Tristan

Tristan

[tris-tuhn, -tan; Ger. tris-tahn]
Corbière, Tristan, 1845-75, French poet, born Édouard Joachim Corbière. He spent most of his life on the coast of Brittany, living a Bohemian existence and suffering chronic illness. His passion for the sea is expressed in his early poems Gens de mer [men of the sea], which were collected in Les Amours jaunes (1873, tr. 1954). Corbière's style combines vernacular elements with complex, intimate emotion and constantly reflects his internal pain. Verlaine brought his work to the attention of the literary world, and, in the 20th cent., the surrealist writers claimed him as an ancestor.
Tzara, Tristan, 1896-1963, French writer, b. Romania. He studied at the Univ. of Zürich, where he and his friends formulated the dadaist movement initially as a pacifist statement (see Dada). His theories are expressed in Sept manifestes dada [seven dadaist manifestos] (1924). Tzara moved to Paris in 1921 and worked with André Breton. His poetry is collected in Vingt-cinque Poèmes (1918) and De la coup aux lèvres (1961).

See his Approximate Man and Other Writings (tr. 1973).

Tristan: see Tristram and Isolde.

Lovers in a medieval romance based on Celtic legend. The hero Tristan goes to Ireland to ask the hand of the princess Isolde for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. On their return the two mistakenly drink a love potion prepared for the king and fall deeply in love. After many adventures, they make peace with Mark, who marries Isolde. The distraught Tristan goes to Brittany, where he marries another noble Isolde. When he is wounded by a poisoned arrow, he sends for the first Isolde. His jealous wife tells him his true love has refused to come; he dies just before she arrives, and she dies in his arms. The original poem has not survived, but it exists in many later versions and even became part of Arthurian legend. Gottfried von Strassburg's 13th-century version, considered the masterpiece of medieval German poetry, was the basis for Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde (first performed in 1865).

Learn more about Tristan and Isolde with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born March 7, 1904, Halle, Ger.—died June 4, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) German Nazi official. He resigned from the navy in 1931 to join the SS, becoming SS chief for Berlin (1934), head of the Reich Security Central Office (1939), and Heinrich Himmler's chief deputy. Noted for his ruthlessness against “enemies of the state,” in the early years of World War II he organized mass executions in the German-occupied territories and became known as “the Hangman.” In 1942 he chaired the Wannsee Conference. Appointed deputy administrator of Bohemia and Moravia, he was assassinated by Czech patriots; in retaliation the Gestapo demolished the village of Lidice and executed its male population of about 200.

Learn more about Heydrich, Reinhard (Tristan Eugen) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born March 7, 1904, Halle, Ger.—died June 4, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) German Nazi official. He resigned from the navy in 1931 to join the SS, becoming SS chief for Berlin (1934), head of the Reich Security Central Office (1939), and Heinrich Himmler's chief deputy. Noted for his ruthlessness against “enemies of the state,” in the early years of World War II he organized mass executions in the German-occupied territories and became known as “the Hangman.” In 1942 he chaired the Wannsee Conference. Appointed deputy administrator of Bohemia and Moravia, he was assassinated by Czech patriots; in retaliation the Gestapo demolished the village of Lidice and executed its male population of about 200.

Learn more about Heydrich, Reinhard (Tristan Eugen) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Sir Tristan (Latin/Brythonic: Drustanus; Welsh: Drystan; also known as Tristran, Tristram, etc.) is one of the main characters of the Tristan and Iseult story, a Cornish hero and one of the Knights of the Round Table featuring in the Matter of Britain. He is the son of Blancheflor and Rivalen (in later versions Isabelle and Meliodas), and the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, sent to fetch Iseult back from Ireland to wed the king. However, he and Iseult accidentally consume a love potion while en route and fall helplessly in love. The pair undergo numerous trials that test their secret affair.

The Tristan legend cycle

Tristan makes his first medieval appearance in the early twelfth century in Celtic folklore circulating in the north of France. Although the oldest stories concerning Tristan are lost, some of the derivatives still exist. Most early versions fall into one of two branches, "courtly" branch represented in the retellings of the Anglo-Norman poet Thomas of Britain and his German successor Gottfried von Strassburg, and the "common" branch, including the works of the French poet Béroul and the German poet Eilhart von Oberge.

Arthurian romancier Chrétien de Troyes mentions in his poem Cligès that he composed his own account of the story; however, there are no surviving copies or records of any such text. In the thirteenth century, during the great period of prose romances, appeared the Tristan en prose or Prose Tristan, one of the most popular romances of its time. This long, sprawling, and often lyrical, work (the modern edition takes up thirteen volumes) follows Tristan from the traditional legend into the realm of King Arthur where Tristan participates in the Quest for the Holy Grail. In the fifteenth century, Sir Thomas Malory shortened this French version into his own take, The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones, found in his Le Morte D'Arthur.

Historical roots

There are strange aspects to Tristan, such as his Pictish name. Drust is a very common name of Pictish kings, and Drustanus is merely Drust rendered into Latin. It may have originated from an ancient legend regarding a Pictish king who slew a giant in the distant past, which had spread throughout the isles.

Another strange aspect is his kingdom, Lyonesse, for whose existence there is no evidence. However there were two places called Leonais: one in Brittany, the other the Old French transcription of Lothian. However, the Islands of Scilly have also been proposed to be this place, since they were possibly one island until Roman times and several islands are interconnected at low tide. Regardless, Tristan being a prince of Lothian would make his name more sensible, Lothian being on the borderlands of the Pictish High-Kingship (and once was a part of Pictish territory; Tristan may in fact have been a Pictish prince under a British King). One suggestion is that he could have been adopted into the family of Mark of Cornwall, historically a practice attested in Roman law.

The Tristan and Iseult romance

The romantic narrative of the Tristan and Iseult love affair predated and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. The legend tells of the love affair between Tristan and Iseult of Ireland (the promised bride of Tristan's uncle), and the events and trials that the lovers go through to cover up their secret affair.

Modern adaptations

In 1857–59, Richard Wagner composed the opera Tristan and Isolde, now considered one of the most influential pieces of music of the 19th century. In his work, Tristan is portrayed as a doomed romantic figure.

Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote an epic poem Tristram of Lyonesse. The story has also been adapted into film many times. The most recent is the American version entitled Tristan & Isolde, produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, written by Dean Georgaris, directed by Kevin Reynolds, and starring James Franco and Sophia Myles. The story of Tristan has also been represented through the song of the same name by the artist Patrick Wolf.

Tristan plays a prominent role in the comic book series Camelot 3000, in which he is reincarnated in A.D. 3000 as a woman and subsequently struggles to come to terms with his new body and identity and to reconcile them in turn with his previous notions of gender roles and of his own sexuality.

Russian composer Nikita Koshkin wrote a classical guitar solo entitled Tristan Playing the Lute in 1983. Tristan Playing the Lute evokes the spirit of Tristan from the legend of "Tristan and Isolde", set in a playful adaptation of traditional English lute music, at least initially. According to Koshkin:

"Tristan was written as a musical joke. It was a period when I was fond of all the stories about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Tristan was not only a great fighter, but he also played many musical instruments and had a beautiful singing voice. This is why I thought he could be the subject of a piece to suggest the process of improvising in a characteristic early style that then begins to change to futuristic musical ideas. The first section of the piece is clearly ancient in style; the second is more modern; then the third introduces elements of Eastern music as well as some rock riffs. The idea is that Tristan, during his improvising, is building musical bridges to the future."

In the 2004 film, King Arthur, based on the Sarmatian connection theory of origin for the Arthurian legends, Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen) is a prominent member of the knights, who are Sarmatians serving under a half-Roman Arthur in the 5th century. Tristan is a cavalry archer, able to make amazing shots with his bow, similar to a mongol bow, and uses a sword similar to a dao. It seems that he finds a pleasure in killing and is quite good at it. He has a pet hawk, which he greatly treasures and uses as a lookout for Arthur and the rest of the knights in the film. He also fulfills the role of a scout and skirmisher. He is killed by Cerdic in single combat in the Battle of Badon Hill.

The film Tristan & Isolde (2006) starred James Franco as Tristan and Thomas Sangster as the child Tristan. The film was produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, written by Dean Georgaris, and directed by Kevin Reynolds.

See also

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