THE father of Sir Percival was that king high Pellinore who fought so terrible a battle with King Arthur as has been told in the Book of King Arthur. For it was after that fight that King Arthur obtained his famous sword Excalibur, as was therein told.
Now, King Pellinore was one of those eleven kings who, in the beginning of King Arthur's reign, were in rebellion against King Arthur as hath been told in the book aforesaid, and he was one of the last of all those kings to yield when he was overcome. So King Arthur drove him from town to town and from place to place until, at last, he was driven away from the habitations of men and into the forests like to a wild beast.
Now, King Pellinore took with him into the wilderness his wife and his four sons; to wit, Lamorack and Aglaval and Dornar and Percival. Of these, Percival was but three years of age; the others, excepting Dornar, being nigh to the estate of manhood. Thereafter that noble family dwelt in the forest like hunted animals, and that was a very great hardship for the lady who had been queen; and, likewise, it was greatly to the peril of the young child, Percival.
Now, Percival was extraordinarily beautiful and his mother loved him above all her other sons. Wherefore she feared lest the young child should die of those hardships in the wilderness.
So one day King Pellinore said: "Dear love, I am now in no wise prepared for to defend thee and this little one. Wherefore, for a while, I shall put ye away from me so that ye may remain in secret hiding until such time as the child shall have grown in years and stature to the estate of manhood and may so defend himself.
"Now of all my one-time possessions I have only two left to me. One of these is a lonely castle in this forest (unto which I am now betaking my way), and the other is a solitary tower at a great distance from this, and in a very desolate part of the world where there are many mountains. Unto that place I shall send ye, for it will not be likely that mine enemies will ever find ye there.
"So my will is this: that if this child groweth in that lonely place to manhood, and if he be weak in body or timid in spirit, thou shalt make of him a clerk of holy orders. But if when he groweth, he shall prove to be strong and lusty of frame and high of spirit, and shall desire to undertake deeds of knighthood, thou then shalt not stay him from his desires, but shall let him go forth into the world as he shall have a mind to do.
"And if a time should come when he desireth to go thus into the world behold! here is a ring set with a very precious ruby; let him bring that ring to me or to any of our sons wheresoever he may find us, and by that ring we shall know that he is my son and their brother, and we will receive him with great gladness."
And King Pellinore's lady said, "It shall be done as thou dost ordain."
So it was that King Pellinore betook himself to that lonely castle where King Arthur found him and fought with him; and Percival's mother betook herself to that dwelling-place in the mountains of which King Pellinore had spoken--which was a single tower that reached up into the sky, like unto a finger of stone.
There she abided with Percival for sixteen years, and in all that time Percival knew naught of the world nor of what sort it was, but grew altogether wild and was entirely innocent like to a little child.
In the mean time, during those years, it happened very ill to the house of King Pellinore. For though King Arthur became reconciled to King Pellinore, yet there were in King Arthur's court many who were bitter enemies to that good, worthy knight. So it came about that first King Pellinore was slain by treachery, and then Sir Aglaval and Sir Dornar were slain in the same way, so that Sir Lamorack alone was left of all that noble family.
(And it was said that Sir Gawaine and his brothers were implicated in those...