Lohengrin : In medieval German legend, the Knight of the Swan, son of Perceval (Parzival) and Conduiramour, defender of Else, the princess of Brabant, who was falsely charged with murder. Brought up with the Knights of the Holy Grail, Lohengrin was one day called to defend an innocent victim. He was told he would be conveyed to his destination by a swan. Perceval reminded his son that as a servant of the Holy Grail he must never reveal his name or origin unless asked to do so and that, having once made himself known, he was bound to return without delay. Guided by the swan, Lohengrin arrived as Else, charged with the murder of her brother, was waiting for a champion to defend her in a judicial duel. Lohengrin won the battle against Frederick, who had accused Else. Else then consented to become Lohengrin’s wife without knowing his true name. The wedding took place at Antwerp, where the emperor, Henry the Fowler, came to celebrate with them. Lohengrin had cautioned Else that she must never ask him his name. But Else wished to know who her husband really was and finally asked the question. Lohengrin led her into the great hall, where in the presence of the assembled knights he told her that he was Lohengrin, son of Perceval, the guardian of the Holy Grail. Then, embracing her tenderly, he told her that “love cannot live without faith” and that he must now leave her and return to the Holy Mountain. After he had blown his horn three times, the swan boat appeared, and Lohengrin sprang into it and vanished. Some variants of the legend say that Else soon died; others say she lived on.

Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote his Parzival in 1210, in which Lohengrin plays a major role. The legend was used by Wagner in his opera Lohengrin (1847).


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante

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