Key to the Sacred Pattern

27 May 2006

Steinbeck and the Holy Grail

I have wasted my time once again. I have been working on a Blog about John Steinbeck and the Holy Grail, and was hoping to post it tomorrow. I have gotten scooped by Marty Cheek of the Gilroy Dispatch. (His article can be located here.) The Holy Grail and Arthurian legend is a reoccurring theme in Steinbeck’s works. I highly recommend Mr. Cheek’s article if this interests you at all. Marty, you might have scooped me, but you didn’t get it all.

Steinbeck’s Grail allusions actually begin in his 1933 novel To An Unknown God Steinbeck tells the tale of farmer Joseph Wayne. Who has been given a blessing from his father and goes to build a farm in a distant valley. Wayne develops a pagan belief system centered on his interaction with nature. Wayne begins to see the mystical in many aspects of the farm. He believes that a tree holds the spirit of his dead father. After Wayne’s brother cuts down a tree, the valley is besieged by drought and pestilence. Wayne feels that the only way to save his valley is to sacrifice himself. He eventually silts his wrists, and his blood spilling on the ground brings about a rain storm.

Given Steinbeck’s self-professed love an Arthurian Legend, the connection with the tale of Parsifal and the Fisher King cannot be over looked. The blight on the Fisher King’s land began with a wound to his testicles from the Holy Spear. The kingdom is restored when Parsifal answers the question of, “Whom does the Grail Serve?” The answer is “the Grail is located within himself [the Fisher King].” Just as the means to restore Joseph Wayne’s lands is within himself. Finally, some versions of the Fisher King’s story have him dying within three days of the kingdom’s resurrection. Another sacrifice made for the greater good.

A final work of Steinbeck deserves note in reference to the Grail legend and The Da Vinci Code in particular. The Short Regin of Peppin IV (1957) is a little celebrated Steinbeck text. The political satire centers on the French’s attempt to revive the monarchy through a descendant of Charlemagne. While there is no great conspiracy with the Priory of Sion in Steinbeck’s work, it is interesting he would write of the return of the Merovingian line. Pierre Plantard, had to have been amused at this book coming out a year after supposedly reformed the Priory.

Then again who knows why an author writes about anything. I can daydream that Steinbeck was “in the know” can’t I?

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