WWI and Grail Legends

From Ritual to Romance helped elucidate not only allusions The Waste Land makes but the way in which it references ancient texts. The connections between the Grail legends and the Rig-Velda, though parallels, are said by Weston not to be “the direct sources of the Grail legend” (Weston 30). Eliot is entirely deliberate in his parallels, but in the same way he is updating ancient ideas originating from nature cults and adapting them for the modern age. One such parallel is the three cultural identities of the heroes: Gawain (English), Perceval (French), and Parzival (German). In addition to the poem’s various references to these cultures, languages, and their myths, Eliot’s references call-upon the main powers behind WWI (Germany, France, and England). Just as Weston points out the ancient to Medieval connection, Eliot connects Eastern mythos to the struggles of European modernity.

Like the “three cases the misfortunes and wasting of the land are the result of war” (Weston 19), WWI left Germany is a deep state of starvation due to the British food blockades. Eliot writes in part V, “I sat upon the shore / Fishing, with the arid plain behind me / Shall I at least set my lands in order?” (Eliot 423-425). While this is a vague reference to starvation, it obviously calls upon the aftermath of WWI, and certainly references Weston’s book. These parallels are important because Eliot not only utilize Weston’s ideas thematically, but also conducts the same ancient to Medieval, in Eliot’s case, modern connections Weston writes about.

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