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  • Writer's pictureJo-Anne Blanco

The Grail Heroine

Warrior Women - Dante Gabrielle Rosetti

One female quester who deserves more fame is the woman known as the Grail Heroine. While most people are familiar with the knights of the Grail Quest, such as Sir Percival, Sir Galahad, and, to a lesser extent, Sir Bors, the Grail Heroine is largely ignored or forgotten. This could be owing to the fact that, from the first time this character appeared in the early 13th century Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal, she is not even named in this or in most subsequent versions. There are contradictory assertions as to whether or not her name was Dindrane (or Dandrane), a character who appears in Perlesvaus or The High Book of the Grail of the same period, which is a continuation of Chrétien de Troyes’ unfinished Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Some claim that this sister of Percival is not the same as the sister of Percival who joined him, Galahad and Bors on the Grail Quest. Others suggest that this sister, unnamed in so many sources, is in fact Dindrane. Known as Agresizia in the Italian Arthurian work, La Tavola Ritonda, for the purposes of this post we will call her Dindrane.

During the Grail Quest, Dindrane meets Galahad at a hermitage and persuades him to accompany her, providing a girdle for his sword made from her own hair. The two travel to the coast where they find a white ship with Percival and Bors waiting for them, whereupon Dindrane reveals that she is Percival’s sister by their father King Pellinore. The four sail away to another land where Dindrane instructs them to seek out the Maimed King and to find a cure for his mysterious wound that will not heal. They arrive at a castle where the castle knights demand that Dindrane give a bowl of her blood to the lady of the castle to satisfy their tradition. Dindrane refuses, and a battle ensues between the questers and the castle knights, in which the latter are vanquished. Accepting defeat, the castle knights make their peace and invite the visitors to stay at the castle.

Later that night, Dindrane and her companions discover that the lady of the castle is dying of leprosy and that only the blood of a pure virgin who is the daughter of a king can save her. Filled with pity and despite the great risk to herself, Dindrane agrees to offer her blood, a decision which proves to be fatal. During her bloodletting, knowing that she is about to die, Dindrane asks Percival to place her body in the white ship and set it out to sea. She tells him that he will find her in the city of Sarras and asks him to bury her there. Foreseeing that Percival and Galahad will die soon after her, she instructs the three knights to part company until they find each other again at the castle of the Maimed King. Galahad and Bors leave, and the grief-stricken Percival writes an account of the life and adventures of Dindrane, places it beside his sister’s body on the white ship, and sets it to sail out to sea. Later, the three knights travel to Sarras, where, after Galahad has achieved the Grail and healed the Maimed King, he and Percival both die and are buried beside Dindrane, the Heroine who ultimately demonstrated the true, selfless meaning of the Grail by sacrificing her life for another.

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