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The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol (Mythos: The Princeton-Bollingen Series in World Mythology) [Paperback]

Roger Sherman Loomis
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 Oct 1991 Mythos: The Princeton-Bollingen Series in World Mythology

The medieval legend of the Grail, a tale about the search for supreme mystical experience, has never ceased to intrigue writers and scholars by its wildly variegated forms: the settings have ranged from Britain to the Punjab to the Temple of Zeus at Dodona; the Grail itself has been described as the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper, a stone with miraculous youth-preserving virtues, a vessel containing a man's head swimming in blood; the Grail has been kept in a castle by a beautiful damsel, seen floating through the air in Arthur's palace, and used as a talisman in the East to distinguish the chaste from the unchaste. In his classic exploration of the obscurities and contradictions in the major versions of this legend, Roger Sherman Loomis shows how the Grail, once a Celtic vessel of plenty, evolved into the Christian Grail with miraculous powers. Loomis bases his argument on historical examples involving the major motifs and characters in the legends, beginning with the Arthurian legend recounted in the 1180 French poem by Chrtien de Troyes. The principal texts fall into two classes: those that relate the adventures of the knights in King Arthur's time and those that account for the Grail's removal from the Holy Land to Britain. Written with verve and wit, Loomis's book builds suspense as he proceeds from one puzzle to the next in revealing the meaning behind the Grail and its legends.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (7 Oct 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691020752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691020754
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,088,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In terms of serious scholarship, there has been little that supersedes or countervenes this work from a major Authuriad scholar at the height of his powers."--

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First Sentence
No legend of the Middle Ages, except those endorsed by the Church, has had so strong an evocative and provocative power as the strange fictions which grew up about the Grail. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Grail 1 Jun 2012
By LynnC
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a high quality piece of research by a professional. For those with an interest in the origins of the grail legend, it provides fascinating evidence from Celtic mythology that throws some (albeit oblique) light on this mysterious subject. Not exactly bedtime reading.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating theory of the Grail 12 Dec 2005
By Bill Lee - Published on Amazon.com
After "From Ritual To Romance" caused a sensation (positive and otherwise) among grail scholars in the early part of the 20th century, much scholarship relating to Arthurian myth relates to the discourse over its origins. In "The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol," Roger Loomis convincingly argues (as the title might suggest) that the idea of the Holy Grail has its roots not in apocryphal Christian eschatology but in the Celtic myths of the British Isles. From the knights of the round table to Indiana Jones to Heinrich Himmler and everyone in between, the Grail has been a much sought-after artifact. The only question is "what is it?"

According to Loomis, the Holy Grail is not the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, but rather a mistranslation of the archaic compound word "sankgreal," meaning "royal blood" rather than "holy grail." This will sound familiar to anyone familiar with the novel "the Da Vinci Code," but this is more or less where the similarities end. Loomis does not view the Grail as an essentially literal object and says that it refers to a mythical bloodline. He further objects to the characterization of the grail as a cup, showing that before it was identified as a chalice, it had previously been portrayed as a flat dish and even a rock (!). He says that myth of the Fisher King lay in Celtic mythology and that Christian symbolism was later attached to it when the Grail myth hit continental Europe from a French monk and scholar living in Wales. The concept of the grail as an ever-replenishing source of sustenance is based on another linguistic misinterpretation that has an archaic Welsh word for "cup" being mistranslated into French as "body," as in the body of Christ (i.e. a communion wafer). Loomis illuminates a consistent series of parallels between the circumstances of Arthurian legend and Celtic myth and shows how overlapping stories in the former are based on archetypal forms from the latter.

Why 4/5? While Loomis presents a compelling theory, it is complex and at times difficult to follow despite Loomis' effort to make his book as accessible as possible to the average reader. Likewise, there is a fair amount of redundancy in this book that might turn some people off. Finally, the theory is so complex and each part is so dependent on the assumption before it that if one aspect is successfully refuted, the whole theory would be in jeopardy. Still, it's a fine book that advances an intriguing hypothesis about one of Western Civilization's most enduring symbols and deserves a thorough examination.
2.0 out of 5 stars Old-style scholarship 1 Dec 2013
By Flint F. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
When reading through Arthurian literary materials, and especially those written before the 1970s, one must keep in mind two things. First, in writing about many topics the literary scholar is inherently less bound by facts than with, say, history. Second, the haphazard means by which Arthurian materials came to the continent only compounds the problem of critical study. Before the 1970s, drawing comparisons between literatures was commonly done by making lists of comparison. I once saw a perfect example of its inherent flaws in a list compiled for the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy; the similarities are fascinating, but they are only there by random chance. Loomis read the world's literature and every time he found anything similar to a grail story made the comparison. Result, cultures that could not have interacted with the grail materials are made to explain the grail and its maturation. The read was fascinating, but it is purely fiction.
5.0 out of 5 stars Grail 16 Jun 2013
By John M. Wasilnak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another great book about symbolism of the Grail that has been sought after, great book at a great price with fast ship, thanks.
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