09.01.02, Christoph, ed., German Romance

Main Article Content

Wolfgang Achnitz

The Medieval Review baj9928.0901.002


von Stoffeln, Konrad and Christoph, Siegfried. German Romance II: Gauriel von Muntabel. Arthurian Archives XV. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 2007. Pp. 360. ISBN: 978-1-84384-077-0.

Reviewed by:
Wolfgang Achnitz
Universität Münster

The little medieval romance called Gauriel von Muntabel after its hero seems to be the last German Arthurian Romance in verse. While in France the Arthurian genre changed from verse to prose and continued until the second half of the 14th century, and while Arthurian narratives in other languages like Spanish or Italian first arise just then, the long tradition of Middle High German Arthurian texts written in rhyme comes to an end with this work around 1300. The author looks back to the whole history of courtly Romances in the Middle Ages and uses diverse sources and their narrative techniques for the constitution of his own work: it contains "a number of themes well known from other works" like the "the familiar problems of verligen", which "were central to Hartmann von Aue's Erec and Iwein [...]. The characters of Erec, Iwein, and Gawan figure prominently in Gauriel. For many of the remaining characters, there are analogous models in other Arthurian works. [...] Names, plot elements, themes, and motifs furthermore suggest that Konrad was familiar with previous versions or continuations of 'classical' Arthurian material, including notably Wigamur, Wigalois, [Der] Jüngere Titurel, Diu Crône, Gârel von dem blühenden Tal, and Daniel von dem blühenden Tal [...], the lais of Marie de France (Lai de Lanval) and Middle High German treatments of the theme, including Partonopier and Meliur and Pleier's Meleranz" (10). For this reason, this long neglected, little Arthurian romance is very suitable for use in academic lessons, and therefore volume XV of the Arthurian Archives, containing a bilingual edition of Gauriel von Muntabel, is welcome to medieval studies at American and English Universities.

Konrad tells the story of the knight Gauriel von Muntabel and his supernatural girlfriend, a fairy mistress. One day he breaks her taboo, by speaking about her in the presence of other people, and subsequently has to become a knight of the round table: After losing the love of his fairy mistress by boasting of her beauty, Gauriel is sent to defeat the best knights at King Arthur's court to win her back. Before leaving him, she makes him so ugly that other women will not be interested in loving him. With an ibex (or a ram) as his companion, he fulfills her order: After a long series of single combats in which he defeats almost all the knights of the round table with the exception of King Arthur, Gauriel becomes a member of the famous court himself. He makes the best three knights, Iwein, Gawein and Walwan, his prisoners, and brings them to the palace of his beloved, Friapolatuse in Fluratrone. After the wedding Erec (instead of Gawein in Hartmann von Aue's Iwein) reminds him of the need to remain active in chivalry (verligen-theme) and his wife allows him to commit to the round table for one year as he had had to promise Queen Ginover. In the second half of the romance Gauriel and the Arthurian knights Erec and Pliamin undertake three helfe-aventiuren in which they help the nameless King of Pronias release the daughter of the Count of Asterian from imprisonment by Jorant, and support an also nameless mermaid in her battle against the army of King Geldipant. In the end they all return to Arthur's court, where the plot is concluded by the arrival of Gauriel's wife and her retinue of sea creatures for the celebration of final festivities, before returning home again to Fluratrone.

The aim of this scholarly publication is to win new readers for the late Arthurian romance: "The present volume seeks to provide a firmer foundation upon which to formulate judgment and engage discussion. Readers, students, and scholars will then debate its merits against the larger background of Arthurian literature" (2). The editor Siegfried Christoph (University of Wisconsin-Parkside) bases his work on the normalized Middle High German text of the new critical edition from the year 1997 (Der Ritter mit dem Bock. Konrads von Stoffeln Gauriel von Muntabel. Neu herausgegeben, eingeleitet und kommentiert von Wolfgang Achnitz. Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag 1997, Texte und Textgeschichte Bd. 46), which is, by the way, not out of print (a bilingual German edition is in preparation, too). This critically reconstructed version is reprinted on the left-hand pages of his volume and translated into modern English on the right-hand pages (16-325).

An introduction summarizes the literary and historical facts about the author and dating of the text (2-4) and contains the outlines of an interpretation (10-13). It also includes a short description of the four surviving manuscripts from Karlsruhe (Cod. Donaueschingen 86 from the 15th century library of the Counts of Zimmern), Innsbruck (Cod. FB 32001 with a short version from 1457) and Munich (two short fragments of the 14th century), which preserve the work (1-7). Pages 7 to 9 announce the editorial principles of the reprinting, followed by some remarks on the translation into modern English. The prose translation "aims in the first place to render the Middle High German text in a language which tries at once to avoid making the text too arcane and to avoid abbreviation for the sake of some modern standard of easy reading. In general, the translation seeks to retain a more formal, in places even archaic, tone in keeping with the linguistic level and social position of the original's speakers" (14).

Some passages of the printed text are rearranged in comparison with the critical edition; Christoph justifies this minor change by referring to an e-mail correspondence with the editor of the critical text (e.g. notes to 1632, 1638, 5475). Some short notes give further information about this changes, questions of translation, language, or style (328-342); several suggestions from the reviewers of Achnitz' critical edition are not taken into account (cf. Bibliography pp. 343-357: Bumke 2001, Classen 2000, Kern 1999, Mackert 2000, Okken 1999, Ridder 2000, Rohr 1999, Seelbach 2000). Unfortunately one must mention a few additional misprints, found by chance: p. 7, note 12 read Ms. I; p. 8, No. 2 read 602.1-4 or 632.1-4 (?) instead of "62.1-4"; and within the critical text: l. 990.2 zelt, l. 1499 schône, l. 301 daz instead of "du", l. 438 hete, l. 655 kanstû, , l. 884 bîten, l. 1026 iuwer, l. 1191.14 überkomen, l. 1202 sælde, l. 1499 schône, l. 1573 daz, l. 1699 waz, l. 1725 magenboum, l. 2395 vürbaz, l. 2400 , l. 2408 helm, l. 2537 wære, l. 3302 dûhte, l. 3579 slegen, l. 4224 ruoche, l. 4253 swære, l. 4382.34 verlie, l. 4445 allez, l. 4506 bsen, l. 5057 grimmiu, l. 5220 grævin, l. 5507 vüeze. These mistakes should be corrected. The volume closes with an index of the proper names (359f.).

This nicely done reprint of the critically edited text, accompanied by a pleasant to read translation, will undoubtedly serve its purpose and Konrad von Stoffeln's small romance Gauriel von Muntabel deserves a wider audience with a lot of new readers all over the world.

Article Details

Author Biography

Wolfgang Achnitz

Universität Münster