In Arthurian legend, the question Parzival fails to ask upon first seeing the Grail procession in the Fisher King’s castle, and must return to ask later, is the central turning point of his quest. While in many versions the question is about the Grail and its purpose, in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s retelling, the question posed is “What ails thee, Uncle?”, and it is the moment of humility, compassion, and sympathy that is essential to the achieving of the Grail vision, the healing of the Fisher King, and the restoration of the land. In the television series Orphan Black, the innocent child Kira poses a similar question to two of her mother’s clone-sisters, each time leading to a rehabilitation and realignment of that character’s loyalties away from the cult or corporation and towards the Clone Club, the family of women at the core of this series. In this paper I will examine these moments, looking especially at the meanings of the Parzival quest, its relation to male fertility, and how reimagining it with female participants in a series so concerned with female fertility complicates and resonates with the underlying mythic structure.



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Mythcon 51: The Mythic, the Fantastic, and the Alien

Albuquerque, New Mexico • Postponed to: July 30 – August 2, 2021

Mythcon Conference