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Medieval Arthurian Legend

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan

12th century, Anglo-Norman, Thomas of Britain | 13th century, Middle High German, Gottfried von Strassburg.

Having crossed a sea once again, Tristan again assumes a new identity.

Tristan loses his royal parents as a baby and is brought up in the household of his father’s former steward in Brittany, according to a poem by Gottfried von Strassburg, written in c. 1210 and based very firmly upon a work by Thomas of Britain, written in about 1160. Whilst still a child, Tristan is abducted and taken by ship to England, where, having suffered shipwreck, he assumes a new identity in the guise of the son of a merchant, and stays under this disguise at the court of King Mark of Cornwall.

Many years later, King Mark refuses to pay extortion to the King of Ireland. In true Celtic Iron Age fashion, the matter is to be settled by single combat. Tristan, who, it has by now been revealed, is none other than King Mark’s nephew, his sister’s son, fights this ‘justice’ for King Mark and kills his adversary, but receives a wound himself. The lance had poison on it and the wound festers for three years; and at last, at death’s door, Tristan sails to Ireland in search of a homeopathic cure, having arranged for it to be known to all but a select few that he has died. Arriving in Ireland, having crossed a sea once again, he again assumes a new identity, that of a court minstrel who has been set upon by pirates. He assumes the new name Tantris.

Tantris is appointed tutor to young Isolde, Queen Isolde’s daughter, and becomes her constant companion. But after the passage of a year Tantris, now cured, returns to Cornwall. Tristan resumed his old life, with a joyful heart, Gottfried von Strassburg tells us. A second life had been given to him, he was a man newborn.

Story fragment recounted from: Hatto, A T, 1960, reprinted with revisions, 1967, 2004. Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan. With the surviving fragments of the Tristran of Thomas. Translated from Medieval German and Old French with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. 10. Tantris and 11. The Wooing Expedition, pp 138–58.


Weird Tales—discussion.


Sir Tristram – TEAMS Middle English texts

Gottfried von Strassburg – Wikipedia

Tristan and Iseult – Wikipedia


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