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Tristan the Lover takes the reader back 1200 years to the British Isles in the Dark Ages, when Tristan, the valiant champion and passionate lover, is supposed to have lived. The story follows Tristan as he contends with giants and...
Tristan the Lover takes the reader back 1200 years to the British Isles in the Dark Ages, when Tristan, the valiant champion and passionate lover, is supposed to have lived. The story follows Tristan as he contends with giants and dragons, heroes and cowards, kings and upstarts. Tristan falls in love with Fair Isolt, the betrothed bride of his lord and friend, King Mark. Their tragic love, all-consuming but utterly forbidden, tortures and enraptures them throughout the second half of this beautiful and moving story.
The medieval stories about Tristan which I have chiefly used in writing this book are a German poem, Tristan, by Gottfried of Strasburg, a Norse poem, Tristansaga, by Brother Robert and a French poem, Tristan, by Thomas of Brittany. I have also consulted four other French poems about Tristan, one by Beroul, one called Honeysuckle by Marie of France and two by unknown authors called Tristan's Madness. All seven poems were written between 1150 and 1230.
I have used two episodes from the later French prose Tristan; but for the most part it tells an inferior story. In English there are only the rhyming Sir Tristrem, a much later and rougher version of Thomas' poem, and in Sir Thomas Malory's famous Morte a"Arthur a poor imitation of the French prose Tristan. I have taken nothing from those two sources.
The love-story of Tristan and Isolt contrasts so vividly with the sombre simplicity of early medieval life that it has inspired not only storytellers but many poets and artists. During the Middle Ages it was constantly retold and inspired more artists than any other story except those of the Bible and the Christian saints. In the past one hundred and fifty years it has inspired several important poems and an opera.
Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde is still performed; and the long poems of Swinburne, Tennyson and Mathew Arnold are in most libraries. Some of the original medieval literature which is listed above can now be read in scholarly translations; but this book retells the medieval story for the general reader.