Title: Parsifal’s Page
Author: Gerald Morris
Genre: Arthurian, kid lit
This is the fourth book in Morris’ Squire’s Tale series. It is the story of Piers, a young boy who is dissatisfied with his life as a blacksmith’s son, seeking instead adventure and the wonders of courtly life. In this book he gets it.
When a knight claiming to be on “the quest” appears at Piers’ father’s shop, Piers asks if he can accompany the knight as a page. To his surprise, his father lets him and soon Piers is on his way. However, soon that knight runs into some trouble and Piers finds himself in the company of another young person, a rough-and-tumble country youth named Parsifal, who happens to want to be a knight.
“Parsifal is quite unlike anyone Piers has ever met and doesn’t behave ‘knightly’ at all, but slowly Piers begins to realize that being a knight has nothing to do with shining armour and winning jousts. As their journey continues, Piers and Parsifal are drawn into the Quest for the elusive Holy Grail. They find that to achieve this quest they must learn more than knighthood: they must learn about themselves.” (from inside the cover flap of the Houghton Mifflin hardcover)
This is a good book. Piers and Parsifal are a good team – there are things that both can learn from the other and the people they meet. They make mistakes and attempt to fix them as best they can when they realize what they’ve done wrong. Morris’ language makes parts of Parsifal’s story read as silly as their concepts may appear to modern readers (for example, Parsifal takes some early advice he’s given at face value, which leads to some strange interaction with a lady met on the road), but because of the nature of Parsifal’s character and the way it develops, they’re understandable. Piers is a pretty good point-of-view character.
The story is also interesting because it is based on German Arthurian canon instead of the more commonly known English, French, and Welsh ones. Morris’ Parsifal story is adapted from those by Baron Wolfram von Eschenbach (described by Morris, in the book’s epilogue, as “a knight and singer of tales”) and so are some of the characters, whose names have been changed slightly. I liked one section in which Morris makes references to the names that Parsifal has had in other canon.
Parsifal’s Page does work as a standalone story, but in my opinion it’s somewhat better read after the other Squire’s Tales books. That way, the reader has a slightly better understanding of the significance of characters like Jean le Forestier and Trevisant the Hermit of the Gentle Wood (even though these two are explained briefly); references to characters like Ganscotter and Griflet; and references to past events. One of these events is only mentioned by Round Table knight Gawain (who appears in about half of this book) and is quickly explained without losing much significance. But the other is referenced in a quote by the enchantress Nimue, and if the reader is not familiar with a previous book (The Squire, His Knight, & His Lady, book two of the series) they may not be satisfied with the tidbit they are given.