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German Literature History #1
by Thornchild/Angels/Occult

Feel happily welcomed to Thornchild's chapter, a matter of history, called


It is right of you to think that historic events find my great interest. But before I can start right away I have to tell ya that I am using literal sources (like Max Wehrlis "History of the German literature in the mid ages"). Further a little important point has to be explained a bit closer...

If you see at the roots of the literature and compare it with the neighbouring countries, you'll find these first works quite similar. Well, the explanation for this is simple, luckily. Many peoples of Europe became a people in geographical, social and political direction after a process of seperating from a furtherly solid community of different tribes (the migration of the peoples a lot of you might have heard of in the history lessons in school or may have had come to know otherwise is such an example). A group of peoples (e.g. British, German, Swedish, Danish) form the group of the Northern-German peoples after having been the tribe community of the Teutons. Another tribe community is the so called Finno-Ugrian peoples group to which peoples like the Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian belong.

I have to add that the migration I referred to on the former page did take place at the time of the Roman military campaigns in the first and second century after the birth of Christ.

From the time before this migration very few is surely known due to literature forms. But some more explicite information can be given. At the time the Teutons used their Indo-German heir, the tribes were still in the close Teutonic community as the experts know. The literal forms this special heir is founded upon are as follows:

1) Prayers and calls to the gods. A very old literal form, almost not proved by examples.
2) Proverbs in verses.
3) The controversy poem. One person asks and the other answers, the person that fails the words loses. In the pure version no proved works are known.
4) The Brahmodyam. A betting quarrel referring to the knowledge of holy things. From this literal type various examples are known, especially in unpure form.
5) The Akhyana. A poem that mixes verses and prose. The Skirnismal in the Edda is a good example. The plot is told in prose, the acting persons speech is reflected in verses.
6) The magic spell. There can be found a various number of them in the Teutonic and early German literature. The later versions of it are the blessings. Spells use the very interesting style element of the alliteration, the German Stabreim".

The most famous of the spells, so it is said, are the two spells of Nerseburg.

They have an epic beginning and then the actual spell follows. Though the epic beginning doesn't let the spells seem as that, they're forms of early lyric as the later blessings.

The texts of the spells have been written down in the 10th century, as many say. Waitz did discover them in 1841.

Other spells aren't known in this pure form. More information can be given about the blessings. These texts were in some aspects like the spells but they had a religious (Christian) background, the magic of them is cooperating with the will of God.

Some well examples of the blessings are the following ones:

1) The dog blessing of Vienna. Its meaning is to influence the senses of watch dogs positively to improve the tending of the sheep. The text was discovered by Miklosich in 1841. It can be placed in the second half of the 10th century. The form of the text is metric.
2) De hoc quod spuriha(l)z dicunt. This strange text is an old-Saxonian one. Its meaning can be seen a little from the contents of the epic part of it. In this a healing of a fish is described. It also seems to be a text from the 10th century. It was published in 1824.
3) Contra vermes (the worm blessing). Two versions are known, a Saxian and a High-German one. The text is a bit older than the other spells (9th century). It doesn't have an epic beginning. It is a kind of exorcistic spell against worms that cause illnesses in horses.
4) The blood blessing of Strassbourg. This strange text is a summary of three spells, so experts (like Muellenhoff) state. The whole work was written before the 11th century. After looking on the whole text more closely it can be stated that the three spells are fragments.
5) Contra malum malanum. Dated around the years between 1070 and 1090, this text is part of a handwriting of Bonn. It contains advices to heal dangerous tumors settled around the eye.
6) The bee blessing of Lorsch. Written in the 10th century, this text is one of the most beautiful ones of this literal kind. It contains the orders, involved into Gregorian spirit, addressed to bee swarms to behave as the wish of God commands it to.
7) Contra caducum morbum. Two versions exist, one is seen clearly as to be originated in the 12th century. A quarrel referring to a bridge is influenced by the hand of God, so the epic beginning explains. The magic formula is probably lost.
8) Ad fluxum sanguinis narium. A part of it also does exist in a Dutch version.
9) Ad equum errehet (the horse blessing). An epic introduction lets this text begin as so many other ones. The origin of the text can be settled in the lifetime of Otfried (9th century).

As you can see from the explicite information to this subject, spells and blessings were quite popular. It isn't possible to find out from today's view, which forms had which influence on the later literal development. Unfortunately the gap between the time with oral spreading of information and reliable and true written proofs are quite wide. From the time of the non-Christian area of the Teutonic literature quite few is still existing. Much is speculation.

An important (and very pleasing) exception of this rule is the literature that was written by the Teutonic tribe of the Goths. Especially the Goth bishop Wulfila has to be described a lot of. A short summary of his life and some aspects due to his main work, The Bible translation, shall follow after a look on the other literature of the Goths.

Here, in the literal works of the Goths, we first find the impressing majority of the lyric style. Best proved are songs with partial historic, partial mythical contents. Poetry and music were seen as important and worthy at the courts of the princes. Legends of heroes were part of the tunes that were performed with the zither, as Muellenhoff states. He also mentions that so called price tunes were popular. From historians we come to know that king Theoderich the Great was a real friend of the musical and literal art. The franconian king Chlodwig asked him for a rhapsody (a song that is quite fluently due to the missing of stanzas - this is the definition for the old form of it!).

The west Gothian king Theoderich II did like the more light and simple forms of music. Priscus tells in his reports that Goths gave performances at the court of the hun king Attila. Further the sources tell of battle songs and dead laments.

In 378 Fritigerns Goths sing the praise of the forefathers at the begin of the battle in Thracia.

In opposition to these and other sources the alleged Gothic christmas gospel is not more than spoilt latin. Before the time of the king Eurich the Goths didn't possess any written laws. In pure Gothic language the laws aren't present in written form.

But now some information about bishop Wulfila. Many proved facts about the Gothic literature creativity are based on the knowledge of the sources that refer to bishop Wulfila. There are different people that made well known their knowledge about him in their text. The following sources shall be mentioned:

1. The Cod. Lat. 8907
2. The texts of Maximin
3. Bishop Auxentius of Dorostorum
4. Phoilostorgius of Cappadocia
5. Sokrates
6. Sozomenos
7. Theodoret
8. Jordanes
9. Isidor

Wulfila's year of birth isn't known exactly but many think it was 310. He was a Goth, as his parents also were. The family was located in Sadagolthina in Cappadocia. It was a Christian one. It's furtherly proved that he was the bishop of the Goths. Beginning his religious career as a lector, he became a bishop at the age of 30, so he was quite young.

Bishop Wulfila was the first Goth bishop in the northern Danube area. He first was a choirbishop, it is supposed that he became a town bishop in 341. Seven years Wulfila tried his best to convert the Goths. His congregation had many martyrs and Wulfila risked a lot for the announcement of his honest Christian belief.

In the time of 348 to 349 he led his Goths over the Danube, where the emperor behaved friendly against them and gave them the possibility to settle in Moesia Inferior. He did his work on the Roman ground for about 33 years and was member of many synods. As some say, there was a quite harsh quarrel between the chieftains Frithigern and Athanarich in 370.

This problem made the work of Wulfila much more difficult, as it is said, his tries for the converting the Goths of Athanarich shall have led to bloody Christian persuations. But this is just a rumour and thought to be false...

It seems to be untrue also that Wulfila was a negotiator for the Goths at the court of the emperor. This story should tell of the great courage of Wulfila.

In the later years the person of the bishop walks more and more into the background. It can be seen as sure that Wulfila died in the summer of 383 during a council.

Now the literal work of Wulfila has to be seen more closely. Wulfila's masterpiece was the translation of The Bible from latin into the Goth standard language. Due to the fact that there didn't exist one at his time, he had to invent and develop it. From the impressing work we today, unfortunately, have only fragments. These texts are called codices, three of them found the whole rest of the full Bible translation. The names of the fragments are the following ones:

- The Codex Argenteus
- The Codex Carolinus
- The Codices Ambrosiani (the text parts are followed by a Gothic calendar)
- Cod. B

It is quite clear for the experts that the pattern of Wulfila's translation was a Greek one. Further there is no doubt that the translation was thought for the use in public divine services. The work of Wulfila is quite precise, he didn't transform his pattern so far, it is known by the experts.

There aren't many texts that are existing in the Goth literature that haven't to do with the person of Wulfila or are his work. A fragment that explains the gospel of St. John is one of the few that have to be mentioned. The extensive text now has a few pages as a fragment. The work has reached some meaning in the history of the Goth arianism.

Further a fragment of a Goth calendar can be mentioned.

It maybe is quite interesting how sparse the older works of these days are proved and analysed. This is also valid for the works that were done by the other tribes of the Teutons. As an example for these, the choir poetry in the ritual tunes can be seen. Songs for the marriage and the dead lament also were quite popular, as price tunes and songs with a scoffy background.

Here I have to say something about the main difference between the ballad and the rhapsody. Meanwhile the ballad has stanzas and also got epic elements, although it is in a lyric form the rhapsody hasn't stanzas and is far more epic than the ballad. A quite pure ballad is the 'Tune of the Smith Wieland'. The experts, especially Streitberg and Muellenhoff, deem it to be of an origin.

Ballads as rhapsodies use monologues and dialogues as important ingredients. Both also are epic, oftenly telling heroes' deeds. As mentioned, the 'Tune of the Smith Wieland' is a master example for a success in this art. The work is too important in the literal work of the Germans, so I have to tell you the details about it.

One of the most important (and also amazing) facts about this work is that it has some elementary roots in a similar work from India (I in fact mentioned the literal heir from our tribal peoples, a branch of these reaches to this country) that also tells of the art of smithery. Also some aspects remind on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus.

Here is the plot of the tune: Wieland, a king of the elves and a master Smith, and his two brothers seize three royal daughters, who possess the abilities of valkyres (e.g. flying). The three women live for eight peaceful years together with their partners. But the wish to go back to the further battle life becomes so strong that the three valkyres leave their mates and follow their wish. Meanwhile the two brothers go and look for their women, Wieland stays at home and waits for his mate. Meanwhile Wieland is out of home for hunting, men of the local king enter Wieland's home and are fascinated from the works of excellent smithery that Wieland had created. They take one ring and go. After Wieland discovers the loss of the ring he thinks that his wife has come back and sits down, waiting for her, falling asleep after a while. Awaking he finds himself tied and helpless. The king donates his daughter the stolen ring. She advices the king to cut the tendons of Wieland's knees. He then is brought to an island where he creates masterpieces of his art for the king. Wieland may only be visited by the king.

But Wieland thinks of bitter revenge. He kills the two sons of the king as they walk to him and deceives the king and his daughter. With kind of flying apparature he flies, telling the true facts to the dismayed king while flying and the daughter stands up for her guilt.

This work seems to have an incision in its text. E.H. Meyer has marked it in his book meanwhile describing the plot of the ballad. The elements of the text and the plot have the main character a typical artwork of the Teuton and early German literature has got. One of the most important ones is the variation of the tragedy of revenge. Further it is to mention that those works weren't written to be read from people. These texts had the meaning to be sung by itinerant singers at courts. This tradition began in the early days of the Teutons and lasted deep into the Middle Ages. Charles the Great tried to save a lot of the old poetic pieces, partly without success.

Very few is known about literal proofs that are just lyrics. Only one example can be told upon here and this is so called 'Uuinileod'. These are poems with erotic contents.

It further has to be reported that many written texts come from monasteries and similar houses. Many of these texts were written in Latin. Some examples of these should be told here. 'De civitate dei' (the state of God) is the name of a historic-philosophic work of the author Aurelius Augustinus. In it he looks at the end of the times. He did write his work between 412 and 426.

Hymns and psalms fill out the literal creations of Ambrosius. He dedicated a part of his life to the musical support of the Christian congregations with the help of the emotions of his soul.

Here, my dear readers of "Attitude", I have to end this article. Till soon!


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