Wasteland & Redemption
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WASTELAND & REDEMPTION
Frazer's The Golden Bough connects the beginnings of organized religion to pagan fertility rituals. In From Ritual to Romance, Weston applies Frazer's ideas to the legend of the Holy Grail. Prominent figures in Weston's reading are the Fisher King, the immortal guardian of the Grail, and Percival, a knight from Arthur's court. The Grail itself is usually imagined as a chalice used during the Last Supper or Crucifixion.
Stories of the Fisher King vary in detail but usually share key features. The Fisher King is crippled by a magical wound and spends his days fishing on a lake near his castle. His lands are desolate, infertile, as a result of his wound. The knight Percival eventually comes to the castle of the Fisher King in search of the Holy Grail. Percival heals the king, restoring the land to fertility and becoming keeper of the grail. (See the note to line 202 for more about Percival.)
Following Frazer, Weston connects the story of the Fisher King to ancient fertility rituals, linking the king's health to that of his land. Eliot credits much of the structure of The Waste Land to Weston's book. The waste land created by the Fisher King's wound serves as the central image of the poem, and the king himself appears several times:
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