Mordrain is the Christian name of Evalach, an Eastern king and a contemporary to Joseph of Arimathea who is Christened by Joseph. Later, when Joseph has been imprisoned by the pagan British king Crudel, Mordrain leads an army from his eastern kingdom to Britain to Joseph’s rescue. Mordrain later approaches too closely to the Grail and is smitten with paralysis and blindness and his wounds remain unhealed. Mordrain will remain in this condition until the coming of the knight who will achieve the Holy Grail. Mordrain is visited by Perceval during the Grail Quest with no result but is eventually healed by Galahad and then dies in Galahad’s arms.
Evelach/Mordrain in extant texts first appears in the Vulgate Quest which gives a fairly complete account of Evelach/Mordrain’s life, partly in flashbacks. The Post-Vulgate Quest oddly omits the stories of Perceval meeting with Evalach/Mordrain and Evalach/Mordrain’s healing by Galahad though it includes other mentions.
The Manassier continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval includes the story of Perceval meeting Evalach/Mordrain apparently taken from the Vulgate Quest. The Gerbert continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval contains a longer version of the same tale also apparently drawn from the Vulgate Quest.
The Estoire del Saint Graal contains a longer account of Evalach/Mordrain’s adventures before his crippling, notably giving a full account of how Evalach became king and of his adventures in distant islands.
The Livre d’Artus calls Mordrain the Maimed King, or rather one of four maimed kings, these being King Pellinor, father to Perceval; this Pellinor’s brother named Alain; another King Pellinor who is their kinsman; and Mordrain. See LA 146. According to LA 241 it was Nascien the hermit who performed the sacrament that kept Mordrain alive. LA 261 is just a casual reference to Modrain’s early life.
The Post-Vulgate Quest mainly copies the Vulgate Quest account of the backflashes dealing with Evalach/Mordrain in the days of Joseph of Arimathea, but rather oddly makes no mention of Evalach/Mordrain’s maiming or of Perceval meeting Mordrain during the Quest or of Mordrain’s healing by Galahad and Mordrain’s subseqent death.
The second, third, and fourth versions of the Prose Tristan contain all the material concerning Evalach/Mordrain from the Vulgate Quest.
The Life of Evalach/MordrainEdit
The pagan King Evalach is preparing for a war when Joseph of Arimathea and his son Josephes arrive at Sarras with the Grail. Evalach, whose land borders on Egypt is at war with Tholomer, King of Egypt.
The Estoire relates many miracles which tend to prove Christianity and that Josephes miraculously knows Evalach’s origin which is unknown to others, wherefore he is called Evalach the Unknown. Evalach is the son of a poor cobbler of Meaux in France. In the twenty-seventh year of Augustus Caesar, Jesus Christ is born. Because of terrifying prophecies about a future ruler a poll tax is levied on the Roman world which each man must pay and so show that he admits that he is subject to Rome. Because of the particular pride of the French, hostages are taken from that country. From Meaux come the two daughters of Count Sevain and Evalach, the son of a cobbler, Evalach being then nearly five years old. Because of Evalach’s good looks and the friendship shown him by Count Sevain’s daughters, Evalach is treated as though he is high born and so educated.
Upon the deaths of Count Sevain’s daughters, young Evalach was made a ward of Augustus’ successor Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius puts Evalach into the service of Felix whom Tiberius has made governor of Syria. Evalach serves Felix in Syria until, one day, in a quarrel, Evalach kills one of Felix’ sons. Evalach then flees and takes service under King Tholomer of Egypt and aids Tholomer greatly in a war against Oloferne who at that time ruled in Sarras. Evalach is triumphant and kills Oloferne. King Tholomer than makes Evalach the vassal king of Oloferne’s kingdom. No account is given of how the state is reached where Evalach holds Sarras by his own power and has become Evalach’s enemy.
The Queste and Estoire both relate that Josephes has a shield marked with a red cross and he tells Evalach to fight with it. But for three days Tholomer will be the victor until Evalach fears for this life. At that point Evalach is to uncover the shield. Evalach does as he is told, and his forces win a great victory.
The Estoire relates more fully how Evalach is much aided by Seraphe his wife’s brother who had previously been Evalach’s enemy and by a mysterious White Knight who is apparently an angel.
Evalach speaks so convincingly Josephes’ prophecies that Nascien also believes. Nascien is here mentioned without explanation as to who he is, which suggests that the account in the Vulgate Quest is an abridgment of a fuller account. Seraphe and Evalach are baptized. During the Christening ceremony a man whose hand had been cut off is persuaded by Josephes to touch the cross on the shield, and the hand is miraculously reattached to the arm. The cross vanishes from the shield and reappears on the man’s arm. The Estoire relates that a new name appeared miraculously on the foreheads of these three: Nascien, Mordrain, and Clamachides. Mordrain is said to be Chaldean for ‘late to believe’.
The Vulgate Quest also relates how Nascien and Mordrain at a later time met one another at sea, in an adventure that more involves Nascien.
Later, when Joseph and Josephes have journeyed to Great Britain, Crudel a king within Britain throws Joseph and Josephes in prison. Mordrain and Nascien with their men come to Britain and rescue them. But when the table of the Grail is set up the following day, Mordrain approaches too closely to the Grail. Mordrain is paralyzed and blinded and grievously wounded. Mordrain prays that he be allowed to remain alive until the Good Knight comes, the ninth descendant of Mordrain’s lineage. A mysterious voice grants this wish and Mordrain remains alive, but wounded, paralyzed and blind in any abbey for more than four hundred years.
When Josephes dies, he gives Mordrain the miraculous shield, now marked with a red cross made from Josephes’ own blood (from a nosebleed). The blood used to paint the cross will never darken or fade but no-one will ever hand that shield from his shoulders without regretting it until the future time when Galahad takes the shield for his own. Mordrain is ordered that when Nascien dies, the shield should be left at the place where Nascien is buried.
Mordrain, however, will live four hundred more years and see Perceval and Galahad themselves. Perceval finds him living on the daily wafer of the Eucharist in the Vulgate Quest. which will later become Galahad’s shield,
A Possible Connection to AballacEdit
See Aballac, an ancestral figure in Welsh genealogies, purportedly the son of Amalech, the son of Beli the great by Anna, sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary. Aballac is made out to be the ancestor of most of the Men of the North and of the old royal families of Gwynedd. He may be in origin identical to the Evalach in the late Grail romances.
Some Name VariationsEdit
FRENCH: Evalach, Evalac, Ewalach, Ewalac, Evelac; ENGLISH: Eualac, Euelak, Euelak, Eulach, Evelach, Eualachs, Eualache; MALORY: Eualake, Euelaks, Evelake.
FRENCH: Mordrain, -s, -z, Mordains, Mordrach, Nodrans; ENGLISH: Mordreyn, -e, Mordreyns, Mordreins, Mordraynes, Mordrayne, Mordrams, Mordradms; MALORY: Mordraynes, Mordrayne.