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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: Another Modern Fisher King Myth, Part 3: The Grail Knight

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The only antidote for the Fisher King’s suffering is a quest by the Grail Knight. Often the Grail Knight is a descendant of the Fisher King, though that is unknown to the Knight. The Knight is also frequently orphaned in the mythology, as so many heroes are. The Knight seeks the Grail to restore live and vigor to the land. However it will also kill the Fisher King, a paradoxical aspect to the story–death brings life/rebirth. When the Knight accomplishes his mission, killing the Fisher King, he will take the Fisher King’s place to rule the kingdom whose fertility he has restored.

The most likely candidate for Grail Knight status in Mad Max: Fury Road is Imperator Furiosa.  Furiosa is orphaned–we have no knowledge of her father and know that her mother was killed. When she takes the wives, she essentially takes a metaphor of fertility. In some versions of the Fisher King story, and other stories featuring the Grail, the Grail actually is the womb of a woman–which makes some sense if you define the Grail as a life-giving vessel. The fact that one of the wives is pregnant emphasizes this.

furiosa and wives

But she must also take the wives to a place where they can thrive in their fertility, rather than be oppressed and controlled. She attempts to take them to “The Green Place.” Though this is a variation from traditional Fisher King stories, “The Green Place” is the exact opposite of the Wasteland. It would be the place that comes into being if she succeeds. Ironically, this turns out to be the place she fled from. But there is precident for this in the mythology. Traditionally, the Knight must locate the Fisher King’s castle to find the Grail. The castle exists on another plane and will blip in and out of being. When it is located, it is often only with the help of an ally–a talking animal, some children in a tree, or even the Fisher King himself. This is where Max comes in as the ally Fisher King. It is he who suggests that taking the Citadel is the best option for Furiosa, the wives, and the Vulvani. The women need to re-establish their power at the Citadel to restore the balance of life and death.

furiosa

Furiosa is also the one who kills Immortan Joe, and when she and the wives (and Nux) return victorious to the Citadel (Grail Castle), Max disappears into the crowd. She set both of the Fisher Kings free. And now she is likely to step up as the new leader of the Citadel.

The fact that Max Mad: Fury Road’s Grail Knight is a woman excites me. I have not before encountered a Fisher King story the had a female in this crucial role. In some ways, having a woman bring back fertility makes more sense. She’s got the womb, after all.

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Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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