Fisher King

In a legend in north-western Europe, especially the Brythonic regions of Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany there is the tale of the Fisher King (French: Roi pêcheur; Welsh: Brenin Pysgotwr). He is also known as the Wounded King or Maimed King (Roi blessé, in Old French Roi Méhaigné, Welsh: Brenin Clwyfedig). The king is the last of the bloodline that guards & keeps the Holy Grail, and has a lasting wound, mentioned to be on his legs or groin. This supposedly never heals and ties with land of his estate. While wounded he can't do much except fish from a boat on a river / lake on his estate. The land of the estate is meant to be quite desolate due to the never-ending wound. Only by answering a question he poses correctly will the wound heal, the land recover and the person can be shown or have access to the Fisher King's treasure. His castle is called Corbenic. His treasure consists of the Holy Grail, the Bleeding Lance, and a sword (thought by some to be Excalibur).


The story goes that the Fisher King is the last in a bloodline of kings who look after the Holy Grail and has a wound to the legs or groin (usually the latter). Only by answering correctly a question set by the Fisher King, will his wounds heal, along with healing his estate (of which the wound also represents). Those who do not bother with the question nor answer correctly will not be allowed near the Grail. They will be given Excalibur, but it will shatter at an inopportune moment when used. Only by restoring the the king & land will Excalibur come to full power.   With protecting the Grail, the Fisher King is unable to let anyone near it's healing properties who does not help him. That way, only the most pure souls are likely to be let anywhere near it. Also, it remains protected, by either never being seen or having a fully healed noble warrior to protect it.   A few question the Bleeding Spear as very little is known about it. Some think it may be the spear that pierced Christ's side on the cross. Others think it is a Celtic weapon of war. Both it and Excalibur seem to be such, and the Holy Grail may be a Celtic cauldron of magical power.

Historical Basis

The legend itself has so far been tied to the Christian Holy Grail, but may actually have been tied in to earlier legends. People like King Arthur and the knights of the round table seem to have a connection in later tales. They are more likely based on a real Celtic warlord, and his nobility, who held of the Anglo-Saxons, with the help of a magical spear & sword. Also, the Holy Grail portion is likely a Celtic Cauldron of Magic that is tied to the Underworld, especially with the Morrigan (or a version of her). This would have been around for decades at least if not centuries before the Roman invasion, and some of the Romans who had turned to Christianity would have changed it to their beliefs.


The spread of the story belongs down the west coast of Britain from the southern edge of Hadrian's Wall, through Wales, and down into Cornwall. It also is found in Brittany with it's connection to Cornwall.

Cultural Reception

Both the north-western pagan Celts and some Christian sects in these regions actively seek the Fisher King, believing that it will help either side in the war against the other. It would also bring them to dominance of their beliefs too.
Date of First Recording
At this time the it is an oral tradition.
Date of Setting
4000 AD or earlier.

Cover image: by Artist Unknown


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