Enite's Dominion over the Horses: Notes on the Coalescence of Platonic and Hagiographic Elements in an Episode from Hartmann's 'Erec.' (Hartmann Von Aue)

By Hurst, Peter William | Medium Aevum, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview

Enite's Dominion over the Horses: Notes on the Coalescence of Platonic and Hagiographic Elements in an Episode from Hartmann's 'Erec.' (Hartmann Von Aue)


Hurst, Peter William, Medium Aevum


It is generally agreed that interpolations, excursuses and amplifications of source material by a later adapter warrant close examination as a guide to the adapter's -- and, frequently, the original author's -- interpretative aims. It sometimes transpires that the adapter, through his interpolation, has insinuated a different, even a subversive, perspective on the source material he professes 'merely' to be expounding. Hartmann von Aue reveals himself to be an enthusiastic practitioner of this art of the reinterpretative interpolation (which draws heavily upon the techniques of rhetorical inventio and amplificatio) in his first Arthurian romance, Erec.(1) Hartmann's Erec represents an adaptation of Chretien de Troyes's Erec et Enide.

The purpose of this article is to consider one such instance of an interpolation, for which no direct precedent exists in Chretien's romance. In the episode in question (3440--71), the eight horses which Erec had captured from would-be robbers and then entrusted to Enite as a punishment for her breaking silence (contrary to instruction, she had warned him of the robbers' presence), miraculously calm down, and evince loving submission towards their new mistress:

vrouwe Enite nam do diu.

vordes waren ir driu:

nu wurden aller ahte.

si vuorte si als si mahte:

si enkunde niht wol da mite.

swie verre ez wider vrouwen site

und wider ir reht waere,

si leit ez ane swaere

mit senftem gemuete:

daz lerte si ir guete.

diu vrouwe grozen kumber leit,

wan daz si ze liebe ir leit

in ir herzen verkerte,

als si ir diemuot lerte.

swer ez rehte ahten wil,

so haeten dar an harte vil

ze tuone vier knehte,

solden si ze rehte

aht ros vueren und bewarn,

da si eine muoste mite varn.

wan daz vrou Saelde ir was bereit

und daz diu gotes hovescheit

ob miner vrouwen swebete

und da wider strebete

daz ir dehein groz ungemach

von den rossen niene geschach,

so waere kumberlich ir vart:

des wart diu vrouwe wol bewart.

ouch muosten durch einen selhen kneht

diu ros gerne und durch reht

ir ungestuemez streben lan

und senfteclichen mite gan. (3440--71)

(Lady Enite then took them [the horses]. Formerly, there had been three of them; now there were eight all told. She led them as best she could, but was unable to cope very well with them. However much it might be against a lady's custom and against her status, she suffered it without complaining [and] with a gentle spirit; her kindness taught her that. The lady suffered great hardship; yet she turned her suffering into joy in her heart, as her humility taught her. Whoever considered the situation properly [would perceive that] four squires would have had great difficulty managing if they were to lead and care for the eight horses properly, whereas she had to accompany them alone. Had not Lady Felicity been willing to assist her and had not Divine Courtesy hovered over my lady and ensured that no great discomfort was inflicted on her by the horses, her journey would have been arduous: but the lady was spared this. Moreover, for the sake of such a squire, the horses were willingly and properly able to abandon their impetuousness, and to accompany her gently.)(2)

The narrator attributes this miracle primarily to the intervention of Lady Felicity, vrou Saelde (3460), and Divine Courtesy, diu gotes bovescheit (3461), on Enite's behalf. Superficially, the interpolation under discussion would seem to afford yet another instance of Hartmann's narrator siding with Enite 'against' Erec, so demonstrating that she has advanced further towards the ideal of marital reconciliation and balance than has her unjustly over-zealous husband. It must be asked, more specifically, how Hartmann's recourse to a version of myth which (it will be argued) fuses Platonic with hagiographic elements illuminates Enite's preparation for assuming (or reassuming) her role as queen. …

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