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The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, by Otto Rank, [1914], at


The theme of the Feridun story is pursued in the Tristan saga, as related in the epic poem by Gottfried von Strassburg. This is especially evident in the prologue of the Tristan saga, which is repeated later on in the adventures of the hero himself (duplication) . Riwalin, king in the land of the Parmenians, in an expedition to the court of Mark, king of Cornwall and England, had become acquainted with the latter's beautiful sister, Blancheflure, and his heart was aflame with love for her. While assisting Mark in a campaign, Riwalin was mortally wounded and

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was carried to Tintajole. Blancheflure, disguised as a beggar maid, hastened to his sickbed, and her devoted love saved the king's life. She fled with her lover to his native land (obstacles) and was there proclaimed as his consort. But Morgan attacked Riwalin's country, for the sake of Blancheflure, whom the king entrusted to his faithful retainer Rual, because she was carrying a child. Rual placed the queen for safekeeping in the castle of Kaneel. Here she gave birth to a son and died, while her husband fell in the battle against Morgan. In order to protect the king's offspring from Morgan's pursuits, Rual spread the rumor that the infant had been born dead. The boy was named Tristan, because he had been conceived and born in sorrow. Under the care of his foster parents, Tristan grew up, equally straight in body and mind, until his fourteenth year, when he was kidnapped by Norwegian merchants, who then put him ashore in Cornwall because they feared the wrath of the gods. Here the boy was found by the soldiers of King Mark, who was so well pleased with the brave and handsome youth that he promptly made him his master of the chase (career), and held him in great affection. Meanwhile, faithful Rual had set forth to seek his abducted foster son, whom he found at last in Cornwall, where Rual had come begging his way. Rual revealed Tristan's descent to the king, who was delighted to see in him the son of his beloved sister, and raised him to the rank of knight. In order to avenge his father, Tristan proceeded with Rual to Parmenia, vanquished Morgan, the usurper, and gave the country to Rual as liege, while he himself returned to his uncle Mark. 1

The actual Tristan saga goes on with a repetition of the principal themes. In the service of Mark, Tristan kills Morald, the bridegroom of Isolde, and being wounded unto death, he is saved by Isolde. He asks her hand in marriage on behalf of his uncle Mark. When he fulfills the condition of killing a dragon, she accompanies him reluctantly to Cornwall, to which they travel by ship. On the journey they partake unwittingly of the disastrous love potion

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which binds them together in frenzied passion; they betray King Mark. On the wedding night, Isolde's faithful maid, Brangäne, represents the queen, and sacrifices her virginity to the king. Next follows the banishment of Tristan, his several attempts to regain his beloved, although he had meanwhile married another Isolde--"Isolde the White Hand," of Brittany, who resembled his love, "Isolde the Fair." At last he is again wounded unto death, and Isolde arrives too late to save him. 1

A plainer version of the Tristan saga--in the sense of the characteristic features of the myth of the birth of the hero--is found in the fairy tale "The True Bride," quoted by Riklin from Rittershaus. 2 A royal pair have no children. The king having threatened to kill his wife unless she bears a child by the time of his return from his sea voyage, she is brought to him during his journey, by his zealous maid-servant, as the fairest of three promenading ladies, and he takes her into his tent without recognizing her. 3 She returns home without having been discovered, gives birth to a daughter, Isol, and dies. Isol later on finds, in a box by the seaside, a most beautiful little boy, whose name is Tristram, and she raises him to become engaged to him. The subsequent story, which contains the motif of the true bride, is noteworthy for present purposes only in so far as here again occurs the draught of oblivion, and two Isoldes. The king's second wife gives a potion to Tristram, which causes him to forget the fair Isol entirely, so that he wishes to marry the black Isota. Ultimately he discovers the deception, however, and becomes united with Isol.


42:1 After Chop: Erläuterungen zu Wagner's Tristan (Reclam edition).

43:1 Compare Immermann: Tristan and Isolde, Ein Gedicht in Romanzen (Düsseldorf, 1841). Like the epic of Gottfried von Strassburg, his version begins with the preliminary history of the loves of Tristan's parents, King Riwalin Kannlengres of Parmenia and Mark's beautiful sister Blancheflur. The maiden never reveals her love, which is not sanctioned by her brother, but she visits the king, who is wounded unto death, in his chamber, and dying he procreates Tristan, "the son of the most daring and doleful love." Grown up as a foundling in the care of Rual and his wife, Florete, the winsome youth Tristan introduces himself to Mark in a stag hunt, as an expert huntsman, is recognized as his nephew by a ring, the king's gift to his beloved sister, and becomes his favorite.

43:2 Wunscherfüllung and Symbolik im Märchen, p. 56; from the Rittershaus collection of fairy tales (XXVII, p. 113). See translation by W. A. White, M.D., Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. I, No. 1.

43:3 Compare the substitution of the bride, through Brangäne.

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