor to never, ever ask questions, for a wise Knight never willingly reveals his ignorance. But this is his downfall for when he sees the Grail, Parsifal keeps silent instead of asking the one question that will bring him triumph. Mocked at King Arthur's court for his failure, he is determined to regain his honour by finding the Grail once more. But how can one find something that only appears to a person once, and never again?

"The Stone from Heaven" is a retelling of Chrétien de Troyes's epic 1191 poem, "Perceval, le Conte du Graal" (Perceval, the Story of the Grail), most especially Wolfram von Eschenbach's version. Lindsay Clarke admits to streamlining the story in the hopes of interesting people of all ages and hoped it would inspire them to seek out the original text.

Note: Lindsay Clarke later adapted his radio play as a novel in 2001, called "Parzival and the Stone From Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time".

Music composed and performed by Martin Allcock.

Directed by Nigel Bryant at Pebble Mill Studios

1) 'The Wounding' (Saturday 15th April 1995 - afternoon)

The beginning of one of the greatest of all European tales: the magical, mysterious story of the Grail.

With Kim Wall [Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Narrator], Ian Jeffs [Parsifal, son of Gahmuret], Michael Lumsden [Gawain], Gary Bond [King Arthur], Eleanor Bron [Cundrîe, the Sorceress], Norman Rodway [Gurnemanz], Carolyn Backhouse [Blancheflor, wife of Parsifal], Susan Jeffrey [Sigűne, Parsifal's Cousin], Kathryn Hunt [Geschichte], Struan Rodger [Anfortas, The Fisher King], David Robb [Gahmuret], Lorna Laidlaw [Queen Belakane], and Sara Mair Thomas [Herzeloyde, the Welsh Queen and Parsifal's Mother].

Other parts played by Graham Padden, Bill Wallis, Richard Avery, Neal Foster, Daphne Neville, Sandra Berkin, David Holt, and Martin Head.

90 minutes.

2) 'The Healing' (Saturday 15th April 1995 - evening)

Both Parsifal, the Holy Fool, and the noble courtier, Gawain, have been shamed before Arthur's Court by Cundrîe, the Sorceress. Each has set out to regain his lost honour: Parsifal at the vanished Castle of the Grail; Gawain at the Castle of the Marvels.

With Kim Wall [Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Narrator], Ian Jeffs [Parsifal, son of Gahmuret], Michael Lumsden [Gawain], Diana Quick [Duchess Orgeleuse de Logrois], Edward Petherbridge [Trevrizent, the Hermit], Eleanor Bron [Cundrîe, the Sorceress], Gary Bond [King Arthur], Carolyn Backhouse [Blancheflor, wife of Parsifal], Bill Wallis [Gramoflanz, King of the Wood], Avi Nassa [Feirefiz, Parsifal's Half-Brother], Struan Rodger [Anfortas, the Fisher King], Sandra Berkin [Antikonie], and Susan Mann [Eliz, the Ferryman's Daughter].

Other parts were played by Graham Padden, Richard Avery, Martin Head, Gerry Hinks, Daphne Neville, Vedal Warwick, and David Holt.

90 minutes.

"Perceval, le Conte du Graal" (Perceval, the Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes

Probably written between 1181 and 1191, it is dedicated to Chrétien's patron Philip, Count of Flanders.

Chrétien claimed to be working from a source given to him by Philip. The poem relates the adventures and growing pains of the young knight Perceval, and breaks off after only 9,000 lines. Later authors added 54,000 more lines in what are known collectively as the Four Continuations. Perceval is the earliest recorded account of the Holy Grail.

The poem:

The poem opens with Perceval, whose mother has raised him apart from civilisation in the forests of Wales since his father's death, encountering knights and realising he wants to be one. Despite his mother's objections, the boy heads to King Arthur's court, where a young girl predicts greatness for him. He is taunted by Sir Kay, but receives knighthood and sets out for adventure. He rescues and falls in love with the young Princess Blanchefleur, and trains under the experienced Gornemant.

Eventually he comes across the Fisher King, who invites him to stay at his castle. While there, he witnesses a strange procession in which young men and women carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or "grail". The Grail contains a single Mass wafer, which miraculously sustains the Fisher King’s wounded father. Perceval, who had been warned against talking too much, remains silent through all of this, and wakes up the next morning alone. He returns to Arthur's court.

Before long, a loathly lady of the standard Celtic type enters the court and admonishes Percival for failing to ask his host about the Grail, as the appropriate question would have healed the wounded king. The lady announces other quests that the Knights of the Round Table proceed to take up.

The next section of the poem deals with Arthur's nephew and best knight Gawain, who has been challenged to a duel by a knight who claims Gawain had slain his lord. Gawain offers a contrast and complement to Perceval's naiveté, and his adventures showcase a courtly knight having to function in un-courtly settings. One of the section's most interesting episodes is Gawain's liberation of a castle whose inhabitants include his long lost mother and grandmother, as well as his sister Clarissant, whose existence was unknown to him. After this point, Perceval is mentioned only briefly until the completed section nears its end. He meets a hermit, his uncle, who instructs him in the ways of the spirit and teaches him about the Grail. After Perceval has received his uncle's wisdom, the narrative returns to Gawain, but breaks off shortly after.

The Continuations:

Four poets of varying talent took up where Chrétien left off and tried to bring the story to its end.


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