Poor Heinrich

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The poor Heinrich is a Middle High German verse tale by Hartmann von Aue . It was probably created in the 1190s and is considered the penultimate of Hartmann's four epic works.

The short verse novella about a noble knight, who is marked with leprosy by God and can only be healed through the blood of a voluntarily sacrificing virgin, combines courtly and spiritual narrative patterns. Around 1200 there are hardly any related narratives.


Prologue of the poor Heinrich (Heidelberg, UB, Cpg 341, fol. 249ra)

After a short prologue , in which the narrator calls himself self-confident and from which we have most of the information about Hartmann von Aue, the story begins: Heinrich, a young baron von Ouwe in Swabia , has material wealth and the highest social reputation. He embodies all knightly virtues ( ERE , staete , triuwe , milte ) and courtly manners ( zuht ), including skills in minstrelsy were ( and sanc vil wol of minnen , v. 71).

Heinrich falls from this ideal life when God draws him with leprosy and those around him turn away from him in disgust and fear. In contrast to the biblical Job , Heinrich does not want to come to terms with this and seeks doctors in Montpellier , none of whom can help him. At the famous school in Salerno he learned from a doctor that there was a cure that was not available to Heinrich: Heinrich could only cure the heart and soul of a virgin of marriageable age who voluntarily sacrificed herself for him. Desperate and with no hope of recovery, he returns, gives away most of his property and retires to a farm that belongs to his property.

There the farmer's daughter becomes the second main character. The child (according to handwriting A she is eight, according to handwriting B twelve years old) is not afraid of Heinrich and his illness and becomes his devoted companion. Soon Heinrich playfully calls her his bride ( gemahel ). When, after three years, she learns what the only cure for him is, she is determined to give her life for him. She wants to sacrifice herself for Heinrich, believing that this is the only way to escape the sinful life and to be able to live eternal life with God in the hereafter as soon as possible . She convinces her parents and Heinrich with a speech, the rhetorical polish of which is attributed to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to accept her sacrifice as God's will.

Heinrich and the girl travel to Salerno . When the doctor, who previously tried in vain to talk the girl out of the operation, wants to cut out her heart and Heinrich sees the girl lying naked and tied on the operating table through a crack in the door, he steps in at the last second. In comparing her beauty with his disfigured body, he becomes aware of the enormity of the company. Through this sudden inner reversal (he wins niuwen muot , v. 1235) he accepts leprosy as God's will. Then the girl loses her composure; she sees herself being deprived of eternal life, makes serious reproaches to Heinrich for not wanting to let her die, and reviles him as a coward.

On the way back, Heinrich miraculously recovered by the providence of God and returned home with the girl, where they both married despite the difference in class. Heinrich returns to his previous social position and Meier becomes a passed farmer . Heinrich and the girl both win eternal bliss .

Classification in literary history

Poor Heinrich in Hartmann's work

Herr Hartmann von Aue (idealized miniature in Codex Manesse , fol.184v, around 1300)

The time when Poor Heinrich was created can only be narrowed down very roughly: Chrétiens de Troyes Erec et Enide , the French model for Hartmann's first novel Erec , was probably known around 1165. It is assumed that Hartmann appeared as an author around 1180. All of Hartmann's verse novels were known by 1205/10 at the latest, because Wolfram von Eschenbach refers to the Iwein in the Parzival , Hartmann's last novel. In this timeframe, Poor Heinrich is (probably) the penultimate work.

In Hartmann's work chronology, poor Heinrich is the third of his four major narrative works for stylistic reasons. At the beginning of his epic work is the Arthurian novel Erec , followed by the legendary story Gregorius . The last work is Hartmann's second Arthurian novel , Iwein , which may have started shortly after the Erec and was only completed later. Hartmann's Minne- und Kreuzlieder are not to be classified , the short poem Das Klagebüchlein is generally placed before Hartmann's four novels.

Substance and source

In the prologue, Hartmann speaks of stories that he found in books and now wants to tell anew. Such sources were not found in the German, French or Latin literature of the Middle Ages, so that one must assume that this reference to the source is fictional and is intended to underline the dignity of the narrative. The Latin stories Henricus pauper and Albertus pauper , passed down in the 14th and 15th centuries, are probably not Hartmann's sources, but rather go back to Hartmann's story.

One motive tradition is addressed directly in the text: In the Bible, it is Job who is tested by God with leprosy. The stories of the supernatural healing of a person with leprosy also include the New Year's Eve legend , in which Constantine the Great is healed, and the stories of Amicus and Amelius or Engelhard Konrads von Würzburg .

Interpretative approaches

The poor tradition has led to some ambiguities, which mainly affect the nameless peasant girl. Handwriting A indicates her age as eight when Heinrich came to the Meierhof, in handwriting B it was twelve years (v. 303). It is also unclear whether the girl who has to sacrifice herself is erbære ("honorable") and manbære ("marriageable") (handwriting A, v. 225 and 447) or vrîebære ("marriageable") and verbære (?) (Handwriting B) must be. The fragment E calls for a maget who is full manbere (“a manable, i.e. marriageable virgin”, v. 225).

Research has not found any clear answers to central questions that the narrative leaves open. This applies in particular to the reason why God draws Heinrich with the leprosy: On the one hand, this can be seen as a punishment for Heinrich's world-related life - this is how Heinrich understands the disease himself and also a Absalom - the parable at the beginning of the story speaks for this reading. On the other hand, the leprosy can be interpreted as a test of God - this is supported by the comparison with Job drawn by the narrator. Unlike the latter, however, Heinrich does not initially take the exam, but seeks healing and then desperately.

Another problem is the role of the girl. The fact that she remains nameless places her in a subordinate position that does not correspond to the course of the plot. The rhetorically and theologically trained central monologue with which she persuades Heinrich and his parents to accept their sacrifice is ascribed to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Her motivation remains unclear, i.e. whether she acts out of pure love of neighbor or out of a "salvation egoism" through which she wants to buy her own salvation, as it sounds several times.

At the end of the novel, the girl steps back into a supporting role, but not without increasing her rank through the marriage (in Heinrich's words: nû is sî vrî as I am , v. 1497). The status of the protagonists is a mystery. The life of the aristocratic Heinrich in the unfree peasants, at the end pawn is, can be read as a social utopia; just as utopian, namely impossible in reality, is the raising of a peasant girl's status to the legitimate wife of a baron. It makes sense to understand the free or unfree birth of the protagonists, whose theming Hartmann is obviously a concern, also spiritual-allegorically.

What is striking is the similarity of names between the princely baron Heinrich von Aue and Hartmann von Aue. It has been seen as a romanticizing family history that explains Hartmann's unfree ministerial status, since Heinrich's marriage to the peasant girl would have resulted in the loss of the nobility for the family - but Hartmann is silent about this consequence. The second possibility is to relate Heinrich's story to a possible patron of Hartmann, but this is less plausible because of the reduced status.

The generic problem

A major problem of the research is the generic affiliation of the poor Henry . The relatively short narrative with 1520 verses is on the one hand close to spiritual literature, the legend , the example or the miracle , on the other hand it has unmistakable elements of the courtly novel . The religious dimensions clearly dominate the narrative, but even if Heinrich is converted and wonderfully healed, he does not become a saint . The analogies to the form of the redemption fairy tale are striking, but otherwise the dominant religious theme is missing.

Since the characteristics of both types of text are recognizable in Armen Heinrich , it must be given a special form as a courtly miracle story. In order to avoid the problem of genre assignment, one makes do with neutral terms such as small piks or short rhyming pairs.

The poor Heinrich is often assigned a novelistic character and is referred to as a verse novella , although the term novella is usually only used for shorter stories from the late Middle Ages or the Renaissance . In general, poor Heinrich was almost completely singular before 1200, only the anonymous Moriz von Craûn still belongs to this literary type of Kleinepik. Only the Meier Helmbrecht Wernhers des Gartenære from the middle of the 13th century is clearly related to the poor Heinrich .

Style and language

Like the other classics of the Staufer era, Hartmann von Aue wrote in the so-called “ Middle High German Poet Language”, the first high-level education in German language history. It was not until the High Middle Ages that there was an intended written form of German that rises above the dialects: courtly German, the so-called “classic” Middle High German. This “courtly poetic language” was limited to poetry (and thus “special language”) of court society: it was still hardly spoken (even if it provided the basis for the sophisticated colloquial language of chivalry ), i.e. not common but only written language. The rational character of Hartmann's ethics is reflected in the style and structure of all of his works. Literally the work we know does not match Hartmann's, as the work has been copied countless times and thus changed.

Reception history


The tradition of Poor Heinrich took place on a different path than that of the more extensive courtly novels, which usually filled a book as individual copies. The short narrative, on the other hand, was always passed on in the context of thematically wide-ranging text collections. All three complete copies of Poor Heinrich were found in Kleinepik collective manuscripts , which, in addition to Poor Heinrich, contain shorter works of rhyming pairs ( Mären , Bîspeln , rhyming speeches and poetry ). These types of text were relatively open to editing, so that poor Heinrich was also significantly shortened and edited by manuscript compilers. This explains the competing versions, to which some problems of interpretation go back and which make it difficult to create an author-oriented text.

In addition to the three complete manuscripts ( symbols : A, Ba, Bb), there are fragments of a further three copies of the text. All copies are to be dated between the first half of the 13th century and the second half of the 14th century and are to be found in the Upper German- speaking area. The manuscript A from the Strasbourg Johanniterkloster burned in 1870 when Strasbourg was bombarded by German troops in the Franco-Prussian War , so that today one has to fall back on earlier prints. As the comparison with the fragments shows, this manuscript also abbreviated Hartmann's original text, but still offered the best carrier of tradition. The other two manuscripts (Ba and Bb) have also edited the original text. Both manuscripts pass on the same version, because Bb was copied from Ba.

Fragment E was not found until 1964/65 and published in 1969. The eleven small strips of parchment were used in the Benediktbeuern monastery to seal the organ pipes . As a feather test , six verses were entered in a 13th century manuscript with comments on Ovid and Cicero (manuscript F).

In addition, the poor Heinrich was translated into Latin and included in two Latin collections of examples from the 14th century.

Edition history

The first editions of the poor Heinrich were diplomatic prints after handwriting A. It was published for the first time in 1784 by Christoph Heinrich Myller . Goethe read a translation by Johann Gustav Gottlieb Büsching (Zurich 1810) with "physical-aesthetic pain" because he found the subject of the leprosy personally repulsive, but nevertheless recognized the value of the story. In 1815 an annotated edition by the Brothers Grimm followed with a retelling that helped the text to spread for the first time. They regarded the material as an old German “folk tale”. As a result, numerous revisions and new editions in the style of popular books were created . Karl Lachmann submitted another edition of the Strasbourg Codex in 1820.

The critical edition , which has long been authoritative, comes from Moriz Haupt from 1842, who was the first to record all readings in a text-critical apparatus . Hermann Paul's edition in the Old German Text Library , which was later edited by Albert Leitzmann , Ludwig Wolff , Gesa Bonath and most recently by Kurt Gärtner , was based on this edition .

A copy of the two most important manuscripts with a critical text in parallel was offered by Erich Gierach in 1913. Another synoptic edition of manuscripts A and B, with the fragments and a text reconstructed from them, was presented by Heinz Mettke in 1974 .

Further editions were submitted by Wilhelm Wackernagel (1855), Friedrich Maurer (1958), Friedrich Neumann (1961 with the retelling of the Brothers Grimm) and Helmut de Boor (1963). The last edition was published by Volker Mertens in 2004 in the library of German classics . Simple black-and-white facsimiles of the entire tradition appeared in the Litterae series in 1971 and 1973.

Modern reception

During the arms Heinrich has survived only in a few medieval manuscripts, he has been in modern times often rezipiert than any other work of Hartmann. Romantic and fin de siècle artists in particular were fascinated by the combination of the motifs of holiness, rural idyll, leprosy and eroticism. A dramatic depiction of the naked girl, who is tied to the operating table, the doctor with his knife next to it and Heinrich, who looks through the crack as a voyeur , was not missing in any illustration apart from that of Gustav Schwab's adult adaptations .

Who became known arms Heinrich mainly through the free adaptation of the Brothers Grimm, which among other things a long ballad of Adelbert von Chamisso (1839) or an epic drama of the American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( The Golden Legend , 1851) encouraged. Poor Heinrich was translated into English by the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti . Even Ludwig Uhland , Gustav Schwab, Karl Simrock , Conrad Ferdinand Meyer , Rudolf Borchardt , Will Vesper and many others took the poor Heinrich on productive, all literary genres are represented. The most important adaptations were made in the period of literary neo-romanticism by Ricarda Huch with her story Der arme Heinrich from 1899 (contained in the anthology Fra Celeste ) and Gerhart Hauptmann , whose drama " Der arme Heinrich " premiered in 1902 .

Hans Pfitzner's first opera is also a setting by Armen Heinrich based on a libretto by James Grun (1895). A cycle by the Nazarene Joseph von Führich and illustrations by Ludwig Richter stand out among the pictorial representations .

Since the 1920s, interest in the subject has been lost, which was now far less received than Germanic heroic poems . This did not change in the post-war period or through the sixties , for which the social relevance of poor Heinrich was too low. It was only in the 1990s that the narrative came back into focus. Last attacked Markus Werner ( soon , 1995; The Egyptian Henry , 1999), the playwright Tankred Dorst ( The Legend of the Poor Henry , 1997), the poet Rainer Malkowski (1997) and August Kötzke with a "chamber opera" the poor Heinrich on .


Text output

  • Hartmann von Aue: Poor Heinrich . Middle High German / New High German. Ed., Translated and commented by Nathanael Busch and Jürgen Wolf. Reclam 19131. Reclam, Stuttgart 2013. ISBN 978-3-15-019131-6
  • Hartmann von Aue: Poor Heinrich. Middle High German / New High German. Edited by Ursula Rautenberg, translated by Siegfried Grosse. Reclam 456. Reclam, Stuttgart 2003. ISBN 3-15-000456-X
  • Hartmann von Aue: Gregorius, The poor Heinrich, Iwein . Edited and translated by Volker Mertens. Library of the Middle Ages. Vol. 6. Library of German Classics. Vol. 189. Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004. ISBN 3-618-66065-0
  • Poor Heinrich. Edited by Hermann Paul, revised by Kurt Gärtner. Old German text library. Vol. 3. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2001 (17th edition). ISBN 3-484-20061-8
  • Hartmann von Aue: Poor Heinrich. Middle High German text and translation. Reviewed on the basis of the text edition by Helmut de Boor, transferred. With comments and an afterword by Hermann Henne. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1963, 2000 (12th edition). ISBN 3-436-00763-3
  • Wilhelm Wackernagel: 'The poor Heinrich' of Herr Hartmann von Aue and two younger prose legends with a related content. Schweighauser, Basel 1855; new ed. by Ernst Stadler , ibid. 1911.


The afterwords of the text editions by Volker Mertens and Ursula Rautenberg offer a good introduction to Armen Heinrich.

  • Christoph Cormeau, Wilhelm Störmer: Hartmann von Aue. Epoch - work - effect . 2., revised. Edition. Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-30309-9
  • Hugo Kuhn, Christoph Cormeau (ed.): Hartmann von Aue . Ways of research. Bd. 359. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1973, ISBN 3-534-05745-7 (collection of important older articles)
  • Barbara Könneker: Hartmann von Aue. Poor Heinrich. Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1987. ISBN 3425060449

Special literature

  • Joseph Klapper: The legend of the poor Heinrich . Nischkowsky, Breslau 1914 ( digitized version )
  • Corinna Dahlgrün: Hoc fac, et vives - above all minne got. Theological reflections of a layman in "Gregorius" and in "Der arme Heinrich" Hartmann von Aue. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1991. ISBN 3631440367
  • Gerhard Eis : Salernitan and Unsalernitan in the 'Armen Heinrich' of Hartmann von Aue. In: Research and Progress 31, 1957, No. 3, pp. 77-81; also in: Hartmann von Aue. Edited by Hugo Kuhn and Christoph Cormeau, Darmstadt 1973 (= ways of research , 259), pp. 135–150.
  • Sabine B. Elias: Subject in variations, “poor Heinrich” and the problem of guilt. With Hartmann von Aue, Ricarda Huch and Gerhart Hauptmann. National Library of Canada, Ottawa 1985. ISBN 0-315-13297-3
  • Andrea Fiddy: The presentation of the female characters in Hartmann's "Gregorius" and "Der arme Heinrich". Kümmerle, Göppingen 2004. ISBN 3874529665
  • Barbara Schmidt-Krayer: Continuum of reflection. Poor Heinrich. Medieval epic Hartmann von Aue and modern drama Gerhart Hauptmann. Kümmerle, Göppingen 1994. ISBN 3-87452-840-5
  • Hermann Tardel : "The poor Heinrich" in the more recent poetry. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1978. ISBN 3-8067-0620-4
  • Albrecht Classen: "Heart and soul in Hartmanns von Aue" The poor Heinrich "The medieval poet as a psychologist? In: Mediaevistik 14 (2001), pp. 7–30

Web links

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 10, 2006 in this version .