Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic poem Parzival stands as one of the richest and
most profound literary works to have survived from the middle ages. Lost in obscurity for
centuries until rediscovered and republished by Karl Lachmann in 1833, the poem
enjoyed at least as great a popularity when it was first composed as it does among
today’s readers: Some eighty manuscripts have been preserved, in whole or in part,
from Wolfram’s era (Poag 40). Among the more intriguing aspects of the work is
Wolfram’s handling of the depiction and development of two of the story’s primary
characters, the knights Gahmuret and Parzival, father and son. Central to the action of
the text from its inception, yet never sharing a scene, these men function as the poem’s
heroes—larger-than-life figures of extraordinary strength, skill and courage whose
remarkable achievements and bravery carry the momentum of the story. These men
represent the classic knightly warriors of old who (at least ideally) dedicated their
energies and passions above all else to the noble pursuit of fame, honor and valor.
Indeed, in the course of discussing heroic development in Parzival, one must also note
the main characters’ chivalric development, as their natural proclivity and tendencies as
knights are clearly reflected and reinforced in their heroic manner and mien.
In the course of this investigation I wish to analyze the ways in which Wolfram
depicts these knighly heroes and their development. In this way I shall attempt to
achieve a better understanding of how Wolfram—and, by extension, the men of his
time—themselves understood the themes and events he describes. I shall also include
the critical perspectives of scholars whose have previously c...
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not always attained thorough strict maintenance of precepts such as Campbell’s, is—
and perhaps for that very reason—the stuff of great literature.
Campbell, Joseph. Myths to Live By. New York: Viking, 1972.
Cousineau, Phil, Ed. The Hero’s Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.
Eschenbach, Wolfram von. Parzival. English Trans., Ed. André Lefevere. New York:
—-. Parzival. German Trans. Wolfgang Mohr. Göppingen: Alfred Kümmerle, 1977.
Hasty, Will. ”Introduction.” A Companion to Wolfram’s Parzival. Columbia: Camden
Poag, James F. Wolfram von Eschenbach. New York: Twayne, 1972.
Sacker, Hugh. An Introduction to Wolfram’s ‘Parzival.’ Cambridge: Cambridge U P,
Weigand, Hermann. Wolfram’s Parzival: Five Essays with an Introduction. Ithaca:
Cornell U P, 1969.
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