Cundrie

   A maiden arrives, riding a tall mule, yellow-red with nostrils slit and sides terribly branded.  She wears a cape, very blue, tailored in the French style, with a fine hat from London hanging down her back, and in her hand a whip with a ruby grip, but with fingernails like lion’s claws and hands charming as a monkey’s.  She has a switch of long black hair, as coarse as the bristles of a pig.  She takes of her veil, and what do we see?  She has a great nose like a dog, two protruding boar’s tusks, eyebrows braided to the ribbon of her hair, a hairy face.  She’s a horrible creature, yet she is the Grail messenger.  She comes from the Orient, from the land of Zazamanc, in fact, and her name is Cundrie.  RG 57 (pic on p 57)

   Cundrie rides directly to King Arthur.  “What have you done today,” she says, “in welcoming this one who looks like a knight but is no such thing, has brought shame to you and destruction to the Round Table?”

   Then she approaches Parzival.  “Cursed be the beauty of your face!  I am less a monster than you.  Speak up!  Tell them why, when the sorrowful Fisherman lay before you, you did not relieve him of his sighs.  May your tongue now become as empty as your heart is empty of right feeling.  By heaven you are condemned to hell, as you will be by all the noble of this earth when people come to their senses.  Your noble brother, Feirefiz, son of the queen of Zazamanc, is black and white, yet in him the manhood of your father has never failed.  He has won, through chivalrous service, Queen Secondille of the city of Thabronit, where all earthly desires are fulfilled; yet had you asked the question at Munsalvaeshce (French, mon salvage: “my salvation”), the Castle of the Grail, riches far beyond his would here and now have been yours. 

Hermann Goetz points out in his article “Der Orient der Kreuzzuge in Wolframs Parzival” (The Orient of the Crusades in Wolfram’s Parzival) that the attributes of this Grail messenger, Cundrie – her boar’s snout and tusks and her boar’s-bristle hair, astride her tall mule – are exactly those of certain Indian representations of the goddess Kali in her terrible aspect.  There is also a Tibetan version of this figure – Lhamo by name – who appears, like Cundrie, riding a tall pink mule for the chastisement of those who reject the gospel of compassion.  But as we know from many Irish legends of the goddess of the Celtic Land of Youth Below Waves, this goddess, too, may appear with the unappetizing head and face of a pig.  When she appears in this guise, for example, to Finn McCool’s son Ossian, hinting that he should marry her, he boldly kisses her muzzle and she is transformed.  And he spends many a happy year as king with her in the Land of Youth.  

   Frazer, in The Golden Bough, has shown that both Demeter and Persephone were at one time pig goddesses, and there is evidence enough to suggest that the Irish, Greek, and Indian forms of these goddesses are related variants of a single Neolithic and Bronze Age heritage, where both the wild boar and the domestic pig were associated with a mythology of death and rebirth.