Thursday, October 1, 2009

There's something happenin' here...

Just out of curiosity, I searched my incoming emails this morning to locate the one that confirmed my purchase of Ruth Harwood Cline's translation of The Story of the Grail. It was shipped to me on June 25, 2008. So probably exactly fifteen months ago today, I began this odyssey into the medieval tale.

Somehow, the number of months doesn't surprise me. It's been fifteen years since the movie Forrest Gump was released in 1994. Fifteen is a number that appears multiple times in Eleanor of Aquitaine's life. Her father died when she was fifteen which resulted in her coming under the guardianship of Louis the Fat, King of France, who immediately arranged for her marriage to his son. She was married to Louis VII for fifteen years before the union was dissolved. She was imprisoned by her second husband, Henry II, for fifteen years. Eleanor died in 1204, fifteen years after she had regained her freedom.

Numbers take on increasing importance as this tale comes into its own. Both the novel and the movie Forrest Gump use numbers to mark the progress of the tale. The number 8 gains importance as the larger story we're working on finds closure. In the novel, the number 8 is also the square upon which Honest Ivan drops his chess piece when Forrest "cuts a humongous baked-bean fart that sound like somebody is rippin a bedsheet in haf!"

On September 15th, I wrote about the world of stories and mentioned the meaning that the oak tree brought to the medieval tale as well as where I came upon it in the biblical story of Gideon. In Judges 6, an angel of the Lord appears beneath an oak tree and strikes up a conversation with Gideon, saying "I am with you, mighty warrior." The youth struggles to believe it really is the Lord talking and asks Him to prove it. On three occassions God provides signs to Gideon, that it really is Him.

The detail of the oak tree is what led me to Forrest Gump and when I returned to the movie and read the novel with a new mindset, I was surprised by what was discovered when I began working through their details.

In the novel, which was published in 1986, Forrest reflects more than once on his first win in college football against the University of Georgia Dogs. The University of Georgia Press published the translation of The Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes that I embraced. But there are numerous versions of the tale . . . so how could Winston Groom have known in 1985 or whenever he was writing the novel, that the version published by the University of Georgia Press would be the one used for finding closure to the grail legend in the year 2009?

I also found details in the novel that were familiar to details of my life. When Forrest takes a role in the King Lear play and sets the ceiling of the hovel on fire, I was reminded of an incident in which my former husband, who also happens to be 6'6" just like Forrest, accidentally set a ceiling on fire with a floor lamp that was secretly harboring stuffed animals. I also connected to Winston Groom's comment that Forrest used a few moves he learned from Big Sam in the jungle, that "weren't in the book," during his championship game against Honest Ivan. Forrest used the "queen as bait." My first blog, "The Story behind the Story" proposes that Eleanor of Aquitaine wrote The Story of the Grail while she was Queen of England and used Chrétien de Troyes as her pseudonym.

The movie Forrest Gump shared a connection with my mother and lessons delivered with a box of chocolates as well as the fact that Forrest's momma and my mother both died of cancer on a Tuesday. My mother died on June 11th. In the screenplay, Eric Roth uses the date 06/11/1963 to mark the day when Forrest Gump picks up a book dropped by Vivian Malone on the first day of desegregation. June 11th 1963 was also a Tuesday, but it wasn't the day my mother died. At my mother's funeral, a gentleman told me he thought she was like an angel, just like Forrest describes Jenny after his first encounter with her. In the movie, Forrest's grandpa's grandpa's grandpa came across the ocean a thousand years ago. My father's father's mother's ancestors left Wales and sailed across the ocean in 1635 and settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The synchronicities are even greater when details from the external stories are woven together. The movie Forrest Gump effectively brings the novel to life. In a scene toward the end, Jenny asks Forrest if he was ever afraid when he was in Vietnam. The question launches a series of recollections that move from one memory to another. Forrest remembers what it was like in Vietnam when the rain stopped and the stars were coming out . . . it was just like when the sun set on the bayou. In the bayou there would be a million sparkles glimmering on top of the water . . . just like the mountain lake he saw while he was running across the country. When he recalls the lake reflecting the mountain, he says it was like there were two skies, one on top of the other . . . just like in the desert when the sun came up. The sunrise that marked a new day in the desert cast a glow across the land and you couldn't tell where the heavens stopped and the earth began.

Details that roll from one scene to another can also be found in the stories we've encountered. In both the novel and the movie, the shrimpin' business marks a turning point in Forrest's life that lasts forever. In the novel, Forrest learns how to lay his nets right on the edge of where the ocean tide rolls in and laps over a mound of earth that sets the boundary for the shrimp ponds. The biblical verse Job 38:11 captures the moment when God is recounting his Omnipotence and how He controls the ocean tides: "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt." It is the verse inscribed on the stone tablet that Silas discovers beneath the floor panel in the Church of Saint-Sulpice in the novel The Da Vinci Code. When Robert Langdon arrives at the Louvre and Bezu Fache introduces himself, Langdon observes, "His tone was fitting--a guttural rumble . . . like a gathering storm." Fache's hair accentuates a widow's peak that precedes him like the prow of a battleship and as they move down the staircase into the sunken atrium, "the message was clear." When Silas enters the Church of Saint-Sulpice he imagines he is standing beneath the hull of an overturned ship. "A fitting image," he thought, because the "brotherhood's ship was about to be capsized forever." The descriptions combine to form the vision that is taken up with the sunken ship called the Falcon Temple in the novel The Last Templar. After hundreds of years at the bottom of the sea, the falcon head washes ashore with the tide. The white falcon is the meaning of the name Gawain in The Story of the Grail which holds the key that unlocks the message of The Holy Bible.

Even more mysterious is that Winston Groom described each of the modern novels in appropriately marked chapters in his book, nearly twenty years before each was written.

The novel Forrest Gump uses Chapters 1-3 to weave in threads of Perceval's story. Forrest Gump was in the Fourth Platoon. Chapter 4 lays out the novel's own contribution to the legend and discusses it as if it were a football game. The chapter opens with Forrest saying, "Now there is a secret thing that Coach Bryant an them done figgered out, an nobody sposed to mention it, even to ourselfs."

The Da Vinci Code focuses on the pentacle, the number 5, and its association with the Sacred Feminine as well as the "End of Days." Chapter 5 of Forrest Gump spoofs Dan Brown's novel seventeen years before it was published. Coach Bryant tells Forrest he will be mystified till the end of his days how Forrest could get an A in Intermediate Light and then receive an F in phys-ed. Forrest says he didn't understand why it was important to know the distance between goal posts in the game of soccer. If you're familiar with The Da Vinci Code, you might recall Robert Langdon's lectures on PHI, the Divine Proportion. Coach Bryant pats Forrest on the back and admits he expected something like this would happen. But he told everyone, "just give me that boy for one season." And they had one heck of a season.

In Chapter 6, Forrest has arrived in Vietnam and his group is positioned in a saddle between two ridges. While caught in cross-fire, Forrest is told to move the machine gun 50 yards to the left of a big tree in the middle of the saddle and then find a safe place for himself. It's a scene that is reminiscent of the willow tree at Fonsalis in The Last Templar. Forrest gets shot in the butt though he doesn't have a strong recollection of when it happened.

Forrest Gump, Chapter 8, weaves a thread to The Story of the Grail and ushers in Gawain's arrival, like the feather on the wind in the movie.

The novel Forrest Gump is the story crystal upon which the remaining four books will attach and grow into the multi-faceted gemstone.

Maybe this is what people have been hoping to find when they searched for the grail that was "a stone from the stars."

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