I remember learning once years ago about a medieval philosophical idea (although I suspect it would be older) that the state of the King was reflected in his lands. A sickly or evil king would have lands with dry cows and few crops. A good king, or a strong one, this was a king who would rule over thriving lands.

What was this idea called?

  • 2
    It's worth mentioning that variants of this idea appears in many parts world. Here's a relevant link, if not a direct answer to the question: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_King
    – Random
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:04
  • @Era I apologize, I’ve skimmed through the linked article and I’m not really seeing the connection. Can you please clarify? Maybe I need to reword my question.
    – Broklynite
    Jul 21, 2018 at 20:06
  • 1
    The Fisher King is an archetypical figure from the Arthurian lit that appears during the high Middle Ages, such as in Parzival. He’s the most famous medieval iteration of the wounded king whose kingdom has withered into a wasteland.
    – Random
    Jul 21, 2018 at 20:11
  • @Era ah, I’m really talking more like...the state of the king determines the state of the kingdom, rather than there just happened to be the two together.
    – Broklynite
    Jul 22, 2018 at 1:41
  • 2
    Yup, that’s what the fisher king is.
    – Random
    Jul 22, 2018 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


There was no such philosophy.

At least, no philosopher of any influence or note held such an idea. There was a considerable amount of thought put towards the identifying the sources of prosperity and the attributes of a good ruler. The Bible was an important source of ideas, both from the sapiential books and the accounts of David, Solomon, and other rulers. The political works of Aristotle were available to many, as were histories of Rome and local annals. Such works were read, discussed and glossed with substantially more care and discernment than most of what passes for political discourse today. In all of this, the closest to the idea being asked about are rather banal observations that a king's personal health often affects their decisions and ability to act.

But as noted in the comments, this concept was a very prevalent literary motif. Like any trope, the motif was useful to storytellers and myth-makers. And audiences seem to find it satisfying.

  • Hm. Is there a name for the literary motif? Apologies for the vagueness of all of this, I remember hearing about this some twenty five years ago in high school, and I’ve never seen it again.
    – Broklynite
    Jul 22, 2018 at 11:41
  • @pokep "The Bible was an important source of ideas, both from the sapiential books and the accounts of David, Solomon, and other rulers." The first "Bible" was not printed until 1475, which contained only the "Old Testament"; the first "Bible" which was printed containing the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament" did not occur until 1537, which appear to be outside of the scope of the time frame mentioned in the question. "The political works of Aristotle were available to many" What do you mean by "many"? What was the literacy rate of Europe during the medieval period; greater than 50%? Jul 22, 2018 at 15:04
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    @guest271314 The lowest estimate of the literacy rate I've seen is 6%, which translates to roughly 4 million literate people. That is an ample number to support a vibrant intellectual class. Books were mass produced long before the printing press. I recommend that you read some of the literature of the era - I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised by its sophistication.
    – pokep
    Jul 23, 2018 at 17:37

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