Wolfram von Eschenbach
(born c. 1170, died c. 1220) was a German knight
, regarded as one of the greatest epic
poets of his time. As a Minnesinger
, he also wrote lyric poetry
Little is known of Wolfram's life: there are no historical documents which mention him, and his works are the sole source of evidence. In Parzival
he talks of wir Beier
") and the dialect of his works is East Franconian
. This and a number of geographical references has resulted in the present-day Wolframs-Eschenbach
, previously Obereschenbach, near Ansbach
, being officially designated as his birthplace. However, the evidence is circumstantial and not without problems - there are at least four other Eschenbachs
in present-day Bavaria
, and Wolframs-Eschenbach
was not part of Bavaria in Wolfram's time.
The arms shown in the Manesse manuscript come from the imagination of a 14th century artist, drawing on the figure of the Red Knight in Parzival, and have no heraldic connection with Wolfram.
Wolfram's work indicates a number of possible patrons (most reliably Hermann I of Thuringia), which suggests that he served at a number of courts during his life. In his Parzival he claims he is illiterate and recorded the work by dictation, though the claim is treated with scepticism by scholars.
Wolfram is best known today for his Parzival
, sometimes regarded as the greatest of all German epics from that time. Based on Chrétien de Troyes
' Perceval, le Conte du Graal
, it is the first extant work in German to have as its subject the Holy Grail
. In the poem, Wolfram expresses disdain for Chrétien's (unfinished
) version of the tale, and states that his source was a poet from Provence
. Some scholars believe Wolfram might have meant Guiot de Provins
(though none of the latter's surviving works relate to the themes of Parzival
), however others believe Kyot was simply a literary device invented by Wolfram to explain his deviations from Chrétien's version.
Wolfram is the author of two other narrative works: the unfinished Willehalm and the fragmentary Titurel. These were both composed after Parzival, and Titurel mentions the death of the Hermann I, which dates it firmly after 1217. Wolfram's nine surviving songs, five of which are dawn-songs, are regarded as masterpieces of Minnesang.
The 84 surviving manuscripts of Parzival
, both complete and fragmentary, indicate the immense popularity of Wolfram's major work in the following two centuries. Willehalm
, with 78 manuscripts, comes not far behind. Many of these include a continuation written in the 1240s by Ulrich von Türheim
under the title Rennewart
. The unfinished Titurel
was taken up and expanded around 1272 by a poet named Albrecht, who is generally presumed to be Albrecht von Scharfenberg
and who adopts the narrative persona of Wolfram. This work is referred to as the Jüngere Titurel
The modern rediscovery of Wolfram begins with the publication of a translation of Parzival in 1753 by the Swiss scholar Johann Jakob Bodmer. Parzival was the main source Richard Wagner used when writing the libretto to his opera, Parsifal. Wolfram himself appears as a character in another Wagner opera, Tannhäuser.
In Hugo Pratt's comic book The Secret Rose, Corto Maltese speaks to a mural painting of Wolfram. In this book Corto is searching for the Holy Grail.
- James F. Poag, Wolfram Von Eschenbach (Twayne's World Authors Series) Twayne Publishers 1972. ISBN 0-8290-1750-X
- Otto Springer. "Wolfram's Parzival" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
- Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival with Titurel and The Love-lyrics, trans. Cyril Edwards. Boydell Press, 2004. ISBN 1-84384-005-7. The evidence for Wolfram's life is treated extensively in the Introduction.