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Corbenic
Sangreal.jpg
"How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad", Arthur Rackham's illustration to The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Alfred W. Pollard, 1917.
Le Morte d'Arthur
Creator Thomas Malory
Genre Arthurian legend
Type Fictional castle of the Holy Grail
Notable people Fisher King, Sir Galahad

Corbenic (also spelled Corbenic or Corbonek), Carboneck (Carbonek or Carbonic), or Corbin is the name of the castle of the Holy Grail in the Lancelot-Grail cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. It is the domain of the Fisher King and the birth-place of Sir Galahad.

Contents

Description

As befits the castle of the Grail, Corbenic is a place of marvels, including, at various times, a maiden trapped in a magically boiling cauldron, a dragon, and a room where arrows assail any who try to spend the night there. These wonders cause Sir Bors to name it the Castle Adventurous, "for here be many strange adventures" (Le Morte d'Arthur, book XI). Yet it can also appear quite ordinary: on an earlier occasion, according to the Lancelot-Grail, the same Sir Bors visited without noticing anything unusual.

(Perhaps conscious of this apparent contradiction, T.H. White in The Once and Future King treats Corbenic as two separate places: Corbin is the relatively mundane dwelling-place of King Pelles, while Carbonek is the mystical castle where the climax of the Grail Quest takes place.)

Corbenic has a town, and a bridge which Sir Bromell la Pleche swears to defend against all-comers for a year, for love of Pelles' daughter Elaine (Morte, books XI–XII).

It is on the coast, or at least is mystically moved there for the purposes of the Grail Quest: Lancelot arrives at Corbenic by sea at the climax of his personal quest. Corbenic's seaward gate is guarded by two lions, aided by either a dwarf (Morte, book XVII) or a flaming hand (Lancelot-Grail).

It is unclear whether Corbenic is to be identified with the castle inadvertently levelled by Sir Balin when he delivers the Dolorous Stroke upon King Pellam (Morte, book II); if so, then Corbenic is in Listeneise (and is presumably rebuilt at some point). The Lancelot-Grail gives the name of its kingdom only as the 'Foreign Country'.

Etymology

The name has several possible etymologies:

  • Welsh Caerbannog ('Fort of the Peaks'); this form is used by Monty Python and the Holy Grail;
  • Old French cor beneoit, meaning both 'blessed horn' (referring to the Grail as a horn of plenty) and 'blessed body' (referring to the Grail as a Eucharistic vessel);
  • Old French corbin, meaning 'raven' or 'crow'; a possible allusion to the Welsh hero Bran the Blessed, whose tale has some similarities to that of the Fisher King. The putative form corbin beneoiz is an approximate translation of Bran's full name in Welsh, Bendigeidfran.

Location

Corbenic has been speculatively identified with a number of places:

Other Grail castles

In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the first work to mention the Grail, the Grail castle is described somewhat differently than in later literature, and is given no name. In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, based on Chrétien, the Grail castle's name is Munsalväsche, and its history and inhabitants are different than in other variations of the legend.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ August Hunt, "The Magic of the Cauldron", Faces of Arthur (website).
  2. ^ Phyllis Ann Karr, The Arthurian Companion, p. 103.
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