How Wagner redacted Parsifal's Mulim brother
That photo was taken when I visited the remote Tinmel Mosque in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. My visit prompted the post Is this Wagner's legendary Monsalvat? which highlighted the tenuous links between Wagner's Parsifal and the Islamic culture of al-Andalus. My further exploration of this subject has since uncovered some surprising and little known facts.
Parzival, the epic poem on which Wagner based his music drama, is a medieval romance by the knight-poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. In the poem Parzival's father, the knight-adventurer Gahmuret, served the caliph of Baghdad; which meant a Christian knight was serving a Muslim. While in the caliph's service Gahmuret married the Black pagan queen Belkane. She became pregnant with their child, but their mixed-ethnicity son Feirefiz was born after Gahmuret returned to Wales. On his return to Wales he won the hand of a queen called Herzeloyde, and that union resulted in the birth of Parzival. Which meant Parzival had a Muslim half-brother.
When an adult Feirefiz travelled to Europe with a Saracen army in a futile search for his father, who had returned to the East where he was killed in battle. Feirefiz meets Parzival without knowing they are brothers and they duel. But when they realise their relationship Parsifal brings his brother to King Arthur's court. There, the Grail servant Cundrie arrives to take Parzival to the Grail Castle of Monsalvat, and Parzival invites Feirefiz to join him. Parzival becomes the new Grail King; but Feirefiz cannot see the Holy Grail because he is not a Christian. So he is baptised, which means the Grail is revealed to him. Feirefiz marries the Grail bearer Repanse de Schoye, and returns to the East where they preach Christianity.
What is of particular interest is that in his adaption of Wolfram's poem Wagner wrote both the mixed-ethnicity Feirefiz and his Black mother Belkane out of the story completely. Another post by me discussed the interpretation of Wagner's Parsifal by the controversial Muslim teacher and prolific author Abdalqadir as-Sufi under the rhetorical title Are we ready for an Islamic interpretation of Wagner? It seems that little has changed in the 150 years ago since Wagner decided the world then was not ready for the Islamic elements of the Parsifal legend.