chapter  6
11 Pages

Merlin in German Literature


For centuries, Merlin has been of comparatively little interest in the Germanspeaking countries,1 unlike the situation in France, Italy, Britain, and North America. Middle High German poets and writers wrote little about Merlin, whereas many medieval and late-medieval romances were written about “König Artus” and the knights of the Round Table. Later on, King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Mordred grew less and less important in Modern Middle Europe; instead, people, writers, and composers in the German-speaking countries concentrated on Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on the love story of Tristan and Isolde. You could say that the Arthurian legends were “received” without King Arthur in modern German culture and literature; if you look at the medieval plots used by Richard Wagner for his operas, you will learn which medieval stories have become important and interesting for the German-speaking people since the end of the eighteenth century: the Grailstory (Lohengrin, Parsifal), Tannhäuser and the ‘Combat of Singers’ at the Wartburg, Tristan and Isolde, the late-medieval Mastersingers (Meistersinger), and-ofcourseSiegfried and the Nibelungs.