King Rother and His Bride

May 2010
264 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571134363
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT011000, SOC011000

King Rother and His Bride

Quest and Counter-Quests

Thomas Kerth

A new view of King Rother in which not only the wooer but also his bride-to-be enacts a quest.
King Rother, a twelfth-century bridal-quest epic, occupies an important place in the history of German literature. The earliest surviving and structurally most sophisticated of the so-called minstrel epics, verse narratives once assumed to have been recited by itinerant minstrels before a courtly audience, it has its roots in German folklore and documents the transition from orality to the culture of the book. The text belongs to the subgenre of the perilous bridal quest, in which the disguised wooer deceives the bride's father and abducts her with her consent. This simple quest structure is doubled, if the wooer must win his bride a second time from her father, who has rescued her. The bride is almost always a passive figure in these events, the main conflict being the disparity in status between the wooer and his prospective father-in-law. King Rother is structurally complex, as the present study is the first to recognize: the quest structure is doubled not only in the wooer's second quest, but also in the bride's own actions -- including her use of deception in a parallel quest for her wooer. This underscores her equality in status, which is her essential qualification to be his wife. The study includes an important English-language summary of scholarship on King Rother, on the minstrel epics, and on the bridal quest.

Thomas Kerth is Associate Professor of German at Stony Brook University.

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Table of Contents

Minstrels and Bridal Quests
Sources and History
Constantin and his Queen
Rother's Quest
The Active Bride
Merging Quests
Doubled Quest
Reconciliation and Consent
Eternal Quest


An excellent analysis of the much-discussed topic of medieval German minstrel epics. . . . An immediate strength of Kerth's book is his ability to condense scholarly research on various aspects of Rother's quest while also anchoring it in the sociopolitical environment of its time. . . . It is a noteworthy addition to the ever-expanding discussion of minstrel and bridal quest epics in general and of King Rother in particular. SPECULUM

Kerth has read deeply in the scholarship on Middle High German romance and minstrel epic, and he does a real service for those who do not read German by outlining this research in detail. . . . A very good close reading of the epic, and one well worth the attention of scholars of folk narrative, epic, and romance. JOURNAL OF FOLKLORE RESEARCH

Represents an important contribution to research on King Rother in the context of its genesis. By bringing attention to the role of female agency, the author provides new impulses for readings of this work as well as other bridal-quest narratives. . . . The book is especially to be recommended to university students, to whom it provides systematic access to an important representative of the medieval German bridal-quest epic. MONATSHEFTE

An extended commentary on the epic,. written in a fluent and unfussy style. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

A significant study: [Kerth's] activation of the female posits equality even as the world struggles with post-Crusade, Islamic East-West divides of the earthly kingdom. Recommended. CHOICE

Taken as a whole . . . this study is a good introduction to Rother, and one that . . . can be read productively even without far-reaching foreknowledge [of the subject]. It is not only suited to making students acquainted with this text, but will also certainly contribute to establishing the work especially in Anglo-American research discourse. Additionally, in regard to the analysis of the women figures in the bridal quest narratives as well as in regard to the possibilities of the narrative model of the dangerous bridal quest, it can enrich current debates with interesting observations that in turn can be taken up and thought through by further Rother research. ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR DEUTSCHE PHILOLOGIE

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