Wolfram Eschenbach

Willehalm
  • Willehalm

  • Wolfram von Eschenbach (fl. c. 1195-1225), best known as the author of Parzival, based Willehalm, his epic poem of military prowess and courtly love, on the style and subject matter of an Old French "chanson de geste."

    In it he tells of the love of Willehalm for Giburc, a Saracen woman converted to Christianity, and its consequences. Seeking revenge for the insult to their faith, her relatives initiate a religious war but are finally routed. Wolfram's description of the two battles of Alischanz, with their massive slaughter and loss of heroes, and of the exploits of Willehalm and the quasicomic Rennewart, well displays the violence and courtliness of the medieval knightly ideal. Wolfram flavors his brutal account, however, with tender scenes between the lovers, asides to his audience, sympathetic cameos of his characters--especially the women--and, most unusually for his time, a surprising tolerance for 'pagans'.

Wolfram von Eschenbach was the greatest of the medieval German narrative poets. Very little is known about his life, but it is generally accepted that he belonged to a Bavarian family of the lower nobility, that he may have served a Franconian lord, and that for the better part of his creative period he enjoyed the patronage of the great medieval German Maecenas Hermann I, landgrave of Thuringia. He probably died between 1220 and 1230.

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