Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Fisher King - IOT

The latest In Our Time sheds its light on the legend of the Fisher King, or rather a continuum over the ages, with each time and place adding its own. It is the legend of a wounded king, who cannot die and in his castle, accompanied by a bleeding spear, waits for cure.

The origins are probably Celtic. The Middle Ages added Christian elements, where the Fisher King also became the guardian of the Grail. The nineteenth century saw a renewed interest in the legend. The fact that it was Celtic, made it purely European (or British for that matter) serving the quest for nationalist identity. Ethnological approach sought the element of fertility in the legend - as fertility was assumed to feature in all primitive tales. And psycho-analytics took the tale to the realm of interpreting human soul. Last but not least, literature took a bite and made its own versions.

The thought that sticks with me is, yet again, how formative the nineteenth century has been. How our concepts and identities were shaped then and lay basis where we can hardly think past today. But that is besides the point. IOT analyzes the legend and it is brilliant as usual.

More In Our Time
The Charge of the Light Brigade,
Albert Camus,
The Nicene Creed,
Four humor medicine,
The Sassanian Empire


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