Albrecht Classen

title.none: von Ertzdorff, ed., Die Romane von dem Ritter mit dem Loewen

identifier.other: baj9928.9602.003 96.02.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen , University of Arizona

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Ed. Xenja von Ertzdorff, with the assistance of Rudolf Schulz. Die Romane von dem Ritter mit dem Loewen. Der tschechische "Bruncvik" sowie das Abenteuer mit dem zweiten Loewen aus dem russischen "Bruncvik", translated by Winfried Baumann. Amsterdam / Atlanta: Editions Rodopi, 1994. 636 pp.; Illustrations. $.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.02.03

Ed. Xenja von Ertzdorff, with the assistance of Rudolf Schulz. Die Romane von dem Ritter mit dem Loewen. Der tschechische "Bruncvik" sowie das Abenteuer mit dem zweiten Loewen aus dem russischen "Bruncvik", translated by Winfried Baumann. Amsterdam / Atlanta: Editions Rodopi, 1994. 636 pp.; Illustrations. $.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

After having reviewed Xenja von Ertzdorff's and Ulrich Seelbach's edition of the French and German prose versions of Florent et Lyon (1993) in this journal (BMMR 95.12.2), it seems to be a logical step also to review the proceedings of a conference held at von Ertzdorff's home university, the University of Giessen, Germany, June 14-19, 1993, where related and, to some extent, even the same issues were discussed. It is a heavy tome which covers a wide spectrum of topics, but all focusing on the relationship between man and lion, historically ranging from antiquity to the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since Ivain and Florent et Lyon thematize the close friendship between a knight and his lion, and since this theme dominates some of the most important medieval romances, the conference has indeed dealt with an important aspect in literature, history, and art history from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Those articles dealing with the biological and archio-zoological history of lions (Angela von den Driesch), with the role of lions as sources of magic in antiquity (Wolfram Martini), with lions in classical mythology (Knut Usener), and with lions in antique fables and novellas (Jochem Koeppers) can here be passed over quickly since they have no direct bearing on medieval studies.

Gerd Althoff's examination of lions as companions and signifiers of rulers in the Middle Ages opens a long series of studies dealing with the appearance of this royal animal in a wide range of media. Both the characters attributed to lions (dignity, strength, power, etc.) and their alleged role within the animal hierarchy served as symbols for rulers of most Western cultures from antiquity to the modern age. Althoff, concentrating on medieval examples, quotes several anecdotes which confirm this thesis, but he quickly breaks off to hand the torch to Peter Seiler who focuses on the lion statue in Braunschweig as a representative monument of Henry the Lion of the Welf family. He also attempts to find an explanation of the name 'Welf,' suggesting that 'welf' means 'the young lion,' although etymology the word derives from young dog'. All his ruminations aside, the conclusion that Henry the Lion chose Braunschweig as his capitel, thereby copying his grandfather, emperor Lothar III, does not surprise, it is the traditional explanation anyway, as the numerous secondary literature in the footnotes indicates.

With Jaroslav Kolar's study we enter the area of literary documents in which the relationship between man and lion plays a major role. Kolar introduces Czech examples, such as early nineteenth-century historical novel Herman z Bubna by K. S. Machaceks, and the medieval tale focusing on the legendary figure of Bruncvik. The motif is the well-known friendship between a knight and a lion, which finds many parallels in French and German versions. Surprisingly, the author does not mention the strong similarities with the Middle High German pre-courtly Herzog Ernst, although it does not include the theme of the good lion as the protagonist's friend. Instead he traces the continuation of the Czech tale into the nineteenth century and also compares it with another Czech tale about a Duke Stilfrid which also had a profound impact on the later political history.

Winfried Baumann also pursues the reception of the Bruncvik-tale, concentrating on the Russian versions which was copied many times until the eighteenth century. To my dismay, I found both articles by Baumann and Kolnar poorly structured and difficult to read because they both deal with a vast store of narrative adaptations from various centuries, but they hardly provide dates and do not always make clear what text they are referring to.

The very opposite applies to Rosemarie Loehr's research into the question whether the motif of the thankful lion was originally conceived in Old French or in Kymric, that is by Chretien de Troyes or by the author of the Mabinogion. On the basis of sometimes conclusive, sometimes elusive evidence, Loehr argues that a geographical name of Celtic origi was translated into Old French and then entered the stage through Chretien's work. The Mabinogion might have borrowed the motif from the same source, but not from Chretien. The presented evidence is impressive, but it also requires a heavy reliance on popular etymology and thus opens itself to criticism.

Dietmar Rieger analyzes the symbolic use of the lion in Chretien's Yvain, pointing out the many possible interpretations of this animal, be it as a Christ figure, as a loyal husband, as a symbol of power and strength, and so son, without drawing specific conclusions himself; instead Rieger stresses that the reader is called upon to continue with the search for possible meanings, an intriguing idea which has been developed in recent years regarding a wide range of literary texts, especially where no ending is given (e.g. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Titurel.

Xenja von Ertzdorff carries out a detailed comparison between Hartmann von Aue's Iwein and his source, Chretien de Troye's Yvain, showing that the German poet did not simply translate, but slightly transformed the text through some subtle yet noteworthy changes in the narrative structure.

Helmut Gebelein's study on Hartmann von Aue's Iwein is the most interesting and most innovative one in this collection, although his conclusions do not necessarily hold, particularly because he supports them with references to late-medieval and early-modern practices among alchemists. He points out, for instance, that the images of knights, dragons, and lions are traditional motifs in alchemy, and that the tale of Yvain/Iwein could well be interpreted as an alchemical allegory. In particular, the famous fountain scene during which the pouring of water triggers a fierce storm supports this theory. The other aspect is Ivain's/Iwein's madness which Gebelein explains as drug-induced; moreover the appearance of lion and dragon/snake do also confirm, according to his opinion, the claim that this romance overall can be read as a metaphor for an alchemical process.

Hartmann von Aue's Iwein seems to have influenced the fifteenth-century writer Ulrich Fuetrer in his composition of Iban, as Rudolf Voss demonstrates. In the process, however, Fuetrer shortened and changed many features of Hartmann's narrative. Bart Besamusca traces the adaptation of Chretien's Yvain in Dutch literature, whereas Heinz Bergner follows the same traces in the Middle English Ywain and Gawain. Not surprisingly, the lion-knight legend also had its impact on Old Norse romance, as Geraldine Barnes illuminates, and on Italian poems, as Marie-José Heijkant demonstrates. Angelica Rieger continues this line of argument with her study of Cervantes' treatment of the lion-knight motif with which, as she claims, the Spanish writer had been familiarized through popular romance poetry.

Next follows a new section in which another knight-lion tradition comes into play, this, however, dealing with the Roman Emperor Octavian, his wife Florimonde, and his sons Florent and Lyon. Walburga Huelk discusses the Old-French versions, analyzing their structures, thematic variances, and, especially, the role of the lion. Xenja von Ertzdorff investigates the German version by Wilhelm Salzmann, printed in 1535, and Witold Kosny examines the Polish and Russian versions of the same tale.

Ute von Bloh examines the interaction between illustration and text in the various manuscripts and prints of the late-medieval Historie von Herzog Herpin, translated by Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbruecken from the French into German. The illustrations highlight above all the sensational and magical aspects of the lion episodes, but they also betray that the illustrator quickly lost his interest in the lion as such, as long as an animal is recognizable conveying the sensational message of the text.

Matthias Meyer continues with a study on the function of the lion in the sixteenth-century tale "Der Goldtfaden" by Georg Wickram. Since he stays very close to the text and offers nothing but a thorough reading of the text, no further implications can be derived from his conclusions about the narrative structure and the important role of the lion as a guide, companion, and symbol of the protagonist.

At last Norbert Werner interprets the iconography of Saint Jerome, accompanied by a lion, a typology which came into fashion since the fourteenth century. He concludes that the use of the lion indicates the subjugation of the fierce nature of all creatures under the power of Christianity.

Finally, Winfried Baumann provides a German translation of the medieval Czech and Russian Bruncvik. The extensive index indicates the breadth of topics touched upon and the large number of poets and artists, among other persons, treated in this volume. Especially the comparative and interdisciplinary nature of the articles are to be praised highly.

To summarize, the role of the lion is observed in alchemy, literary texts, historical texts, statues, illustrations, and coats of arms. Both French, Czech, Russian, German, English, Dutch, Cymric, Italian, and Spanish works are considered, and in this sense the theme of the lion is of a truly medieval, that is, European nature.