Traversing the Boundaries of Language: Multilingualism and Linguistic Difference in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Willehalm

by Kathryn Starkey
Traversing the Boundaries of Language: Multilingualism and Linguistic Difference in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Willehalm
Kathryn Starkey
The German Quarterly
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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Traversing the Boundaries of Language: Multilingualism and Linguistic Difference in WoIfram von Eschenbach's Willehalm.

Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11.9

man mohte iewedernthalben sin,

dar zuo vor imunde hinden,

vil @zer stoje vinden,

mit der sprkhe ein ander garunkunt.

dtl vuor manec sunder munt,

der niht wesse, waz der ander sprach,

ob er erge oder giiete jach.

Willehalm, 399,2430'

In Wolfram von Eschenbach's heroic epic Willehalm the narrator describes the final battle between Saracensand Christians on the field of Alischanzas a microcosm of the multilingual world created by God's destruc- tion of the tower of Babel. In the passage from the epic cited above, the confusion of languages evokes the auditory chaos re- counted in the story of Genesis: the sounds of various battle cries fill the airin the multiple languagesspoken by the combatants; hea- then cannot be distinguished from Chris- tian, nor friend from foe; allcommunication breaks down into a cacophony of mutually unintelligiblelanguages.An environment of such linguistic diversity, the narrator implies above, is fraught with problems of communi- cation and recognition.

At first glance, the story of Willehalrn falls into the generic category of heroic epic, but it also contains elements of a legend and of a saint's life.2 It is the German version of the F'rench chanson BatailledlAliscans,and it tells the story of two great battles fought by the Margrave Wdehalm of Oransche against the onslaught of immense heathen armies. As the storycommences, the hea- thens arepursuing the hero in retaliation for his escape from captivity in Arabia and for his abduction of his captor's wife Arabel, who hasconverted to Christianity, been bap tized as Gyburg, and married Wdehalm. When Wdehalm's army is overwhelmed, he isforced to seek out support from KingLoys of the Roman Empire.Duringhis brief and conflict-ridden stay at the imperial court, which ultimately results in his achieving the necessary support, Willehalm encounters Rennewart, a heathen boy of superhuman strength who agrees to fight for him against the heathen armies. Loys informs Wdehalm that he purchased the boy from two mer- chants, and that although he is of noble birth, he is banished to the kitchens because he refuses to convert to Christianity. Only the audience is aware that Rennewart is Gyburg's brother. With Rennewart's help, the Christians ultimately overcome the hea- then armies led by Gyburg's father Terra- mer and her former husband Tybalt. On the face of it, the story of Willehalm thus pres- entsuswith a conflict between Saracensand Christians in which Christianity ultimately reigns triumphant.

Seventy-eight extant manuscripts and fragments of the poem bear testimony to an

The German Quarterly 75.1 (Winter 2002) 20

active medieval reception of the story. Indeed, in the entire corpus of medieval Ger- man vernacular literature, the number of Willehalrn manuscripts is superceded only by the number of Panivalmanuscripts. Me dieval extensions and reworkings of the tale mher attest to a sustained interest in the poem. From the thirteenth through the Wteenth century, Wolfram's Willehalrn ap- pears in codices beside heroic and spiritual tales. It is co-opted into chronicles,such as Heinrich von Miinchen's Weltchmnik and, from the end of the thirteenth century on, it is most frequently embedded in a trilogy, pro- viding the centerpiece between a prelude by Ulrich von dem Tiirlin Olmbel) and a contin- uation by Ulrich von Tiirheim(Rennewart). The fact that Wolfram's Willehalrn is the most frequently and richly illustrated text in the medieval Germanvemadar tradition is further evidence of its tremendous popular- ity.3

Although for many years largely ignored, in the last decade a resurgence of interest in Willehalrn has resulted in productive schol- arly debate on many of the thematic and structural elements of the poem. One of the striking features of WilZehalrn neglected in scholarship, however, is the emphasis on for- eign language and linguistic difference, an emphasis that draws attention to the inter- actions of the charaders rather than to the events of the plot. Scholarship addressing foreignness in Parzival and Willehalrn has typically focused on the representation of the heathens, on Wolfram's useof orientalia and loan words, and on the implications of the foreign references for Wolfram's education and his Indeed, despite its perva- siveness in Willehalrn, no one has looked at the representation of foreign language or the role played by linguistic difference through- out the text.

Wofiam refers to foreign languages on many occasions throughout Willehalrn. The characters in the fable speak a wide variety of languages including French, German, Eng- Willehalrn, Gyburg, and Rennewart, are even multilingual and have occasion to use their linguistic skills in the poem. Spe- cifically,Wdehalm's ability to speak "hea- then" is key to the plot development, for he wins his greatest ally, Rennewart, by ad- dressinghim in his mother tongue. Linguis- tic difference also becomes an issue on the meta-level of the text in exchanges between the narrator and the implied audience. The self-conscious narrator makes his audience aware that he speaks Fbnch and German and draws attention to his position as a translator of the French source.Foreignlanguage is thus thematically important inboth the narrative frame and in the story itselfin the interactions between characters. Finally, we are informed three times that there are seventy-two languages spoken in the world

(73,7; 101,22; 450,20).

Wolfram draws on certain literary conventions in his references to foreign lan- guages: heathens are generally portrayed as speaking an incomprehensible language, narrators commonly present themselves as translators, and the notion that the linguis- tic world was divided into seventy-two lan- guages was commonplace in the Middle Ages. In contrast to his contemporaries, however, Wolfram does not reproduce these linguistic references as tropes,but rather ex- plores the notions behind the stereotypes in an unconventional manner. Wolfram's ap- parent interest in foreign language and com- munication invites the audience to recon- sider its assumptions about linguistic differ- ence. This paper examines the charaders' interactions across linguistic barriers: first, the exchanges between Christian and Sara- cen armies on the battlefield; and second, the multilingual negotiations of the three main characters. Key to Wolfram's differentiated portrayal of language is the development of two narrative levels: the level of the fable and the narrative frame in which the narrator steps forward and addresses his audiencedirectly with his own interpretation of the

lish, adisch, Mis, &, and heide~ch.~ events. Third, therefore, this paper looks at The three central figures of the story, the figure of the narrator who emphasizes

the barriers created by linguistic difference while drawingthe audience's attention to its reliance on translation. Finally,the paper examines the notion of the seventy-two lan- guagesasitisconceived both in the fable and on the level of the narrator.

I argue that Wolfram recognizes the problems inherent to linguistic differences implicit in the tropeson which he draws. At the same time, however, he presents us with a society inwhich linguistic difference issurmountable, indeed inconsequential. In Wdlehalm,Wolfram breaks down the stereo- types of Otherness associated with foreign languageand presents us with a more toler- ant and universal society capable of travers- ing the boundaries of language. Hisreferences to foreign languagesand linguistic difference not only provide a lens through which to view the poem, but hisconcernsare also highly contemporary and are shared by hisfellowGermanpoets and by theologians.

I: Traversingthe 
Boundaries of Language 

Two great battles between Christians and heathens take place in the fable in which the narrator calls attention to the multiple languages of the combatants, the foreign voices, and their unintellqgbility. These battles frame the fragmenb-the fable starts in the thick of battle asthe Christian army led by Wdehalm isoverwhelmed by the heathen army It breaks off with the resolution of the second battle during which Wdehalm re- turnsthe corpses of the fallen heathens to their home countries for burial and extends an offer of peace to Terramer. At thebeginningand the end of the textthe narrator recallsBabel in his violent descriptions of the men scattered across the field of Alischanz ayhg out in their various tongues. The narrator's assessment of these battles is, however, not the only perspective presented in the text.The charadem describe their own experiences of the two battles in terms that cast a much different light on the interac- tions between the diverse armies. In con- trast to the narrator, the charadem present their actions as organized and recognize a clear structure in the battle strategies of their opponents. Moreover, they areable to communicate with one another despite the linguistic barriers.6

The narrator describes how the Chris- tian troops soon become divided among the overwhelming masses of foreign language speakers on the field: "von iiberlast der heiden Iden sigescheidenIunder mange unkunde spriiche" (39,2-5). At the end of the first battle, "maneger zungen sprlche " (106,20) change their tone as they join in mourning the death of the heathen kings Arofel and Tesereiz. ARer the second battle, heathens and Christians alike mourn the fallen warriors: "maneger zunge sprlche klage / dl rewurben vil ze klagene Iund dl heime n6t ze sagene" (450,1214). The narrator even describes the impending danger of the heathen onslaught in linguistic terms:

der MtTerram6r

mit manegem richem kiinege her

wolte bringen a1die sprbhe

Qf den stuol hin'z Ache

und dannen ze Rame viieren. (450,21-25)

The narrator thus represents the hea- thens asa linguistic threat aswell as a militaryone. The image of the battlefield is one of auditory chaos, emphasized through the repeated references to the many languages spoken and to the mutual unintebbility of theselanguages.It iscurious, therefore, that Christians and heathens communicate re markably well even without knowledge of a foreign language.

Despite the narrator's claim that many a man "niht wesse, waz der ander sprach/ ob er erge oder giiete jach" (399,29-30), the char- acters manage to communicate across languagebarriers to attack opponents, defend the allied troops, parry,and finally to negoti- ate peace. Both heathens and Christians make use of conventional courtly forms of communication: clothing, gestures,symbols, indeed all kinds of visualcues and forms of public representation. They also communi-whose entrances are both accompanied by cate using their voices. the burst of trumpets, drums and tambou-

In what Joachirn Bumke refers to as a rines. war of words, the opponents set aside the po-Intermingled with the sound of instru- litelanguageof the court and attack one an- ments and the clash of weapons, voices re-other with insults and a~~~~ations.~ sound acrossthe field and intensify the sen-

As he

views the men fightingbefore himduringthe first battle, Terramer, for example, cries out:

von taverne ingesinde,

von salsen suppierren

sich Rbalt mum vierren

von sinem wibe und alle ir kint,

die hie durh rehte r&&e sint. (44,12-19)

Willehalm responds some lines later:

ir gun6rten Mm,

ob Mu hunde und swin

iuch triiegen und db zuo diu wip,

susmanegen werlichen Ifp,

viir w& moht ich wol sprechen doch,

daz iuwer ze vil waere dannoch. (58,15-20)

If the narrator is to be believed, however, these insults are not understood by the op- ponent; the narrator states explicitly that the warriors did not understand one an- other (399,28-301.~ The men's voices nonetheless serve a communicative func- tion in the battle.

The insults become part of a system of sounds that is meanmghl in the context of battle for both the allied troops and the oppo- sition. In the fable, the insults function like the other sounds brought by the two armies into battle, such as the beating of drumsand the blowing of horns. They communicate power and strength, are intended to terrify the enemy, and rally the men together for the next round of fighting9 In Willehcrlm,the sounds of trumpets initiate the rush of both armies onto the battlefield. The text reads "6man sluoc ode stach, /dAwas von businen krach I und ouch von maneger tarnbiir" (12,27-29).1° The burst of trumpets also announces the arrival of a fresh troop. Ter- ramer, for example, arrives on the battlefield to the sound of trumpets (390,28-29). He is followed shortly thereafter by King Tenabri (400,15-20), and later King Purrel (427,140, sory experience of the battle. On the one hand, the noise on the battlefield contrasts with the controlled auditory environment of the court." Courtly speech is exchanged for insults and accusations, and music is re- placed by the cacophony of sounds.* On the other hand, the noises produced by the two armies make use of their own codes of com- munication. Rather thanrepresent a sign of alterity,the foreign voices work accordingto rulesrecognizedby both opponents and fulfill a representative function on both sides.

In addition to insults and the noise created by various instruments, the men corn- municate battle cries. Inthe battal- ion led by the heathen King: Crohir of Oupatrie,-for example, the n&ator comments that many different battle cries were to be heard ("maneger slahte Me / sol man haeren in sime her" [359,6-71). Similarly, when Terramer's regiment comes rushing onto the battlefield, the men bring numer- ous different battle cries with them into the flurry ("maneger slahte kreigieren / si brachten mit in in den sturm" [401,2-31). The narrator further comments:

ine mac niht wol benennen gar

allen den ruoR der heiden sunder scha.,

waz si kragierten

s8 si pungierten. (372,14)

The narrator tells us that the onslaught of the heathens is accompanied by many cries in different voices. The heathens scream in different languages as they call out across the battlefield ("vil schiere Qz manegen ddnen I si schrieten, Qz maneger sprbche" [396,20-211). The Christian armies similarly enter into the fray with their various battle cries (397,621). The Christians' final victory is marked by tri- umphant voices resounding over the field:

der sehs herzeichen ruof, 
die man's morgens den getodn schuof, 
wart etswfi nQ vergezzen, 
d6 mit swerten was gemezzen 
diu schunpfentiure dwit, d@z. 
man h6rt dfi rnangen niuwen d6z: 
swannen ie der man was benant, 
als6schrei er a1zehant 
in viirten und fif phe. (437,l-9) 

Similar to the use of insults, the battle cries are part of a system of representation for the battalions. They, too, are a sign of power and strength. In the first battle, the noise of trumpets and drums created by the heathens is contrasted with the silence of the Christians whose numbers have dwindled. Willehalm despairs: "miner mhge kraft nii siget, / sit sus ist geswiget /Monschoi, unser krie" (39,9-11). At the same time, the heathens' battle cries are loud enough to bring lion cubs to life ("und der heiden ruof s6 lilt erhal, / es mohten lewen welf genesen" [40,4-51). The affili- ation with a particular battle cry and the strength with which it is called out in- dicate to both allies and enemies the strength of the troops and their identity.

Like the crash of instruments and the voices raised in insult and abuse, the battle criescanbe deciphered by the opposing army and they provide important information for the warriors. Before the start of the second battle, Terramer's sentry hears the battle cries of the Christian armies. He reports back to Terramer:

ieslicher schare krie 
hih ich besunder dort geh6rt. 
des riches vane haldet dort: 
die riiefent de 'Rennewart' 
daz geh6rt ich nie m6r Qf ir vart. 


Based on the battle cries he has heard, Terramer asksthe scout whether King Loys is among the knights (337,14-17). The bat- tle cries thus provide information about the identity of the warriors, and they have a history that carries over from battle to battle. Moreover, the identifying cries of the troops allow us to trace different battle strategies. In both battles, asMartinH. Jones has dem- onstrated, the two armies struggle to remain unified and the winning army isthe one that manages to do so.* Although the narrator describes the division of the Christians dur- ing the first battle of Alischanzonly in terms of linguisticunintelligibility,the failure to remain en mse represents a fatal develop ment in their battle strategy. The many bat- talions are thus not only described in terms of their dress, weapons, and willingness to fight, but also interms of the noises they pro- duce. The battle cries arean important form of communication that function on the basis of a shared system of oral communication. Both armies transmit information about their strength, their strategy and their lead- ers' identity despite linguistic differences emphasized by the narrator.

Wolfram's narrator takes a conventional attitude toward the voices of the heathens when he claims that their languages are incomprehensible, and emphasizes the lin- guistic differences between the many cultures represented on the battlefield. Yet, the fable actually presents us with a multilin- gual world where no one languageisaesthetically or communicativelyprivileged.For the c-rs, linguistic difference is not at is- sue in the exchanges on the battlefield.


While the narrator frames the fable with references to the threat of foreign languages and emphasizes problems caused by linguis- tic differences, three figures in the story are actually multilingual. Willehalm, his wife Gyburg, and her brother Rennewart can speak French and at least one heathen lan- &age. The narrator claims that Willehalm learned two heathen languages, chaldeis and coati, while imprisoned by Gyburg's for- mer husband, Tybalt, in Arabi (192,6-9). Similarly, Rennewart was taught French by the merchants who captured himas a child (283,21-22). The poem does not tell us how Gyburg learns to speak French, but she is clearly able to function within the poem's court society and must therefore havemastered the language. Differing from his source, WoIfram designs the interactions between these characters to allow them to switch between French and heathen lan- guages. In contrast to his source text,he presents multihguabm asa crucial skill in the negotiation of relationships between characters.

Specific references to the languagesused for communication between the main characters draw attention to their ability to cross linguistic boundaries. The poem tells us explicitly that Gyburg reverts to "heathen" on one occasion to establish the identity of an approachmg knight whom she perceives as Saracen. While waiting for Wdehalm's return with reinforcements, Gyburg sees the knight approaching the castle alone and challenges him in her mother tongue. The knight isWdehalm himself,but his appearanceismisleadingbecausehe is stillwearing the heathen armor acquired from King Arofel in battle and is seatedastride Volatin, Arofel's horse. As Willehalm approaches, he callsup to the battlements and, neglecting to identify himself, he asks whether Queen Gyburg is still alive (228,6). The queen, wearing armor to disguise herself from the heathens, looks down at the approaching warrior and challenges him:

diu kiinegfnGiburc db ersach

den wApenroc unt Volath.

her ab sprach diu kiinegfn

heidensch: 'herre, wer sit ir,

daz ir sus fie haldet mir

unt daz he wide tuot?

ir habt alze hbhen muot.

ir muget's wol schaden enpfAhen'.


Gyburg thus examines Willehalm's appear- ance before addressing him. Her use of the heathen language constitutes a response to visual codes-she reacts to Willehalm's attire and to the appearance of his horse. Willehalm responds to her challenge in the following manner:

ich wil iu viirbaz den

unt kiinddcher werden kurc.

ei, w&ist diu kke Giburc?

saget mir,ist diu noch geaunt?14


Whether he speaks "heathen" or French is left open, but Willehalm's response clearly demonstrates that he has understood his wife's heathen words. Gyburg finally looks beyond the misleading visual signs and, recognizing Willehalm's voice ("von siner stimme wart in kunt" 228,22), lets him into the stronghold.

In the French sourcetext, the Batailk d'Aliscans,Guibourc does not revert to "hea- then" in this,or in any other scene. Instead, when Guillaurne returns to Orange he sees Guibourc and addresses her directly, identi- fying himself and telling her not to fear (405M1).15Guibourc responds that many men look and sound alike, and demands to seeher husband'sscarrednoseasproof of his identity (4063-9). In Wilkhdm, the specific reference to Gyburg's choice of the heathen languagein this situation,aswell asthe fact that Gyburg recognizes Willehalm's voice are innovations by Wolfram that are signifi- cant in light of the emphasis placed on languages and voice throughout the poem. Although the shift in languages alone changes very little in the development of plot, the scene draws the audience's attention to the interactions between characters and en- courages it to rethink the conventional no- tion of the unintelligibility, indeed the insurmountable Otherness of the heathen language(~).

Although Willehalm's choice of language isnot speufied in the scene described above, he does speak "heathen" on a few occasions in the poem. At Munleun,Wdehalm notices the young boy Rennewart in the courtyard and inquires about him. Rennewart is brought inside, and Wdehalm £irstgreetshim in French, which Rennewart pretends not to understand. Determined to communicate with the boy, Wdehalrn addresses himin the two heathen languages he knows and conse- quently receives quit.a different response:

der marcgr$ve d&ze stunde

sprach kaldeis und heidenach z'im.

'die We sphh ich wol vernim,'

susant& im der knappe d6. (192,22-25)

In the Bataille d 'Aliscans, Guillaume does not need to revert to a heathen language to elicit a response from Rennewart who im- mediately volunteers to fight in the Chris- tian army (3332-41; 3355-69). In Wolf- ram's version of the tale, by contrast, it is Willehalm's linguistic abilities that win him his greatest ally in the ensuing battle. Here again, linguistic difference does not represent a barrier to communication. In fact, the use of a foreign language has positive implications for establishing ties across cultural boundaries, and it also en- sures military victory.

Willehalm's linguistic skills are men- tioned for the first time on his return to Oransche after the first battle. Willehalm has just dressed himself in Arofel's armor and is heading home, followed by his horse, Puzzat. All the roads to Oransche are filled with heathens, but Willehalm makeshisway through the crowds, confident in his dis-


der dve einer kiinste pflac,

daz sin munt wol heidensch sprach;

sin schilt was heidensch, den man d&sach;

sin ors was heidnisch, daz er reit;

a1siniu wipenlichiu kleit

gevuort der heiden lant. (83,18-23)

Willehalm, at first glance, seems to have the perfect disguise. He not only appears heathen, but he sounds heathen, too. When he rides through the troops of Poid- jus of Griffane, however, he runs into trou- ble. First the heathen knights notice the gear on the injured horse, and then Wille- halm's dress attracts attention:

si pruofbn ein gereite,

daz fif dem wundem orse lac,

und eines sites, des er pflac,

daz er ein klein belzelin (daz selbewas lieht hermin)

an z&h,dar ob er wipen truoc

(des belzelins ein @re sluoc

hinden iibern satelbogen);

und d6 Puzziit viir unbetrogen

6eben zogt iif her s&

des bekanden in die heiden dii. (84,2030)

Since Puzzat follows the knight so faith- fully, and since the ermine garment is French in origin, the heathens conclude that the knight is Christian.

Despite the narrator's reference to Willehalm's abilities to speak "heathen", he does not speak to the heathens in the scene de scribedabove. In the &rtaille d'Aliscans,by contrast, Guillaume explicitly lies to the heathens, telling them that he has killed Guillaume d'Orange and is planning to build an armyto attack Guibourc's strong- hold (1422-24). Similarl~ when Willehalm departs from Oransche to fetch reinforce- ments, Wolfram's narrator statesonly: "in nert ouch, daz er heidnisch sprach"(105,271. In the parallel passage from Bataille d'AZiscans, Guillaume lies blatantly to the Saracens in their own tongue. He identifies himself as the heathen warrior Aerofles and explains that he is scouting the countryside (2055-2059). Willehalm's silence in these scenesisan innovation by Wolfram and pres- ents the use of foreign languagein the story rather differently from his source.First, in Wolfram's Willehalm, the heathen language is less central to the interactions between Willehalrn and the heathens, who act on the basis of what they seeand not on the basis of a verbal exchange with the hero. Second, by de-emphasizing the heathen language in Willehalm's encounters with the Saracens, and by incorporating it into the exchanges with Rennewart and Gyburg, the heathen language is presented asa positive medium of interaction that enables communication between the protagonists.

In all the multilingual scenes described above, Wolfram thus redesigns the charac- ters' interactions, so that foreign langua@s and foreign voices actually function asprodudive communicative media. Willehalm, Rennewart, and Gyburg have the ability to usetwo or morelangwqps and, in contrast to the narrator's image of chaos and his allusion to Babel, heathen and Christian languages function side by side. The knowledge of foreign lam, moreover, establishes a connection between these characters. All three traverse linguistic boundaries and can function within both heathen and Christian culture. Their apparent ease in negotiating culturalboundaries contradicta the implica- tion by the narrator that these boundaries areinsurmountable.

111: Translation, Narration, and Linguistic Difference

The narrator's references to foreign languages are not restricted to descriptions of the battles. He also draws attention to his role as a translator and reminds the audience of its reliance on hishngustic abilities for the transmission of the story. The narrator's in- terjections arean integral part of the narra- tive structure. They contribute to the devel- opment of the second narrative layer, in which the narrator presents himselfas an oral performer of the story.

Wolfram's narrators have drawn a great deal of scholarly attention.16 The narrator in Willehalm like in Parzival is a welldevel- oped character who reveals biographical de- tails abouthis life and locates himselfgeographically and temporally by specific references to contemporary places and events. He intrudes on the dialogue of his chmcters and breaks the flow of the third person narration. He steps forward to address his implied audience directlx engaging his listeners in the story and guiding their interpreta- tion of the events as he relates them. He takesan opinionated stance toward the fable that he presents. One of the key characteristics of the narrator is that he often demon- strates an interpretation of the events or a perspective that differs significantly from the responses of the fictional culturesof the fable to the same event. As many scholars have demonstrated, he is an unreliable sto- ryteller, but his inte jections allow the audi- ence to distingwh between his perspective and that of the characters in the fable. The narrative layering thus created allows a crit- ical distance to the events depicted, and at the same time it forces the audience to en- gage with the poem either by following the narrator or resisting him.

The narrator in Willehalm consistently draws attention to himselfand to hisrole as an imperfect translator. In this manner, he brings issues of foreign language and linguistic difference out of the fictional realm of the fable and demonstrates the extent to which they pertain to his thirteenth-century court audience. The narrator cites a French source, emphasizes the French context of the narrative and thematizes the translation process by calling attention to French words and terminology. Already in the prologue, the narrator introduces his hero as Willehalm, but adds: "er ist en franzois genant / kuns Gwillhs de Orangis" (3,1&11). Later,the narrator translates for his audi- ence: "herbergen ist loyschiern genant" (237,3).During the battle scene, the narra- tor elaborates: "da ergienc ein temperie, / als wir gemischet nennen" (420,243).And still later, after the Christians have won the battle and the men areresting, the narrator claims "daz was en tiutschen 'guot gemach', I en franzois heten's 'eise"' (449, 8-9).

Wolfram draws on various conventions in hisreferences to his French source. First, it was popular in the thirteenth century for both poets and courtiers to color their speech with French words.l7 Second, it was conven- tional for medieval German poets to identify their poems as translations.18 The foreign source generally lent the German text authoritytylgDespite poets' assertions that their translations are true to the original, trans- lating, at least as far as vernacular literary texts were concerned, was not strictly con- strued in the German vernacular Middle Ages.20 Translators embroidered the tales they translated, adding more extensive descriptions of characters, of battle scenes and of clothing, and expanding orcuttingto ap- peal to their own audience.21 Medieval Ger- man 'translations' of literary textsare thus not conventionally true to the word, but rather represent an interpretation of thesourcematerial. When Wolfram's narrator states explicitly in the prologue that the text is a translation of aFrench tale (5,8-ll), he is thus making a conventional gesture. Similarly, when he incorporates French terms, he is using a conventional technique. However, the poem's emphasis on the translation pro- cess and on the inaccessibility of the foreign sourcetohisaudienceisnot conventional. In the passagescited above, the narrator places equivalent phrases in the two languagesside by side. Wolfram does not develop these inteq@ctions rhetorically as sqpfkant mo- ments in the story or the plot. Nor are the words that he translates fashionable French terms that refer to central concepts for court society. Rather he interrupts his account of the st. to draw attention to the tdtion process and to the audience's reliance on the narrator to interpret the story.

Moreover, Wolfram's narrator explains that he struggles with thetaskof translating the text,and he therefore draws the author- ity granted such translations into question. He comments on hisposition as a mediator between French and German in the much cited "loyschiern" passage:

'herbergen' ist 'loyschiern' genant:

dvil hsnich der sphhe erkant.

ein ungeviieger Tscharnpheis

kunde vilbaz franzeis

dann ich, swie ich franzois spreche.

seht, waz ich an den reche,

den ich dizmaere diuten sol!

den zaeme ein tiutschiu spMe wol.

min tiutsche ist etswI doch dkrump,

er rnac rnir lihtesin ze tump,

den ich's niht &es bdeide:

d& he wir unsbeide. (237,3-14)

Here, as in the other instances of his word for word translations, the narrator draws attention to the problems of understand- ing across linguistic boundaries. More in- terestingly, however, he emphasizes his position asa translator between the story and the audience, claiming that the audi- ence is ultimately dependent on his inter- pretation: "seht, waz ich an den reche, / den ich diz maere diuten sol!" (237,8-9). The narrator, whose task is to interpret the French story for his German audi- ence, also finds himself having to interpret his idiosyncratic German. He struggles not only with the French language, but with the German as we11.22

Thematically, the "1oyschiern"-passage thus diredsattention not only to the French source,but to the audience's dependence on the fictional narrator's interpretation of the story. The narrator is not presented asomniscient, but rather as a recipient of the story who himself struggles to interpret and un- derstand itfrom the thematic questions it poses,to the languagein which it istransmitted. Conventional references to translation by Wolfram's contemporaries are generally relegated to the prologue or epilogue of a work and add to its authority without in- truding on the story. Wolfram, by contrast, draws the focus away from the fable to the process of translation, and thereby reminds the audience of its reliance on multilingual- ism despite the potential barriers created by linguistic difference.


The many references to multilingualism and foreign language in the poem are anchored around three specific references to the seventy-two languages spoken among the fictional cultures of the story. The notion of the seventy-two languages is a literary trope that appears in both secular and reli- gioustextsin medieval Germany* In histor- ical and theological terms, language difference was explained in the Middle Ages as a result of mankind's arrogance in challenging God by building the tower of Babel and in God's curseon mankind at the destruction of the tower. It was a common belief that the Fall of Babel resulted in seventy-two diver- gent and mutually unintelligible languages and this belief existed in the public con- sciousness well into the late Middle Ages.% Although linguistic diversity in the poem is presented in secular terms, the reference to the seventy-two hgmgwgroundsthestorytheologically and historically. While Wol- fram's references draw on a long tradition, the way he usesthe notion might cause the audience to contemplate the meaning of this division of languages.

Itisthe juxtaposition of utterances by the narrator and Gyburg that promotes reflection on stereotypes of alterity and linguistic difference. The narrator first refers to the seventy-two languages in Book Two, when he describes the warriors in the first battle of Alischanz.He emphasizes the size of the hea- then contingent by contrasting it to the Christian one:

sit zw6 und sibenzec spMe sint,

er dunket mich der witze ein kint,

swer niht der zungen Bt ir lant,

d€ivon die spdche sint bekant.

dman die zungen nennet gar,

ir nement niht zwelve des toufes war;

die andern kt in heidenschafk

von dten landen @ze kr&. (73,7-14)

Thispassage functions asmore thanjust an organizing principle for the different cultures or a burgeoning notion of national identity. By ascribing at least sixty languages to the heathens and fewer than twelve to the Christians,the narrator presents, in linguistic terms, a situation of overwhelming ad- versity for the Christians.% Language here serves as a metaphor formilitary power.Just as the heathens have more languages, sotoo do they have more armieson the battlefield. The narrator cites linguistic difference as a marker of alterity. Asinhisdescription of the battle cited at the beginningof thispaper,he emphasizes linguistic boundaries that divide the combatants. Accordmg to the narrator, linguistic Merence even divides the war- riors within eachof the two camps.

Gyburg subsequently mentions the sev- enty-two languages in aprayer after the first battle of Alischanz, when she discovers that Vivianzhasfallen in battle. Her representa- tion oflanguage diversity, however, differs considerably from that of the narrator. In her prayer, Gyburg bemoans the death of Vivianzand proclaims her great sorrow:

zw6 und sibenzec spriche,

der man a1der diete giht,

die enmijhten gar volsprechen niht

mfne vliistebaeren &re,

ich enhab der vliiste dannoch m6e.


In contrast to the excursus by the narrator cited above, Gyburg invokes the different languages together as a totality. She does not even distinguish between heathens and Christians. Her loss and her sorrow exceed the power of all seventy-two languages raised together in a single form of expres- sion. She presents us here with a vision of universality that pays no heed to linguis- tic, national, or religious distinctions.

The difference between these two refer- encesto the seventy-two languages isrepre sentative of the vaqying perceptions and con- cernswith linguistic difference presented in the poem. For Gyburg, different languages do not create an insurmountable obstacle between the fictional culturesof the poem. The narrator, on the other hand, struggles with the notion of lmgwstic difference and pres- ents it in a problematic light. For him, the Otherness of foreign language is ominous and omnipresent.

Toward the end of the poem in hissecond reference to the seventy-two languages, however, the narrator adopts a very different tone. Following Gyburg, the narrator ulti- mately recognizes that linguistic diversity was divinely imposed on mankind. In the midstof the slaughter on the battlefield, the narrator refers to the seventy-two peoples, heathen and Christian alike, as creatures of God and assertsthat God created the diver- sity of languages.Heposeshisviews as a rhe- toricalquestion:

die nie toufes kiinde 
enpfiengen,ist dm siinde? 
daz mandie sluoc alsam ein vihe, 
@zer siinde ichdrumbe gihe: 
ez ist gar gobs hantgeat, 
zwuo und sibenzec sprfiche, die er h&t.26 


The narrator reiterates and emphasizes here the sentiment expressed by Gyburg when she addresses the men gathered at Oransche to prepare for battle. There, she pleads with her Christian relatives to re- spect the heathens and not to slaughter them like animals. Gyburg refers to the heathens as "gotes hantgetat" (306,28), since, she claims, "ein heiden was der 6rste man / den got machen began" (306,29-30). Scholarship on Gyburg's speech and par- ticularly on her comment that the hea- thens are God's creatures has focused on the notion of "tolerance" and on Wolfram's unique representation of the heathens, two central issues in the poem.27 Key to this study, however, is the way the narrator picks up Gyburg's plea for tolerance and recasts it in terms of foreign language.

Despite the problems of communication and intelligibility inherent to linguistic difference, by the end of the second battle the narrator comes to recognize language diver- sity as a productive totality created by God. The tension between the representations of foreign language on two levels of the narra- tive-in the story, and on the level of the nar- rator-apparstobe resolved here. Unfortu- nately the poem breaks off soon after the narrator presents his revised universal no- tion of humankind.


In Willehalm, Wolfram presents us with an unusually complex perspective on foreign language. On the one hand, the narrator struggleswith the idea of linguistic diversity and the problems caused by foreign lan- guage,suggesting that linguistic differences such asthose between the heathens and the Christians cannot be reconciled. In question- ing the communicability of foreign lan- guages, he even draws his own place as a translator and an authoritative sourceof the storyintoquestion. F'ully aware that it isthe only medium available to him, the narrator undermines spoken language as acommunicative medium in general by presenting it as an inadequate form of expression in the "1oyschieren"-passage. The audience is at the mercy of the narrator even though he is only able to present the story as well as he understands and can articulate it. By calling attention to the difficulty of rendering French ideas in comprehensible German, the narrator leaves open the possibility that his is an imperfect interpretation, thus en- couraging his audience to listen critically to what he suggests.

On the other hand, the fable presents us with various @~II-IS of communication that overcome the barriers emphasized by the narrator. Interactions between multilingual protagonistsare key to the plot and chal- lenge the idea that linguistic difference is truly a barrier to communication. Even the narrator ultimately recognizes that despite the potential problems of communication, linguistic difference is divinely sanctioned.

Wolfram's emphasis on foreign language reflects a contemporary consciousness and interest in linguistic difference. While many German-speaking poets use foreign lan- guageas a trope, presenting their narrators as translators, and imbuing their courtly characters with the "exceptional" ability to speak or read multiple languages, Wolfram emphasizes foreign languages and instru- mentalizes them in his poem in an uncon- ventional way. He offers us an extensive ex- ploration of multilhgdism that challenges contemporary notions of foreign language. With this differentiated portrayal of foreign languages, he breaks down the notion of languageas a marker of alterity, In Willehalm, Wolfram forces his audience to reconsider what constitutes foreignness by developing an innovative concept of communication that incorporates linguistic difference and uses

foreign languages in a productive manner.

If we look beyond the narrator for an understanding of foreign languages in the poem, then we find a surprisingly tolerant assessment of the Fall of Babel prefigured there. Wolfram explores the theme of foreign language without proposing a totalizing and consistent conception of cultural and linguistic difference. By contrasting the per- spective of the narrator with that of the characters,Wolfram does not allow the audience to take linguistic barriers for granted. Instead the audience is forced to consider whether we are dealing with a confirsion of languages that threatenschaos or a divinely sanctioned division of lanwthat renders



'Wolfram von Eschenbach, Willehalm, ed. Joachim Heinzle (Frankfurt a.M.: Deutscher Klassiker, 1991).

2The prologue and the diverse themes ad- dressed in the poem have raised many ques- tions about the poem's genre. It has been called a legend, a saint's life, and a heroic epic. SeeGerhard Meissburger, "Zum Prolog von Wolf- rams Willehalm," Germanisch-Romanische Monatshefte 15 (1965): 119-38; Ingrid Ochs, Wolfmms "Wil1ehdm"-Eingang im Lichte der fruhmittelhochdeutschen geistlichen Dich- tung (Munich: Fink, 1968); Friedrich Ohly, "Wolframs Gebet an den Heiligen Geist im Eingang des Willehalm Wolframs von Eschen- bach," Zeitschrift fir deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur (ZfdA) 91 (1961162): 1-37, repr. in Heinz Rupp, ed. Wolfram von Eschen- bach (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchge- sellschaft, 1966) 455-518; Christa Ortmann, "Der utopische Gehalt der Minne. Strubturelle Bedingungen der Gattungsreflexion in Wolf- rams Willehalm," Beitrdge zur Geschichte derdeutschen Sprache und Literatur 115 (1993): 86-117; Walter Rijll, "Zum Prolog von Wolf- rams 'Willehalm'," Kurt GZLrtner, et al., ed~. Festschrift fur Werner Schroder zum 75.Geburtstag (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1989) 415- 28; Werner Schrader, "Der tragische Roman von Willehalm und Gyburg. Zur Gattungs- bestimmung des Spatwerks Wolframs von

Eschenbach," Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur. Mainz. Abhandlung der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse (1979) Nr. 5; Franziska Wessel-Fleinghaus, "Gotes hantgetat. Zur Deutung von Wolframs 'Willehalm' unter dem Aspekt der Gattungs- frage," LiteraturwissenschaftlichesJahrbuch. Neue Folge 33 (1992): 29-100; Hella Friih- morgen-Voss "Mittelhochdeutsche weltliche Literatur und ihre Illustrationen. Ein Beitrag zur ijberliefer~n~s~eschichte,"

Deutsche Vier- teljahresschrift fur Literatunuissemchaft und Geistesgeschichte (DVjs) 43 (1969): 23-75.

3For a comprehensive catalogue of the illus- trated manuscripts of Wolfram's Willehalm, see Ronald Michael Schmidt, Die Handschriftenillustrthnen des Willehalm' Wolframs von Eschenboch,2vols. (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1985).

4See Arthur Groos, "Wolframs Schlangen- liste (Parzival 481) und Pseudo-Apuleius," Licht der Natur: Medizin in Fachliteratur und Dichtung. Festschrift fir Gunclolf Keil zum 60.Geburtstag, ed., Josef Domes (Gappingen: Kiimmerle, 1994) 129-48, and his abbreviated discussion in Romancing the grail :genre, sci- ence, and quest in Wolfram's Panival (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 19951, esp. 4344. See also Ku- nitzsch's varied writings on orientalia in Wol- fram's works: "Die Planetennamen im Pani- vd," ZfdA 25 (1969): 169-74; "Die Arabica im Panivd Wolframs von Eschenbach," Wolfram Studien (WSt) 2 (1974): 9-35; "Die orientali- schen Lkndernamen bei Wolfram (Wh.74,3ff.)," WSt 2 (1974): 152-73; "Caldeis und CBati," DVjs 49 (1975): 372-77; "Quellenkritische Be- merkungen zu einigen Wolframschen Orien- talia," WSt 3 (1975): 263-75; "Der Orient bei Wolfram von Eschenbach -Phantasieund Wirklichkeit," Orientdische Kultur und euro- piiisches Mittelalter, ed., Albert Zimmermann (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1985) 112-22, and Jiirgen Vorderstemann, Die Fremdworter im Wille- hdm' Wolframs von Eschenbach (Gappingen: Kiimmerle, 1974).

5Paul Kunitzsch has tried to determine pre-

cisely to what languages these Middle High

German terms refer. In "Caldeis und CBati,"

Kunitzsch proposed that coati designates Kur-

dic, while caldeis might cover a broad range of

languages and not simply Arabic as Dieter

Kartschoke suggests in his edition of the text

(Wolfram von Eschenbach. 'Willehalm' [Ber-

lin: de Gruyter, 19891). In his translation and

commentary Charles E. Passage alsoaddresses the question of these languages, offering three possible derivations for the language Chaldeis (which he translates as "Chaldee"), and pro- posing the reading of "Coptic" for Koati (The Middle High German Poem of 'Willehalm' by Wolfram von Eschenbach [New York: Freder- ickungar, 19771). For my purposes thespecific languages implied are not important. The issue here is rather that Wolfram, in contrast to his source, differentiates even among different heathen languages, and thereby presents a set- ting of multiple languages.

6By contrast, Christoph A. Kleppel has claimed that the foreign languages on the bat- tlefield are markers of alterity ("vremder bluo- men underscheit. " Erziihlen von Fremden in Wolframs "Willehelm" [Franfirt a.M.: Peter Lang, 19961 146).

Joachim Bumke, Wolfram von Eschenbach, 7th ed. (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1997) 218. 8The Middle High German text is cited on the first page of this essay.

9In Ruberg's analysis of the Prose Lancelot, he describes some of the communicative strate- gies and functions of noise in the battle. He notes that the knights in the Prose Lancelot do not arbitrarily callout their battle cries, but di-red their cries at the most densely assembled groups of enemy knights in the attempt to in- still fear in the enemy. Uwe Ruberg, Raum und Zeit im Prosa-Lancelot (Munich: Fink, 1965) 86ff. On the significance of cacophonic sounds in representations of battle, see also Reinhold Hammerstein, Diabolus in Musica. Studien zu Ikonogmphie der Musik im Mittelalter (Bern: Franke, 1974).

For adescription of the various instruments and their sounds, see Walburga Relleke, Ein Instrument spielen. Instrumentenbezeichnun- gen und Tonemugungsverben im Althoch- deutschen, Mittelhochdeutschen und Neuhoch- deutschen (Heidelberg: Winter, 1980).

11Bumke notes that the exchange of insults is a sign indicating that the rules of the court have been put out of commission (Wolfram 218). Indeed, the noise of battle provides a stark contrast to the silence of the court in Munleun. On the importance of sound in scenes of representation, see Horst Wenzel, Horen und Sehen: Schrift und Bild (Munich: Beck, 1995) 142-58.

120n music and its importance for courtly

representation, see Sabine Zak, Musik als 'Ehr und Zier' im mittelalterlichen Reich. Studien zur Musik im hiifischen Leben, Recht und Zeremoniell (Neul3: Piifgen, 1979); and her"Luter schal und siieze doene. Die Rolle der Musik in der Reprlisentation," Hofische Repra- sentation. Dm Zeremoniell und die Zeichen,

ed. Hedda Ragotzky, Horst Wenzel (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1990) 133-48.

13See Martin H. Jones, "The Depiction of Bat- tle in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Willehalm," The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knight- hood: Papers /?om the Third Strawberry Hill Conference,ed., Christopher Harper-Bill, Ruth Harvey, vol. 2 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1984- 1990) 46-69; and Martin H. Jones, "die 00stiure uz viinf scharn ("Willehalm" 362,3)",Studien zu Wolfram von Eschenbach. Fest- schrift fur Werner Schroder zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Kurt GLirtner, Joachim Heinzle (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1989) 429-41.

14Heinzle suggests that the first two lines here: "ich wil iu viirbaz niihen / unt kiindecli- cher werden kurc," are part of Gyburg's chal- lenge and proposes a sarcastic reading of these lines (Willehalm, 985). I follow Kartschoke's reading and attribute the lines to Willehalm; see also Wallace S. Lipton, "Identifpg the Speaker in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Willehalm,228,18-19," Papers on Language and Literature8 (1972): 195-99 and Passage, Willehalm 134.

15F. Guessard and A. de Montaiglon, eds., Aliscans, chanson de geste (Paris: A. Franck, 1870); seealso E. Wienbeck, W. Hartnacke, and

P. Rasch,eds.,Aliscans. Kritischer Text (Halle: Niemeyer, 1903).

16 Studies of Wolfram's narrator include: Rob- ert Lee Bradley, Narrator and Audience Roles in Wolfram's "Panival" (Gppingen: Kiimmer- le, 1981);Michael Curschmann, "Das Abenteuer des Eniihlens: &r den Eniihler in Wolframs Panival," DVjs 45 (1971): 627-67; Michael Curschmann, "The French, the Audience, and the Narrator in Wolfram's "Willehalm," Neophilologus 59.4 (1975): 548-62; Stephen C. Harroff, Wolfram and his Audience (Gijppingen: Kiimmerle, 1974 ); Christian Kiening, Re-flexion, Narmtion: Wege zum "Willehalm" Wolframs von Eschenbach (Tiibingen: M. Nie- meyer, 1991); Eberhard Nellmann, Wolframs Enahltechnik: Untersuchungen zur Funktion des Enahlers, (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1973); Uwe Porksen, Der Erziihler im mittelhochdeut- schen Epos: Formen seines Hervortretens bei Lamprecht, Konrad, Hartmann, in Wolframs Willehalm und in den Spielmannsepen (Ber- lin: E. Schmidt, 1971); Olive Sayce, "Prolog, Epilog und das Problem des Erziihlers," Pro- bleme mittelhochdeutscher Erzlhlformen, ed. Peter F. Ganz and Werner Schriider (Berlin: E. Schmidt, 1972) 63-73.

l7 See Joachim Bumke, Hofische Kultur, vol. 1 (Munich: Dm, 1992), 112-16. In didactic terms, the interjections in Willehalm poten- tially serve to teach a German court audience a few French words. In Der walsche Gast, a book of court conduct composed in 1215, the author Thomasin explains that he will refrain from mixing "welhischer worte" into his German poem, although he asserts: "daz ensprich ich dd von niht / daz mir missevalle iht / swer strifelt sPne tiusche wol / mit der welhsche sum er sol / wan dri lernt ein tiusche man / der niht welhische kan / der spaehen worte harte vil" (39-45); Heinrich Riickert, ed., Der Walsche Gast. By Thomasin von Zirclaria (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1852). As the didactic treatise implies, it was conventional for German-speaking poets to mix foreign words into their poems. Particularly words associated with French court culture were adopted into German.

l8 In PfafFe Konrad's Rolandslied the author/ narrator concludes his poem as follows: "ich haize derphaffe Chunrat. /also iz an dem buo- che gescribin st& / in franczischer zungen, / sb h&n ich izindie latine bedwungen, ldanne in di tutiske geksret. / ich nehlin der nicht an ge- dret, / ich nehdn dir nicht uberhaben" (9079- 85). Horst Richter, ed., Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftli- che Buchgesellschaft, 1981).

19 Carl Lofmark has demonstrated how com- mon it was for poets not only to mention a source text, but to insert a few verses, identify- ing the German text as a translation. Typically it is here that the I-narrator steps forward, and frequently the German poet is mentioned by name ("Der hofische Dichter als ijbersetzer," Probleme mittelhochdeutscher Enahlformen, ed. Peter F. Ganz, Werner Schriider (Berlin: E. Schmidt, 1972) 40-62.

20See Lofmark's "Der hofische Dichter"; and hisAuthority of the Source in Middle High Ger- man Narrative Poetry (Leeds: W.S. Maney, 1981).

ZlLofmark, "Der hofische Dichter."

22The meaning of the lines with respect to Wolfram's competence in French are contro- versial, but I follow Bumke who claims that Wolfram's narrator boasts how well he speaks French in these verses (Hofische Kultur 115). The suggestion that a native Francophone speaks better than the narrator does not, Bum- ke claims, belittle the narrator's accomplish- ments. Moreover, those from the Champagne region were thought to speak the best French (Hiifische Kultur 115). Wolfram is thus claim- ing, under the guise of false humility that his French is excellent. The significance of the term the narrator uses to describe his German, krump, is also controversial. For interpreta- tions of the term, see: Nellmann, Wolframs Er- zahltechnik 45; Joachim Bumke, Wolframs "Willehelm": Studien zur Epenstruktur und zum Heiligkeitsbegriff der ausgehenden Blute- zeit (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1959) 202; Carl Lofmark, "Zur Veroffentlichung des fiinften Buches 'Willehalm'," ZfdA (1966): 294-300.

23Wiegand provides many examples of the trope. (Hermann J. Wiegand, "The Two and Seventy Languages of the World," The Ger- manic Review 17:4 [I9421 241-60). References to the seventy-two languages appear in Das Lied uon Hurnen Seyfrid, and the Weltchronik of Rudolf von Ems. Wiegand also presents evi- dence that the tradition of the seventy-two lan- guages and tribes was a well-established con- ception in the early Christian Church, and he demonstrates further that the tradition canbe identified in the pre-Christian era.

2%x?Arno Borst's Der Turmbau von Babel. Geschichte der Meinungen uber Ursprung und Vielfalt der Sprachen und Volker, vol. 2, (Stutt- gart: Anton Hiersemann, 1957-19631, and his Medieval Worlds. Barbarians, Heretics, and Artists in the Middle Ages, trans., Eric Hansen (Chicago:U of Chicago P, 1991); See also Pas- sage, Willehalm 268-69.

25This passage has attracted some attention. Kiening, Reflexion, Narration 119 suggests that the specificity of this passage, preceding as it does a list of heathen kings and their coun- tries, represents Wolfram's criticism of the vagueness of his French source. The passage is, however, not explicitly critical-the narrator does not take issue with the source-so that any intended comment on the Bataille d'Ali- scans would be lost on an audience unfamiliar with it. Wiegand ("Two and Seventy Lan- guages") demonstrates that this division into non-Christian and Christian languages is a commonplacein the Middle Ages, although not allpoetsand authors agreed on the numbers of languages to be attributed to each group.

26Kartschoke, Willehalm sets the punctua- tion differently: die nie toufes kiinde / enpfiengen, ist dazsiinde,/ daz man die slum alsam ein vihe? lgrozer siinde ich drumbegihe: /ez istgar gotes huntgetat, / zwuo und sibenzec sprache, die er hat (450,15-20). Heinzle's reading im- plies a comparison between heathens and Christians in terms of who has committed the greater sin, and presents the interjection of the narrator as a challenge rather than simply a rhetorical question. For Heinzle's comments on the see his notes to these verses in Willehalm (1086-87). For my purposes the im- portant part of the excursus is the narrator's justification for claiming that the slaughter of the heathens is a great sin, namely that the heathens are part of the totality represented by the seventy-two languages created by God.

27The representation of the heathens as noble, courtly, and asworthy opponents to the Chris- tians is unique to Wolfram's Willehulm and is certainly a central aspect of the poem. Here, however, I am concerned first with the ques- tion of how the characters in the constructed world of the poem perceive linguistic difference in the fictional space they inhabit, and second with the narrator's preoccupation with foreign languages. For a discussion of Gyburg's speech and the representation of the heathens, see Fritz Peter Knapp, "Die Heiden und ihr Vater in den Versen 307,27f. des 'Willehalm'," ZfdA Winter 2002

122 (1993): 202-07; Joachim Heinzle, "Die Hei- den ds Kinder Gottes. Notiz zum Willehalm," ZfdA 123 (1994) 301-08; Carl Lofmark, "Das Problem des Unglaubens in Willehulm," Stu- dien zu Wolfram von Eschenbach. Festschrift fiir Werner Schrader zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Kurt Giirtner and Joachim Heinzle (Tiibingen: Niemezer, 1989) 399-413, esp. 410-11; Ochs, Wolframs "Willehalm," esp. 25ff.; Walter Jo- hannes Schriider, "Der Toleranzgedanke und der Begriff der 'Gotteskindschaft' in Wolframs 'Willehalm', "Festschrififir Karl Bischoffzum

70. Geburtstag, ed., Giinther Bellmann, et al, (Cologne: Bahlau, 1975) 400-15, esp. 405; "rede" und "meine. "Aufsatze und Vortrdge zur deutschen Litemtur des Mittelalters, (rpt.) ed. Gisela Holland, et al. (Cologne: Bohlau, 1978) 350-65; Ralf-Henning Steinmetz, "Die unge- tauften Christenkinder in den Willehalm-Versen 307,2640," ZfdA 124 (1995): 151-62. For a historical contextualization ofwolfram's representation of the heathens, see Karl Ber- tau, "Das Recht des Andern. aer den Ur- sprungder Vorstellungvon einer Schonungder Irrglaubigen bei Wolfram von Eschenbach," Schriften des Zentralinstituts fiir friinkische Landeskunde und Allgemeine Regionalfor- schung der Universitiit Erlangen-Niirnberg 22 (1982): 127-43; Wolfrcrm von Eschenbach: Neun Versuche iiber Subjektioitiit und Urspriinglichkeit in der Geschichte, (rpt.) ed. Karl Bertau (Munich: Beck, 1983) 241-58; Riidiger Schnell, "Die Christen und die 'Anderen,' Mit- telalterliche Positionen und germanistische Perspektiven," Die Begegnung des Westens mit dem Osten, ed. Odilo Engels, Peter Schreiner (Sigmaringen:J. Thorbecke, 1993) 185-202.

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