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Portrait of Wolfram from the Codex Manesse.

Wolfram von Eschenbach (born c. 1170, died c. 1220) was a German knight and poet, 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Little is known of Wolfram's life: there are no historical documents which mention him, and his works are the sole source of evidence.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 ("we Bavarians") 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 in Bavaria, being officially designated as his birthplace. However, the evidence is circumstantial and not without problems - there are at least four other places named Eschenbachs in present-day Bavaria, and Wolframs-Eschenbach was not part of Bavaria in Wolfram's time.[citation needed]

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.

Statue of Wolfram at Burg Abenberg


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 called Kyot. 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 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 (Younger 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
  • D. H. Green, The Art of Recognition in Wolfram's Parzival. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 0521245001
  • 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.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1170 – c. 1220) was a Bavarian epic poet and Minnesinger. His romance Parzival was probably based on the Perceval of Chrétien de Troyes, and inspired Wagner's Parsifal and Lohengrin.



  • Der tac mit kraft al durh diu venster dranc.
    vil slôze sie besluzzen.
    daz half niht: des wart in sorge kunt.
    diu vriundîn den vriunt vast an sich twanc.
    ir ougen diu beguzzen
    ir beider wangel. sus sprach zim ir munt:
    "zwei herze und einen lîp hân wir."
    • Day thrust its brightness through the window-pane.
      They, locked together, strove to keep Day out
      And could not, whence they grew aware of dread.
      She, his beloved, casting her arms about
      Her loved one, caught him close to her again.
      Her eyes drenched both their cheeks. She said:
      "One body and two hearts are we."
    • "Den Morgenblic bî Wahtærs Sange Erkôs", line 11; translation in Margaret F. Richey Essays on Mediæval German Poetry (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969) p. 99.


English quotations are taken from the 1980 Penguin translation by A. T. Hatto. Page numbers refer to this translation.

  • Ist zwîvel herzen nâchgebûr,
    das muoz der sêle warden sûr.
    • If vacillation dwell with the heart the soul will rue it.
    • Bk. 1, st. 1, line 1; p. 15
  • Daz schuof iedoch ein wîse man,
    daz alter guot solde hân.
    jugent hât vil werdekeit,
    daz alter siuften unde leit.
    ez enwart nie niht als unfruot,
    sô alter unde armuot.
    • Was that not a wise man who laid it down that age should have possessions? – "Youth has its fill of good things, eld of sighs and sorrows"! – "There never was a fate so pitiful as age cum poverty"!
    • Bk. 1, st. 5, line 11; p. 17
  • Die sint tœrscher denne beiersch her,
    unt doch bî manlîcher wer.
    swer in den zwein landen wirt,
    gefuoge ein wunder an im birt.
    • The Waleis…are even denser than Bavarian folk, though stout men with their weapons. Whoever is born in either land will blossom into a prodigy of tact and courtesy!
    • Bk. 3, st. 121, line 9; p. 72
  • Ôwî wan wær dîn schœne mîn!
    dir hete got den wunsch gegebn,
    ob du mit witzen soldest lebn.
    • How I wish I had your looks! If only you had some sense in you, God would have left you nothing to wish for.
    • Bk. 3, st. 124, line 18; p. 74
  • Swa du guotes wîbes vingerlîn
    mügest erwerben unt ir gruoz,
    daz nim: ez tuot dir kumbers buoz.
    du solt zir kusse gâhen
    und ir lîp vast umbevâhen:
    daz gît gelücke und hôhen muot,
    op si kiusche ist unde guot.
    • Wherever you can win a lady's ring and greeting, take it – it will rid you of the dumps. Waste no time, but kiss and embrace her. It will bring you good fortune and raise your spirits, granted she be chaste and good.
    • Bk. 3, st. 127, line 26; p. 75
  • Man sol hunde umb ebers houbet gebn.
    • To win a boar’s head one must sacrifice the hounds.
    • Bk. 3, st. 150, line 22; p. 86
  • Ir sult niemer iuch verschemn.
    verschamter lîp, waz touc der mêr?
    der wont in der mûze rêr,
    dâ im werdekeit entrîset.
    • You must never lose your sense of shame. If one is past all shame what is one fit for? One lives like a bird in moult, shedding good qualities like plumes all pointing down to Hell.
    • Bk. 3, st. 170, line 16; p. 95
  • Ir sult bescheidenlîche
    sîn arm unde rîche.
    wan swâ der hêrre gar vertuot,
    daz ist niht hêrlîcher muot:
    sament er ab schaz ze sere,
    daz sint och unêre.
    • You must be rich and poor with discretion. A nobleman who squanders his property does not display a noble spirit, while if he hoards his wealth to excess it will bring dishonour.
    • Bk. 3, st. 171, line 7; p. 96
  • Ûf einem grüenen achmardî
    truoc si den wunsch von pardîs,
    bêde wurzeln unde rîs.
    daz was ein dinc, daz hiez der Grâl,
    erden wunsches überwal.
    Repanse de schoy si hiez,
    die sich der grâl tragen liez.
    der grâl was von sölher art:
    wol muoser kiusche sîn bewart,
    die sîn ze rehte solde pflegn:
    die muose valsches sich bewegn.
    • Upon a green achmardi she bore the consummation of heart’s desire, its root and its blossoming – a thing called "The Gral", paradisal, transcending all earthly perfection! She whom the Gral suffered to carry itself had the name of Repanse de Schoye. Such was the nature of the Gral that she who had the care of it was required to be of perfect chastity and to have renounced all things false.
    • Bk. 5, st. 235, line 20; p. 125
  • Ôwê daz er niht vrâgte dô!
    des pin ich für in noch unvrô.
    wan do erz enpfienc in sîne hant,
    dô was er vrâgens mit ermant.
    • Alas that he asked no Question then! Even now I am cast down on his account! For when he was given the sword it was to prompt him to ask a Question!
    • Bk. 5, st. 240, line 3; p. 127
  • Weindiu ougn hânt süezen munt.
    • Tear-filled eyes make sweet lips.
    • Bk. 5, st. 272, line 12; p. 143
  • Artûs der meienbære man,
    swaz man ie von dem gesprach,
    zeinen pfinxten daz geschach,
    odr in des meien bluomenzît.
    • All that was ever told of Arthur, the man of the merry month of May, happened at Whitsun or at blossom-time in Spring.
    • Bk. 6, st. 281, line 16; p. 147
  • Der schadehafte erwarp ie spot:
    sælden pflihtær dem half got.
    • Losers always meet with mockery, Heaven sides with the fortunate.
    • Bk. 6, st. 289, line 11; p. 151
  • Frou minne, ir habt ein êre,
    und wênc decheine mêre.
    frou liebe iu gît geselleschaft:
    anders wær vil dürkel iwer kraft.
    • Mistress Love, you have one merit and no others: Mistress Affection keeps you company. Else would your rule be sadly wanting!
    • Bk. 6, st. 291, line 15; p. 152
  • Du hôrtst och vor dir sprechen ie,
    swer dem andern half daz er genas,
    daz er sîn vîent dâ nâch was.
    • You have heard the saying from before your time that if a man saved another from death that other would be his enemy ever after.
    • Bk. 10, st. 525, line 2; p. 266
  • Der getriwe ist friundes êren vrô:
    der ungetriwe wâfenô
    rüefet, swenne ein liep geschiht
    sînem friunde und er daz siht.
    • A loyal-hearted man rejoices at a friend's advancement; a disloyal man cries out in sorrow when something pleasant befalls his friend and he is there to see it.
    • Bk. 13, st. 675, line 17; p. 337
  • Hie hânt zwei herzen einvalt
    Mit hazze erzeiget ir gewalt.
    • Two hearts that are but one have shown their strength in fierce enmity.
    • Bk. 14, st. 689, line 28; p. 345
  • Mîn bruodr und ich daz ist ein lîp,
    als ist guot man unt des guot wîp.
    • Any brother of mine and I make one person, as do a good man and his good wife.
    • Bk. 15, st. 740, line 29; p. 369
  • Von wazzer boume sint gesaft.
    wazzer früht al die geschaft,
    der man für crêatiure giht.
    mit dem wazzere man gesiht.
    wazzer gît maneger sêle schîn,
    daz die engl niht liehter dorften sîn.
    • Trees have their sap from water. Water fecundates all things made that are called "creature". We see by means of water. Water gives many souls a splendour not to be outshone by the Angels.
    • Bk. 16, section 817, line 25; p. 406.


  • Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival…was where love and marriage were brought together. It was an apple of a story. That's my favorite love story.
    • Joseph Campbell (ed. Robert Walter and Phil Cousineau) The Hero’s Journey (Novato: New World Library, [1990] 2003) p. 104
  • By common consent, Wolfram is the greatest medieval poet before Dante.
    • Victor Duruy (trans. E. H. & M. D. Whitney) The History of the Middle Ages (New York: H. Holt, 1891) p. 338
  • By the miracle of genius he created a masterpiece [Parzival], epic in scope, noble in purpose, humorous, humane, tender, and rational.
  • Although German writers may sometimes have mispraised or overpraised their greatest mediaeval poet, it is certain that we find in Wolfram von Eschenbach qualities, which, in the thousand years between the Fall and the Renaissance of classical literature, can be found to anything like the same extent in only two known writers, the Italian Dante and the Englishman Langland; while if he is immensely Dante's inferior in poetical quality, he has at least one gift, humour, which Dante had not, and is far Langland's superior in variety and in romantic charm.
    • George Saintsbury The Flourishing of Romance and the Rise of Allegory (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1897) p. 251

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