The fragments of the epic were discovered in 1823 ( Celle ) and 1842 ( Braunschweig ) and published in 1844 by Wilhelm Grimm under the title Grave Ruodolf . A total of 14 fragments exist on double leaves and halves of parchment , whereby the fragments α-δ are stored in Braunschweig and the fragments A – K in Göttingen. The size of the individual sheets is 200x145 mm, the text area itself is measured at 153-165x110-115 mm. The verses of the text are not separated from each other and form pairs of rhymes . Here, pure rhymes dominate the fragments, but occasionally assonances occur. Investigations of the fragments have revealed a common origin in a single manuscript made by two different scribes. Before their discovery, the parchment sheets were used to reinforce book bindings, as was still the case in Braunschweig. There is still uncertainty about the linguistic classification of the work and possible templates. The origin of the manuscript is believed to be in the Thuringian or Hessian language area and the subject matter is traced back to a French source, a Chanson de Geste, which, however, has not been preserved. Indications for an origin in French include the names of those involved (Bonifait, Beatrise, Gilot, etc.) and the author's explanation of French terms.
Due to the treatment with reagents, which should make the writing more legible, it is now in a very poor condition and in places can hardly be deciphered.
The epic is dated in different ways. Paleographic research suggests dating to the end of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th century.
Another possibility is to use the events contained in the text and to transfer them to historical parallels from the author's world. Such a dating aid would be, for example, the entry of the count into Christian Jerusalem , which was conquered by Saladin in 1187 . The text must have been written before 1187, as the text does not formulate any complaint about the loss of the city to Christianity. The problem with this classification on the basis of the allusions in the text is that the French source is unknown and therefore simple adaptations from the French text cannot be recognized. It also denies the author's independence and ability to write a timeless text.
The plot of the 14 fragments can be divided into 5 content blocks:
- The Pope calls for a crusade . Rudolf takes part against his parents' wishes and moves from Flanders to Palestine. On the voyage, the crusaders experience crime and hunger. Rudolf moves into Jerusalem with great honors and becomes a vassal of King Gilot , the Christian ruler in the Holy Land.
- Rudolf and Gilot move towards the city of Askalon . While the king is devastating the surrounding area, Rudolf takes over the siege. The pagans use a trick to negotiate a truce by placing women in men's clothing on the walls to simulate their unbroken strength. Back in Jerusalem, Rudolf is assigned to take on important tasks for Gilot. A high-ranking pagan gave Rudolf his son Apollinart to have him educated in the courtly virtues. The coexistence between Christians and Muslims is non-violent and Rudolf organizes festivals in Jerusalem that are attended by both sides.
- Rudolf has meanwhile defected to the heathen and their king Halap . He loves the pagan princess and fights valiantly for Halap against the Christians under Gilot. But since he still stands by the Christian faith, he does not kill his enemies, but only fights with the flat sword.
- Rudolf is in captivity, but he is able to escape seriously injured. He depends on the help of passing pilgrims and has to keep himself hidden. The princess is baptized Irmengart and refuses a king's offer of marriage. It is particularly useful in providing poor relief.
- Rudolf and Irmengart want to travel to Flanders with their maid Beatris and Rudolf's nephew Bonifait . During the night, however, the group is ambushed by robbers and Bonifait dies in battle because he refuses to wake Rudolf. The fragments end with the lament for Bonifait.
Due to the fragmentary tradition, a coherent reconstruction of the plot is not possible. The individual sections are partly separated from one another by large gaps in meaning, such as Rudolf's defection from the Crusaders to the Gentiles.
Evaluation by research
The peculiarity of the epic, which describes the experiences of Count Rudolf, is its sober, largely realistic depiction of the Crusades. Religiously motivated formulas are replaced by a story about an initially enthusiastic crusader who reconsiders his illusions and motives during his stay in the Orient. In doing so, however, he always remains virtuous, committed to his courtly ideals. The virtues, or the courtly customs, are also what connect both pagans like Halap and the princess, and Christians like Rudolf or Bonifait, although they come from different cultures and religions.
- Peter F. Ganz (Ed.): The Count Rudolf. (= Philological studies and sources. 19). Berlin 1964.
- Peter F. Ganz: Count Rudolf. In: The German literature of the Middle Ages. Author Lexicon. Second, completely revised edition. Edited by Kurt Ruh . Volume 3, Berlin 1981, Col. 212-216.
- Karin Schneider : Gothic writings in German. Volume 1: From the late 12th century to around 1300. Wiesbaden 1987, p. 117.
- Hans Fromm : The Count Rudolf. In: PBB . 119, 1997, pp. 219-221.