He is the last of the distinguished family line of guardians of the Holy Grail. But he was wounded. He was not only unable to fulfill his duties, he was also unable to father a next generation to carry on after his death. His impotence affected the fertility of his land, reducing it to a barren wasteland. All he could do was fish in the river near his castle and wait for the elusive “chosen one” who could heal him.
The figure of the Fisher King in Arthurian legend is arguably one of the most well-known figures of a guardian in a heroic legend. However, the Fisher King, or at least the concept of the Fisher King, was already an ancient figure even in that time; with qualities which can be traced all the way back to Greek and Babylonian mythology. His story is an example of what mythologist Joseph Campbell calls the “Monomyth”, the Hero’s Journey, or story of man’s search for himself. The common element to this motive is the presence of a youth in quest of adventures, a supernatural being cursed into a handicap in an isolated place.
A long time ago, the Fisher King was a prince of a great kingdom. When he was riding around the castle one night, he came upon a campfire and saw a salmon spitted, which sizzled as it cooked above the fire. As there was no one there, the prince waited for the camper to return. After waiting for a bit longer, the prince removed the fish from the fire. He then took a bite of the salmon. Suddenly, the prince spat the fish out of his mouth, because it was still much too hot to eat. Then, he lost his balance and fell into the fire, screaming in agony as a sharp, hot brand impaled his testicles.
In great pain, the prince fell unconscious to the ground. He was found in the morning by a one of his father’s soldiers and brought back to the castle to be medicated. But despite their best efforts, his wound would not heal. The prince was crippled and could no longer ride the fields and woods of his kingdom. Even when, in time the prince became king, his wound still would not heal. His strength evaporated with his inactivity and his kingdom fell into waste. The only activity that seemed to give him pleasure was fishing in the lakes close to his castle.
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