Knowledge, Politics, and Magic: The Magician Gansguoter in Heinrich von dem Türlin's Crône

by Stephan Maksymiuk
Knowledge, Politics, and Magic: The Magician Gansguoter in Heinrich von dem Türlin's Crône
Stephan Maksymiuk
The German Quarterly
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Universitat Freiburg

Knowledge, Politics, and Magic:
The Magician Gansguoter in Heinrich
von dem Tiirlin's Cr6ne

The magician Gansguoter is the most intriguing of all the curious characters to be found in Heinrich von dem Tiirlin's Crane. Gansguoter is Gawein's uncle and King Arthur's stepfather, a sorcerer capa- ble of constructing wondrous castles and battling evil goddesses. He appears repeat- edly in Gawein's adventures: first, as a magical tester, and then, as an invaluable ally of the Round Table. His wizardry even proves instrumentalin preserving Arthur's rule. One may dismiss Gansguoter as the result of Heinrich's (0ver)active imagina- tion,l but the character is more than simply a product of literary fantasy. If we compare Gansguoter to his real-life counterparts, it will become apparent that his portrait in Diu Crane is also representative of histori- cal magicians and the important role they played in medieval society. In order to un- derstand Gansguoter in his historical set- ting, we must reverse our rationalisticview of magicians. Here, too, as in many other areas of medieval culture, our judgment of its mainstream values has been formed and distorted by the viewpoint of orthodox Christianity2 Magicians are not fringe figures, representative of superstition and low culture, but elegant, learned, and powefi gentlemen, whose services were valued in the center of power. Gansguoter is a literary reflection of these historical magicians.

Oddly enough, Gansguoter has received little attention from scholars. Crdne research has concentrated mainly on discern- ing the complex structure3 of Heinrich's "monster-epic" (Walshe 205), or comparing Heinrich withhis sources.4 Even LewisJillings's5 and Arno Mentzel-Reuters's6 recent monographs on Diu Crane pay little attention to the magician beyond his role within the romance and in relation to ear- lier sources. Jillings observes that "Hein- rich specifically vindicates magic in a man- ner which must appear provocative when compared to the valuation placed upon the magician by Wolfram and the generally ac- knowledged perils of 'nigromantie' in this periodn (206), but he does not examine the historicalelements which provide the back- ground to this figure.Mentzel-Reuters also sees the importance of the magician, noting that one could call Gansguoter "fast den Regisseur der Handlung" (179). Yet his analysis of Gansguoter's magic does not go beyond the observation that "die gemein- same VenvissenschaRlichung des Zauber- wesens, das ohne DamonenundTeufel, rein in der Auseinandersetzung mit der nattire auskommt, mu13 auffallen" (252).7

Paradoxically, one of Gansguoteis chief magical feats has led scholars to downplay the role of his sorcery. Thisepisode requires closer examination, since Gansguoter's sor- cery is in fact crucial throughout the ad- venture and, indeed, for the survival of the Arthurian court. The episode begins when Gawein embarks on the recovery of Arthur's magical treasures from the evil Fimbeus. Before Gawein sets out, the wizard giveshim a special hauberk which neutral- izes any opponent's magic:

The German Quarterly 67.4 (Fall1994) 470

Swer sie truoc, daz er niht was ijberwunden und genas Vor allem zouber, und ob er Ieman bestiiende, des gewer Er muoste sin an ritterscW. Ob er von deheines zoubers I;raft Sigehaft muoste wesen, Der mohte dfivon niht genesen, Ez enwaere an sker manheit. (27,348-56)

Whoever wore it could not be overcome by enchantment if he faced someone whom he excelled in knightly skills. His foe could not win by any kind of magic but only through his own strength and courage.


Ernst Dick sees this present as a "strategy of disenchantment" (137) and findsthat "the essence of [Gansguoteis] assistance lies in the ideal of self-reliance" (146). Jillingsstates that "the duelbetween Gawein and Fimbeus is the decisive confi-ontation of two concepts of chivalry, one which seeks by magic a life of ease, and one which endures travail in self-reliant application of prowess and en- deavour" (100). While the hauberk does in- deed neutralize hostile magic and forces Gawein's opponents to rely on their own prowess, it will not suffice in saving Gawein hm Firnbeus's somry in the course of the adventumg

In fact, the knights require Gansguoteis help almost immediately. Travel- ing through a forest, Gawein and his com- panions are confronted by a group of fiery knights (27,388469). Gawein is prepared to attack them, but Gansguoter holds him back (27,447f.X The magician disperses the adversaries himself, thereby saving Arthur's knights.

Soon after, the party is in danger ofbeing washed off a bridge (27, 4954309). Gans- guoter again rescues them. He stops Gawein from crossing the flooded bridge and opens the gate blocking their path to safety (27, 571-76). Once again, Gans- guoter's superior understanding of the situ- ation saves the kmghts and allows them to continue their quest.

After Gawein and his companions have entered Firnbeus's realm, Gansguoter takes his leave. Yet he continues to help the knights with invaluable advice:

Er tet aber vor gar bekant
Gfiweine, wie er solte varn
Und sich an allen sachen warn.


But befom he rode off he told Gawein just what to do and what to watch out for. (310)

In addition, he also gives Gawein a smallbox containing a sleeping spell (27, 692-94). With the help of this spell, Gawein disables Firnbeus's men. He can defeat Fimbeus and recover the magic treasures. The stability of Arthur's kingdom is reestablished. Gans- guoter's magic, crucial throughout the ad- venture, has saved the Round Table.

Magic was not only a supernatural aid for King Arthur and his kmghts, but played an important part in historical court life as well. The attraction it held in medieval court society becomes more understand- able when we look at the court's socialstruc- ture.The continuing process of administra- tive centralization in Western Europe from the 10th century onwards resulted in con- siderable court entourages by the 13th cen- tury.1° These entourages included official administrators: nobility and clerics whose rank or office had been formally conferred on them by the ruler, such as chancellors, ambassadors, and chamberlains. In addition to the official administrators, the court society included members who held no for- mal office, but could nevertheless still ex- ercise a considerable amount of influence at court.11 Edward Peters calls this inoffi- cial sphere the demimondeof the court and finds that "poets and artists, physicians and astrologels, ladies and gentlemen in waiting, meteorically rising favorites, and itin- erant holy men, clerics and various forms of entertainers may be said to constitute this demimonden Peters 115).

Members from both official and unoffi- cial groups could rise and fall rapidly in the ruler's esteem. As these courtiers rose in influence and power, the danger of envy and fear of their rivals became acute in both the official and unofficial spheres of court. Just how great such animosities could become can already be seen in the Wormser Hof- recht, enacted by Bwhard of Worms (1024125) as a law for the government of the episcopal court. In writing down the pun- ishment for murder, Burchard notes that in one year 35 clerics were slain by their colleagues, who were not remorseful but proud of their deeds.12 Not all courts were as dangerous as that at Worms, but intrigues at court were commonplace, and courtiers had to be constantly on their


Magic was one means for success at court. An unscrupulous courtier might re- sort to magic in order to rise in the ruler's esteem, or to discredit or even harm a rival. Several medieval magic books listed spells for invoking a ruler's wrath or gaining his favor.14 Courtiers might also use sorcery as an explanation for a rival's success or their own misfortune.15 In cases where it was actually employed, it might be carried out by the courtiers themselves, if they were knowledgeable in the arts. Or they could find practitioners among the unofficial members of the court. As Peters notes:

In an atmosphere of factionalism, strug- gles for favor, ambition, intense personal likes and dislikes, the demimonde of the court constituted the personnel at the dis- posal of those who wished to take advan- tage of the informal and devious meansof acquiring power and favor. (115f.)

Accounts of magicians among both the official and inofficial court society can be found in Adam of Bremen's History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, written

about 1080. l6In hishistory, Adam includes the story of Archbishop Adalbert, who rose to favor at the oourt of Emperor Henry N. Adalbert's enemies denouncedhim as a sor- cerer (111:47). These accusations drove the archbishop from the court. Was he really a sorcerer? One might argue that the denun- ciations were topological and part of the traditional ones used to discredit enemies, but Adam's biography indicates that the allegations were not without some sub- stance. Adam goes to suchlengths to defend Adalbert from the accusations that it be- comes apparent the charges were taken se- riously. IfAdalbert himself was no sorcerer, he at least relied on magical advisors. Adam speaks of the entourage which Adalbert had accompany him at the court of Henry IVand laments the amount of money Add- bert threw away on them: "all of thismoney, it could have been twice asmuch, he wasted on unworthy people; jugglers, healers, ac- tors and their ilk" (111: 36). Among Add- bert's entourage were a number of diviners who counseled the archbishop: "in the com- pany of the Amhbishop there were yet other, false prophets. .." (111: 64). ToAdam's dismay, these prophets promised Adalbert longevity even though hisdays were num- bered. One ofAdalbert's favorites was Note- bald, who with hismagic arts(111: 63) had won pat influence over the bishop. Note- bald's abilities were apparently quite impressive, for even Adam grudgingly admit- ted that the diviner "indeed often predicted accurately for the Bishop . .."(111: 64).Although Adam laments the fact that Note- bald had so much influence over Adalbert, he did not condemn diviners in general. In fact, Adam disproved the prophecies of the false diviners with the counter-prophecy of a woman "who possessed the pythonic spiritn (111: 64).In spite ofhis denial ofAdd- bert's sorcery, Adam himself turned to su- pernatural advisors when it suited hisinterests. Adam's argumentation reveals that he, like Adalbert, was more tolerant of magic than his condemnations indicate.

Adalbert was not the only prominent

cleric seduced by the attractions of magic. John of Salisbury laments the widespread attraction of magic at court in his Poli-craticus.Thiswork, completed in 1159, is a handbook on proper government for court administrators and rulers. John based it on his experiences at the courts of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury and King Henry 11 of England. In the first two books of his work, John warns of the dangers and vices at court. He condemns the courtiers' exces- sive interest in hunting, gambling, music, actors, mimes, jugglers, and illusionists. Of greatest concern to John, however, aretheir frequent consultations with magicians. John's description and cataloguing of magi- cal practices is extensive and proceeds for several chapters. As an example, Chapt. 12 of Book I is called "Definitions of Enchant- ers, Wizards, Soothsayers, Prophets, Wtivoli,' 'Imaginarii,' Dream Interpreters, Palmists, Crystal-Seers, Astrologers, 'Salisatores,' Fortune Tellers, Augurs."l' John's condemnation of these practices follows the earlier criticisms of Isidore of Seville, St. Augustine, and Hrabanus Maurus. Be- cause of this extensive use of classical and patristic authorities, some scholars have questioned whether or not John is making use of a topos, rather than describing actual contemporary events. Helen Waddell, in her book The Wandering Scholars, com- ments that it is never clear whether John is describing the court of Henry I1 or that ofAugustus.18 Waddell's objectionhas been countered by Peters in his book The Magician, the Witch and the Law.Peters points out that in discussing magic, John had to describe magic as it existed in the tradition of Christian Literature.lg He argues that John used the classical and patristic au- thorities to condemn such practices all the more forcefullY?O The length and the vigor of John's condemnations of magic also indi- cate that the topic was a major concern for him,rather than just a topos.

The most prominent of the clerics John speaks of isThomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. John dedicated the Policraticus to his colleague and repeatedly addresseshim in the work. What kind ofmagic did Thomas dabble in? John's criticism gives us an idea. In reference to King Henry's invasion of North Wales in 1157, John reproaches Becket for consulting diviners about the outcome of the battle:

When the King's army was preparing to advance against the Snowdon Welsh, in what respect did the soothsayers, when consulted, give you warning to advance ...? Again, what has the palmist to offer when summoned and consulted? For at that crisis each, whoever he was, [sooth- sayer or palmist] who pramiced either art wasconsulted.As amatter of bct aRer the lapse of a few days, without warning, you lost your brother-in-law, who was your star, the son of morning as it were. The rest of it, which you know better thanI, I purposely pass in silence,since they, as a result of their lies, no longer deserve to be trusted. (11: 27)

Thisexample shows one of the main attrac- tions magicheld for courtiers: the possibility of influencing political events by predicting the future.21 Here, the need to foresee the unforeseeablein a critical wartime situation leads a clericas prominent asthehhbishop of Canterbury to seek magical assistance.

John of Salisbury's warning seems to have gone unheeded. In 1170, John wrote a letter to Becket, again reproving him for his consultations with diviners. Acting on the advice of diviners, Thomas had delayed sending off important letters. John wrote his friend, warning him that he had been 'deluded by soothsayings which were not of the Spirit," and again asked him to "renounce soothsayings in the future."22

Thomas Becket was not, however, the only cleric John knew to have dabbled in magic. In another chapter, John describes an experience from his own childhood. He relates the story of how a priest involved him in magical operations:

During my boyhood I was placed under

the direction of a priest, to teach me psalms. As he practiced the art of crystal gazing, it chanced that he after prelim- inary magical rites made use of me and a boy somewhat older, aswe sat at his feet, for his sacrilegious art, in order that what he was seeking by means of finger nails moistened with some sort of sacred oil or crism, or of the smooth polished surface of a basin, might be made manifest to him by information imparted by us. And so after pronouncing names which by the horror they inspired seemed to me, child though I was, to belong to demons, and after ad- ministering oaths of which, at God's in- stance, I know nothing, my companion as- serted that he saw certain misty figures, but dimly, while I was so blind to all this that nothing appeared to me except the nails or basin and the other objects I had seen there before. As a consequence I was adjudged useless for such purposes, and, as though I impeded the sacrilegious practices, I was condemned to have nothing to do with such things, and as ohn as they decided to practice their art I was ban- ished as if an obstacle to the whole proce- dure. So propitious was God to me even at this early age. (11: 28)

Was this incident simply concocted by John as a cautionary tale tof3ghten his audience? Evidence against such an interpretationcan be found in a 15th-century manuscript, Clm 849 in the Bavarian State Library in Mu- ni~h.~~

The Munich manuscript is a necro- mancer's manual containing detailed in- structions for magical operations. The method and purpose of one spell is identical to the ceremony John described. John's cleri- cal teacher was most probably a magician. John also mentions several other clerical ac- quaintances who practiced magic, and these accounts seem to indicate a rampant condi- tion at the court.24

John's warnings did not stem the me- dieval courts' desire for supernatural coun- sel. Magical advisors still played an impor- tant role at courts in the 13th century. A contemporary of Heinrich von dem Wlin was Michael Scot, imperial astrologer and physician of the emperor Frederick 11. Frederick employed him as his court as- trologer from about 1220 until Michael's death around 1235. While at the imperial court, Michael wrote the Liber introducto- rim, an introductory work on astrology, which he dedicated to the emperor. Oneexample of the astrological counsel he offered is as follows: We used to say to our lord, the Emperor Frederick: 'Lord Emperor, if you want clear counsel from a wise man, ask him while the moon is waxing and is furthermore in a human sign, fiery or aer- ial'."25 Michael also believed in the occult forces in nature and the hidden powers of words and numbers.26 According to him, astrology is not for poor people, but rather an aid to physicians, kings, barons, alche- mists, necromancers, and practitioners of the ars notori~.~~

He gives specific applica- tions of astrological precepts of special in- terest to the court. The hour of Saturn, for example, is not a good time for war, busi- ness, or going to a ruler in order to gain favor from In one manuscript of the Liber introductorius, the hour of Saturn is mentioned as favorable for planning decep- tion and fraud.29 In another example, Michael mentions a prince facing a rebellion. Astrologers consulted the positions of the stars and planets to determine the prince's chances of quelling the revolt.30

Michael Scot's writings also show a fa- miliarity with contemporary magic books and operations. He mentions necromantic works ascribed to Solomon and describes theircontents.31 Michael held that demons, although malevolent and treacherous figures, could be invoked and made to obey conjurations. He likewise emphasized the importance of astrology in conjurations and provided his readers with long lists of suit- able hours for such operations.32 In point of fact, Michael may have authored a book on magic, too. A 15th-century manuscript of experiments includes the Experimenturn Michaelis Scoti Nigr~mantici.~~

Although the extant manuscript postdates its author by two centuries, it was apparently copied from a much older manuscript. The work was dedicated to a certain Philip, who lay sick in the city of Cordova. Lynn Thorndike finds this dedication to support the authen- ticity ofthe document. He suggests that this Philip might have been Philip of Tripoli, a contemporary of Michael and the Latin Gansguoter still has his third castle, Madarp (27,205), in which he himselfresides. The magician is also lord over the territory surrounding Madarp, a land so de- sirable that he must constantly defend it from hostile neighbors (27,322-25).

Gansguoter is also lughly learned. Like

translator of the Secreturn secretor~rn.~~ the magicians John speaks of, he has been If

Thorndike is correct in his assumptions, then Michael Scot may have been not just Frederick's astrologer but his magician as well. Judging from the strong popularity and credence magic enjoyed at the court, Michael could well have found ample op- portunity to apply his interests.

In these historical accounts, a more or less uniform state of affairs emerges: a learned magician enjoys high standing at the court and plays an important role in its affairs.It is in the light of this background that we must see Gansguoter.

Gansguoter, like the historical magi- cians discussed above, is active at the court. He is a member of the nobility: Heinrich calls him at one point "ein vil guot kneht" (20, 381), i.e., "an excellent knightw (230) and, emphasizing his courtly refinement, "der hovesch Gansguotef (13, 035), "the courtly Gansguotef (145). After the death of Uther Pendragon, Queen Igern found Gansguoter to be a suitable husband. As Arthur's stepfather, he belongs to the inner circle of the Arthurian court.

Gansguoter's privileged social status is reflected by his material wealth. He pos- sesses (at least) three castles. The first is the one in which the magic bridle is kept. Gansguoter is wealthy enough to give it to his nieces Sgoidamur and Amurfina (13, 040-42). The bridle castle isnot the only one he gives away. Gansguoter built Castle Salie for his wife Igern. It is large enough to accommodate her daughter Orcades and granddaughter Clarisanz, along with 500 noble maidens. In addition to these castles, formally educated as a cleric. Heinrich in- troduces him as "ein pfde wol geErt" (13, 025), i.e., "a learned priest" (145).35 Other examples in the text further emphasize Gansguoter's (especially occult) knowl- edge.Hisfamiliarity with magicdowshim to protect his lands from hostile neighbors (27, 317). When Gansguoter accompanies Gawein and his companions insearch of the magic treasures, he must constantly coun- sel the kmghts on how to conduct them- selves. Only his superior magical ability saves them from death. As Heinrich states:

Daz ditz gesinde &genaz,
Von Gansguotern daz kam,
Der sie von dem kumber nam
Mit siner vil @zen kunst. (27,600-03)

But they survived because of Gansguoter, whose magic had brought them out of great peril. (309)

Gansguoter himself is aware that his great occult knowledge is essential for Gawein's success. He tells the knight:

Ez enmijhte ouch nieman hhgem
Wan der den list kiinde. (27,647E)

No one could have done it, continued Gansguoter, except he who knew the en- chantment.(309)

Magic in Diu CrGne is associated not only with knowledge and learning in gen- eral, but with specific scientific disciplines as well. At the beginning of the romance, a messenger visits Arthur's court with a magictankard.Although the messenger is himselfa fantasticcreature from a mythical land, he explains that the tankard was con- structed by a master magician educated in Toledo (1,090-95). This magician was able to construct the tankard, using the knowl- edge found in scientific books:

Die steine und die feitClre

Diu wart h e vunden

Von listen unkunden,

Die man fiz den buochen

Muoz mit kunsten suochen

Von ge6metrle

Und von astronode,

Die haben in ir kiinde

Himel und abgriinde

Mit listen gemezzen,

Swaz die h&n besezzen,

Des ist in niht vergezzen. (1,114-24)

The jewels and ornaments taxed the greatest power of rare arts that one must seek learnedly in books of geometry and astronomy, whose knowledge has sW- ly measured heaven and hell; what they have once known, they have never forgoti ten. (15)

The equation of magic with science and en- gineering was common during the Middle Ages. Pope Sylvester I1 and the poet Vergil were also thought to have constructed fan- tastic mechanical devices, including talking heads.36 Their interest in engineering fos- tered their reputations as magicians. Simi- lar devices were actually built by medieval engineers. The technology for suchautomata originated in antiquity. Philo of Byzantium andHero ofhandriahad written treatises on mechanical devices. Their technology was preserved in the East, and by the 10th century, reports of fantastic machines had made their way to Western Europe.Liutprand of Cremona visited the imperial court at Constantinople in 948, and againin 986. He was awestruckby the Throneofsolomon. A gilded tree with bronze birds that could sing in different pitches stood in front of the throne. Gilded lions with moving tails and ehtening roars guarded the throne, which itselfcould be raised or lowered.37 The tech- nology for constructing elaborate automata had beenbrought from the Orient to Western Europeby the 13th century38 ~hese fandid machines naturally attracted the interest of the courts, rulers with sufficient finances could have such machines built for their amusement. The constructors delighted in the amazement of their audiences and often took pride in having their stupendous engi- neering skills associated with magic. As late as the 15th century, engineers like Conrad Kyeser and Giovanni da Fontana devised mechanicalinventions which they purposely associated with

Gansguoter is also amaster engineer.40 He is the architect of histhree castles. The bridle castle isnot simply a fortification, but an extraordinary example of engineering. Heinrich himself calls it a "wundef (12, 967) and describes its architectural fea- tures in detail. Astone moat "der immer wol tilret" (12, 957), i.e., "that would last for- ever" (144), surrounds it, and it has walls smooth "als ein glad'(12,947), which make it impenetrable (12,946). The castle is also a masterpiece of construction. Its walls ro- tate continuously, making entry into the castle all but impossible (12, 961f.). Gans- guoter uses his knowledge of engineering to propel the walls. They are driven by a deep stream which flows underneath the castle (12,95841). Heinrich explicitlycom- pares their movements to a mechanical de- vice: "reht alsein miil, diu dA melt" (12,965), i.e., "just like a mill grinding grainw(144).

Gansguoter's castle Salie also owes its ma&icence to his occult skills:

Von nigromancie

HBt er ez gemachet

Und mit listen s6 besachet,

Daz ez nieman wol gewinnen kan.


He built it through necromancywith such

cunningthat no one can conquer it. (230)

Like the bridle castle, Salie isequipped with fantasticmechanical defenses. Aspecial sys- tem of 500 bows and crossbows protects it from intruders:

S6 man diu venster zuotet

S6 liezen sie nider ze stet
Beidiu senewen unde sme;
Wenne man sie ze keinem de
Wolte wider €iftuon,
Es waere urliuge oder suon,
Sie spienen sich aber sB ze hant.


When the windows were closed, the strings and arrows were at once relaxed, but when the windows were opened, whether in war or peace,they were drawn tight again.(227)

Gansguoterhas also constructed the magical bed which tests Gawein's virtue:

Einem bette, daz ze Salie
Hete von nipmantie
Ein pf&e gemachet. (8,30648).

A bed of great value that a priest of Salie made through magic-necromancy, indeed. (93)

Madarp, the third of Gansguobr's castles, is not specifically described as being built by necromancy, but the magician does use magicto defend it:

Er Ute an sin selbes lant
S6 gr6zen muber gewant
Mit alsolhen listen,
DB vor sich gevristen
Nirnmer mohte dehein man,
Obe er des hete wh,
Daz er dardurch wolte vam. (27,315-21)

With great arthe had placed his own land
under an enchantment that no one who
decided to ride through it couldeverwith-
stand. (306)

The magicis powefienough tokeep hostile giants at bay, even though they had already conquered ten other kingdoms (27,32731).

Gansguoter is not the only person in the romance who turns to magicalengineering. Other lords also rely on sorcery to defend their castles. When Gawein campaigns against the giant Assiles, he stops at Blan- dukors's castle. Blandukors is a vassal of Assiles and isconstantly subject tohislord's vlgL2ance. In order to find out who isat Blan- dukors's castle, Assiles resorts to a super- natural surveillance system. %in guoter nipmanticus" (7012)41 has constructed an iron figure which would inform the giant of any newcomers at the castle (7,00045).

Heinrich's equation ofmagicand science can help to explain the favorable presenta- tion of magic in Diu CrGne.Gansguoter, the chief sorcerer in the work, is described in very positive terms. His benevolence is already indicated in his name. Mentzel-Reuters has pointed out that, although the interpretation of Gansguoter as "der glinz- liche Gute" is linguistically problematic (none of the manuscripts use the variant "Ganzguoter" or "Gantzgu0ter"),4~ his sur- name Micholde "ist einwandfrei zudeuten als michd holde" (180). Heinrich's descrip- tions and Gansguoter's conduct bear out this interpretation. As mentioned pre- viously, he is "courtly," an "excellent knight," and "wise": characteristics of a model mem- ber of the nobility. When Gawein seeks him out to recover the treasures, Heinrich states that Gansguoter was

. . . ein ritter 6rbaere

Edel und gewizzen,

Und der sich gevlizzen

H&tan aller tugende

In daz alter von der jugende,

Und der sin hiit guot stat (27,223-28)

Since he was a wise and noble knight who had devoted himself to the practice of all virtue from youth to old age and was in a good position to do so. (305)

Gawein can go to the magician and receive the advice of a good friend (27,264f.l

Gansguoteis court shares its lord's benevolence. When Gawein explains Arthur's situation to them, they all condemn Fimbeus's actions:

Diu rede in allen misseviel

Und begunden alle sprechen,

Daz sie ir herze rechen

Solten, dazwaer michel reht;

Und jach d6manic guot kneht,

Daz er dar umbe wolte

Gernwggen, obe er solte,

Den lip dar umbe &mit in. (27,287-94)

Everyone was displeased at this treachery, saying that they certainly had a right to avenge their lord, and many a good knight declared that for this purpose he would gladly risk his life with them if he were permitted to do so. (306)

Like their lord, these servants are virtuous and will be reliable allies of the Arthurian court.

Gansguoter's magic is no more diaboli- calthan he is. Although potent and formi- dable, it is primarily used for defensive pur- poses. The sorcerer uses it to protect his territories from attack, and to defeat the hostile magic of Fimbeus. Although the magicdefenses in the first two castles result in the deaths of many knights who have attempted the adventures, they are de- signed to protect the bridle and the maiden of the castle Salie. Only a brave and virtu- ous knight has the right to gain the lands. Gawein, because he possesses both these qualities completely, succeeds in disen- chanting the castles.

Indeed, much of the magic in the ro- mance is used to test virtue. There are sev- eral episodes in it where the virtue of the Arthurian society isplaced under scrutiny. These include the aforementioned tankard episode, and also the glove probe (22,990- 24,719). Although the glove is sent by Gi- ramphiel in order to bring ruin to Arthur's court, its magic is in itself not malevolent. It reveals the virtue (or lack thereof) of its bearer, but that is dependent on the bearer's previous conduct. The glove does not in itself do any harm.

Other examples magicare value-neutral in themselves. The magic stone which guaranteed Fimbeus invincibility is perhaps the best example. Although Fim- beus is Gawein's mhenemy, his magic is also ~urely protective. It does not have any demonic influence on its owner. The goddess Girarnphiel gave Fimbeus the magic stone so that he could not be injured incom- bat. Once Gawein acquires it, he has no qualms about using it himself. Until Gi- ramphiel's knight steals it back, Gawein carries itwith him on all of his adventures. At no point does Heinrich or any of the characters in the romance criticize Gawein for using it.Magicis an accepted, and often necessary, form of supernatural help which characters repeatedly fall back upon.*

The acceptability of magic can help to explain its important role in Diu CrGne. Most of the characters in the romance rely repeatedly on supernatural help. Although it would go beyond the scope of this study to examine allthe instances of magic, it is helpful and pertinent to examine how it is used by the nobility. Indeed, magic in Diu Cr6ne also plays a vitalrole in politics. Rul- ers throughout the romance turn to it to stabilize their rule and defend their tenitories from the attacks oftheir enemies. The following examples will show how impor- tant and pervasive the political uses of magic are.

It has already been mentioned that Gansguoter uses magic to defend hiscastles from unvirtuous knights and the evil giants. But supernatural defenses are not op- tions restricted to wizards. The knight Laamon of Janfriiege also uses magic to protect his lands. Lady Siamerac warns Gawein of Laamorz's potent sorcery:

Und ist ein hGs starke guot

Und von zouber dbehuot,

Mit starken listen s8 gevrumt,

Daz kein ritter dar kumt

In einem jh den ziten,

Er miieze d6 stnin

Mit Laamon dem helde. (15,300-06)

-tJe is stately and is so pm-d by

,gic and by that

no fight come there at any seson

without having to earn his food and lodg-

ing by fighting the warrior Laamon.


Gawein can only defeat him by Qht'mg in hnt of the castle, beyond the range of its protective magic.

In the bridle episode, the feud between Sgoidamur and Amurfina arises from the seduction of magical legitimation. The al- lure of such power leads Amurfina to rob her sister of her rightfbl inheritance. The bridle is not the only magical aid Amuriina uses to maintain control of her lands. Once she has the bridle, she employs a number of potent supernatural devices in order to keep it in her possession.44 After Gawein visitsher, she repeatedly turns to magic in order to gain his undying devotion. First, she arranges for a "sliUtrinkenn (8,469), i.e., a 'sleeping potion,"45 to be brought to the knight. Having drunk the potion, Gawein is completely enamored of Amur-fina:46

Wan sin lip und sin gedanc

Wart im vil gar verMret

Und s6 herzecliche gesget

Daz im a1solhe wunden

Niht alle ente kunden

Geheilen mit erzde. (8, 474-79)47

For it produced an important change in him and wounded himso severely that all the physicians in the world could not have cured the knight with any medicine. (94)

Through magic, Am&a has secured the best knight as her husband, tested his feelingstowards her, and bound himinextricably to her. With Gawein on her side, the sta- bility of her rule and its continuation seem guaranteed.48~lthoughshe in the end loses the bridle to her sister, she still has Gawein as a husband.

King Arthur is another ruler who re- sorts to magic to maintain his power. Gawein, Arthur's best knight, uses Fim- beus's stone to help him win battles:

Den stein hiit er allewege
Bi ime in gewisser pflege,
Viir daz er in im an gewan
Und solher krefte dar an
Von der whheit enpfhnt. (14,976430)
He always kept the stone with him and guarded it carefidly because he had won it in battle and because it dy made him feel stronger. (170)

His victories bring great glory to Arthur's court.49

Arthur also has other magical devices which protect hiscourt. Lady Fortune has favored Arthurwith a special ring

. . . Daz sol ein zeichen sh

Aller dinge saelekeit:

Die wile ez Ut unde hit

Art&, s6 mac niht ze@n

Sin hof und muoz iemer s@n

Ganz von allen dingen. (15,912-17)

This shall be a sign of complete welfare. As long as Arthur wears it, his court shall be preserved from all that could harm it.


Although Arthur's court rose to success through knightly prowess rather than supernatural means, once Arthur hasthering, he indeed comes to rely on its magic. When Giramphiel's kmght captures the stone, ring, and gloves from the Round Table, he tells the bewildered court that the loss of these objects will doom them. Once Gawein hasrecovered the treasures, he immediately sends the gloves and the ringback to Arthur. After the grad quest, Gawein and Arthur keep these aids, thus perpetuating the court's dependence on magic.

Having examined the role of magic in Diu Crdne, I should now like to reconsider Ernst Dick's theory of disenchantment. Dick has stated that "the hero's way is con- sequently a progression from involvement in magic towards emancipation from magic" (137), and that in the final quest Gawein proves "himself superior to the forces of evil, not as a trickster-hero in pos- session of a lucky stone or magic arms, but asa (1) courageous, (2)virtuous, and above all, (3)self-reliant protagonist of (almost) real-world knighthood" (145).Dick's reading goes against the textual evidence. Were it not for Gansguoteis constant advice and magic aid, Gawein and his fellow knights would have perished before they had even reached the border of Fimbeus's lands. Gansguoteis magic continues to play a vital role even after he leaves the knights. His sleeping spell allows Gawein to disable Fimbeus's guards.

The weakness of Dick's argument lies in his rationalistic conception of magic. He sees its role in the romance as negative and feels that it must be overcome by virtue:

The essence of [Gansguoter's] assistance relies on the ideal of self-reliance. The ne glect of this ideal in favor of a continued reliance on the seductive promises of mag- ic has been largely responsible for Gi- ramphiel's hostility and hence for the crisis itself. (146)

While Giramphiel's hostility is due to her desire to retrieve her magic stone, it is her abuse of magic that makes her a negative character. Gawein used the same stone &r he had won it from Fimbeus, and did not "succumb to the seduction of magic." Magic can be abused for evil purposes, but it can always be defeated by benevolent sorcery. Magic and virtue arenot mutually exclusive but intertwined. Indeed, benevolent magic is an integral instmint of rule in 6u Cr6n.e. Like his fellow rulers, Arthur relies on it constantly in order to remain in power, and he shows no inclination of abandoning it. Ignoring the possibilities magic offers can only have disastrous effects onaruleis reign.

In the foregoing, I have tried to show how Heinrich's Cr6m reflects the irnpor- tant role of magic in medieval court society. One reason for the popularity of magic was the constant atmosphere of crisis at the court and the practical need to foresee the unforeseeable. The court was a fertile breeding ground for its practitioners, who promised advice and help for those unable or unwilling to succeed by their own skills and powers, from humble servant to pow- erful king. Another reason was that magic was often associated with liberal studies and science, thereby gaining a greater de- gree of legitimacy and acceptance. The pre- sentation of magic in Diu Cr6ne is consis- tent with these notions. Magicians are educated clerics, members of the nobility, and at home in the highest circles of the aristocracy. Their art is not diabolical, but is associated with science and technology and plays an important and positive role at court. It is in fact an integral part ofpolitical power, for a ruler must be able to defend his realm from hostile sorcerers, while at the same time be capable of using protective magic to maintain power. The ability to do this grants Gawein and the Arthurian court lasting prosperity. Important in both me- dieval romance and reality was ultimately the belief in the efficacy of magic and a willingness to practice it. The major role of ma- gicians in courtly literatureis but one indi- cation of the pervasiveness of magic beliefs and practices at the medieval court.


lM. O'C. Walshe has even described it as "somewhat disgusting"; cf. his Weinrich von dem Tiirlin, Chretien and Wolfram," Mediaeval German Studies Presented to Frederick Nor- man (London: U of London Institute of Ger- manic Studies, 1965) 204-18; here, 211.

2Afew of the recent works on the reevalua- tion of the Christian Middle Ages are:Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cam- bridge: Cambridge UP, 1990); Gabor Klaniczay, me Uses of Supernatural Power, trans. Susan Singerman (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1990); Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline ofMag- ic, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971); John Van Engen, "The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem," American Historical Review 91 (1986): 51962.

3E. K. Heller, 'AVindication ofHeinrichvon dem Tiirlin, Based on a Survey of His Sources," MLQ 3 (1942): 67-82; Rosemary Wallbank, 'The Composition of Diu Kione: Heinrich's von dern Tiirlin Narrative Technique," Medieval Miscel1any:Presented to Eugene Vinaver by Pu- pils, ColZeagues and Friends, ed. F. Whitehead (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1965) 300-19; C. Corxneau, Wigalois und Diu Cr6ne: Zwei &pi-

tel zur Gattungsgeschichte desnachklassischen Aventiureromans (Munich: Artemis, 1977).

*Jessie Weston, The Legend of Sir Gawain: Studies upon Its Original Scope and Signifi- cance, (1897; rpr. New York AMS Press, 1972); here, chapt. 5, "The Magic Castle," 3243; Therese Holliinder, 'Wingsor: Eine stoffgeschichtr liche Untersuchung" (Diss. Vienna, 1927); Wolfgang Golther, Panival und der Gral in der Dichtung des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1925); L.L. Boll, The mation of Diu Krone ofHeinn'ch von dern lEirZin to LaMule sanz FAxA Study in Sources, (1929; rpr. New York AMS Press, 1970); Irma Klarmann, Weinrich von dern Tiirlin: Diu Cram: Untersuchung der Quellen" (Diss. 'ISibingen, 1944); Walshe, "Heinrichvon dern Tiirlin, Chre- tien and Wolfram"; Ralph Read, "Heinrich von dern 'IYirlin's Diu Krane and Wolfram's Pami- val," MLQ 35 (1974): 12949; Ernst Dick, "The Hero and the Magician: On the Proliferation of Dark Figures from Li Contes del Grd and Par- zival to Diu Crane," The Dark Figure in Medie- val German and Germanic Literature, ed. E. R Haymes and S. C. Van D'Elden (Gijppingen: Kiimmerle, 1986) 128-60.

5Lewis Jillings, Diu Crdne of Heinrich von dern 'Itirlin: The Attempted Emancipation of Secular Narrative (Gijppingen: Kiimmerle, 1980).

6Arno Mentzel-Reuters, Woude: Artusbild, Fortuna- und Gralkonzeption in der "Crane"des Heinrich von dern lEirZin als Verteidigung des hofischen Lebensideals (Frankfurt: Lang, 1989).

7The association of magic with technology is, aswe shall see later on, one of several important factors necessary for understanding Gansguoter's sorcery, and itis unfortunate that Mentzel-Reuters does not follow up this obser- vation.

8?kzanslations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from: Heinrich von dern Tiirlin, The Crown:A 'Bde of Sir Gawein and KingArthur's Court, trans. J. W. Thomas (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989).

9Dickis correct, however, when he says that Gansguoteis role seemsto be increasingly that of a mentor (146). As will become apparent, Gansguoterisvital in leading the knights safe ly to their adversaries. The knights survive only because of Garsguoter's help.

loEdward Peters, TheMagician, the Witch and the Law (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1978) 113.

"For a detailed discussion of the unofficial members of the court, see Peters 112-25; also, see Joachim Bumke, Hifiche Kdtur (Munich: Deutscher 'hschenbuch Verlag, 1986) 48-61, 76-78.

lzWormser Hofrecht, art. 30. Cited in Qd- Zen zur deutschen Verfassungs-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte bis 1250,ed. L. Weinrich, hm Ausgewahlte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters: Beiherr vom Stein Gediichtnisausgabe, vol. 32 (Darmstadt: Wis- senschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977) 10042.

'3See also C. Stephen Jaeger's chapter "Criticism of the Court", 54-66 in his The On'gins of Courtliness (Philadelphia: U of Pennsyl- vania P, 1985), especially the sections on ambi- tion and intrigue; Peters 112-25.

l%lho examples are theLiber sacer and the Picatrix, described in Lynn Thorndike, History ofMagic andEwperimental Science, vol. 11(New York Macmillan and Columbia UP, 1923-68) 279-89 and 813-24, respectively.

15Peters 117-19.

"All quotes am taken from the following edition: Adam of Bremen, History of the Arch- bishops of Hamburg-Bremen, trans. Francis 'khan (New York Columbia UP, 1959). For the Latinoriginal, seeAdam von Bremen, Hambur- gische Kirchengeschichte, ed. Bernhard Schmeidler,3rd ed., MGH, SSrec germ. in us. schol., vol. 2 (1917; rpt. Hannover and Leipzig: Hahn, 1977).

"All quotes are hm John of Salisbury, fivolities of Courtiers andFootprints ofPhilos- ophers Policraticus), trans. Joseph B. Pike (Minneapolis:U of Minnesota P, 1938). For the Latinedition, see Johannis Saresberiensis epis- copi Carnotensis policratici sive de nugis curia- lium et vestigiis philosophorum libri VIII, ed.

C. C. I.Webb, 2 vols. (Oxfmd:Clarendon, 1909).

18H. Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1947; rpt. London: Constable, 1968) xisnoted by Peters 47.

'Vetms 47.
201bid. 60, h.49.

21The possibility of divining the hture is still a strong temptation for politicians. The Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mac- Kenzie King(1874-1950, Prime Minister 1921- 1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948) regularly con- sulted spirits; more recently, Ronald Reaganorganized summit meetings according to his horoscope.

22Patrologia Latina 345f., translated by Thorndike in History of Magic 11: 167.

230bserved by Kieckhefer 151.

24For a more detailed discussion of clerical magicians, see Kieckhefeis chapter We- mancy in the Clerical Underworld," 151-75.

25Quoted and translated in Lynn Thorn-dike, Michael Scot (London: Nelson and Sons, 1965) 94.

26Ibid. 116. 27Munich, Staatsbibliothek, cod. lat. 10268, col. 15vb, 16ra. Quoted in Thorndike 92. ZgMunich, Staatsbibliothek, cod. lat. 10268, col. 10vb. Quoted in Thorndike 99. 29Paris, Biblioth'que Nationale, nouv. acq. latin 1401, col. 11%. Quoted in Thorndike 99. 30Paris, Bibliothque Nationale, nouv. acq. latin 1401, col. 9%-100r. Quoted in Thorndike

104. 31Ibid. 120. 3%hmich, Staatsbibliothek cod. lat. 10268,

col.108va4. Quoted in Thorndike 117. 33Florence, Laurentian Library, Plut. 89 sup., cod. 38, for. 244v. Quoted in Thorndike

121. 34Ibid. 121. 35In contrast to Merlin, who acquired his

supernatural knowledge from his demonic fa- ther, magicians in medieval German literature arealmost alllearned clerics. Malducis wb, (7, 535,364) and culls his magic from swarzen buo- chen (7,357); cf. Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, Lan- zelet, ed. K. k Hahn (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1965). Clinschor is 'ein pWe, der wol muber lass (66, 4), while Cundrie is fluent in several languages and has studied the liberal arts(312,19-25); cf. von Eschenbach, Panival, trans. W. Spiewok(Stuttgart: Reclam, 1981). Roaz builds marvels of engineering similar to the kind fash- ioned by clerics (1,048f.); cf.Wirnt von Graven- berg, Wigdois, der Ritter mit dem Rude, ed. J.

M. N. Kapteyn (Bonn: Klopp, 1926). Dedelus is a wiser mister (10,861), whose magicis swart- zen buoche kunst (10, 877); cf. Johann von Wiirzburg, Wilhelm von ~sterreich, ed. Ernst Regel (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1906).

36For more information on medieval leg- ends about Pope Sylvester, see Ignaz von Dol- linger, Die Papstfabeln desMittelalters (1895; rpt. Darmstadt WissenschaRliche Buchgesellschaft, 1970). On Vergil, see Domenico Compa- retti, Virgil in the Middle Ages, txans. E. F. M. Benecke (London: Sonnenschein, 1895). Also useful is M. Sherwood's "Magic and Mechanics in Medieval Fiction," Studies in Philology 44 (1947): 567-92.

3Wlliam Eamon, %chnology as Magic in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance," Janus 70 (1983): 175.

S8Kieckhefer 101.

39Eamon 186-91.

@Magic is often associated with engineering in medieval German literature. Lanzelet has a magic tent with a golden eagle that floats atop it (4,786), and images on its sides which canbe moved by the wind (4,891-95). Clinschor is the architect of hisschastel marveile and the lit murveile (658,lgf.). Roaz designed his castle, (7,08lf.), his wife's heral casket(8,242f.), her crypt (8,317f.), and the deadly wheel guarding his castle (6,780-82). Johann von Wiinburg's Vergil is the creator of a magic chair for King Melchinor (4, 978f.), and his Merlin has built two mechanical dragonswhich terrorize Queen Crispin's kingdom (11,88044).

41Co~ldthis magician be Gansguoter? Although the magician is not named, his engi- neering skills are similar to Gansguoter's. If they are the same, then this is yet another ex- ample of Gansguoter's technical mastery.

42Mentzel-Re~ters179f.His interpretation is narrow and pedantic. The name does not have to follow the rules of linguistic change. Its anomalous form comes from a poets imagination, not bm naturaldevelopment.

43Heinrich's use of the miraculous reflects a very liberal understanding of supernatural powers. There is almost no Christian influence in the romance. For a detailed examination of Heinrich's religious views, see Jillings's chap- ter 'Secularism inDiu Crane" in his Diu CrGne of Heinrich von dem lEirlin 185-221.

"Since Heinrich never calls Amurfina a sorceress or says that she worked any of the magic herself, it is not unreasonable to assume that she received these aids from Gansguoter, her uncle.

45My translation. Thomas translates it with "nightcapw (94), which I feel does not cap- ture the magical sense of the original.

46Gawein was already in love with Amurfi- na before he drankthe potion. Yet Amurfina's use of the potion as a safeguard shows her calculating nature. Having found Gawein, she is not content to let her natural charms work. She uses magic to assure herself of his love.

47Although Gawein is now hopelessly smit- ten with Amurfina, she still has more super- natural devices which will determine Gawein's suitability ashusband. When Gawein is in bed with Amurfina, a magic sword tests his in- tentions towards her (8, 52430). After he swears his fidelity, she gives him yet another love potion to finally bind him to her (8, 65458).

481f Amurfina had told himof her bridle before Sgoidamurs enlisted his help, Gawein would never have entered intoSgoidamur's ser- vice. Amurfina's secrecy caused her to lose the bridle.

49Examples include the rescue of Guinevere hm Gasozein and the recovery of Arthur's magic treasures.

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