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Tristan: With the Surviving Fragments of the…

Tristan: With the Surviving Fragments of the 'Tristan of Thomas'

by Gottfried von Strassburg, Thomas of Britain (Author), Thomas of Britain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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707613,366 (3.78)7
  1. 20
    Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (Shuffy2)
    Shuffy2: See the similarities between the two love triangles of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenevere AND King Mark, Isolde, and Tristan
  2. 01
    Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner (inge87)

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I'm not a huge fan of medieval lit; however, out of all of the books I read in this class, Tristan was my favorite. The movie came out a few months after I read the book, which was great entertainment. The movie was so bad, all I did was laugh through it. ( )
  Caitdub | Oct 24, 2013 |
I really liked this. I thought the translation was very good: it's engaging and interesting and doesn't get too dry, as some translations are prone to doing. Of course, it seems like a lot of that is down to the original text, which I do wish I could experience. But the translation is well done, I think. The descriptions are gorgeous, in places, and the imagery is lovely.

I really enjoyed learning about Tristan's history, too, with his foster father and how he grows up. He's a bit of a "Gary Stu", as fandom would put it: he's a bit too perfect. A bit of a Lancelot all round, really (I don't really like most portrayals of Lancelot).

The problem with enjoying this is how shameless Tristan and Isolde are. They trick Mark and make him feel guilty for ever suspecting them, and then respond to his love for them by cuckolding him again. They don't seem to make any real effort to hold back. And Tristan mistreats the other Isolde (of the White Hands), and Isolde the Fair's treatment of Brangane is ridiculous. Of course, these problems that are there for a modern reader might not be, for the original audience -- I'm aware of that, and it doesn't actually affect my rating of it because I enjoyed reading it so much. Still, it's hard to sympathise with the characters when they do things like that.

There are some great passages, though -- really affecting, and you can really feel for the characters. I had more sympathies for Mark than I'd expected.

It really isn't Arthurian at all, incidentally. There are a couple of references to King Arthur, but Tristan isn't a knight of the Round Table here. I'm still 'shelving' it as Arthurian, though, because of how strongly linked the Tristan and Iseult story has become with the Arthurian stories. ( )
1 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
The earliest known forms of the legend of Tristan and his ill-fated love for the Irish princess Isolde date from around 1150. Numerous variations of the story exist, but around 1210 it assumed its classic form at the hands of the poet Gottfried, of whom little is known except that he hailed from Strassburg.

The story begins with a brief history of Tristan's parents. His father, Rivalin, is the ruler of Parmenie, a region described as being between Brittany and Normandy, his mother, Blancheflor, is the sister of King Mark of Cornwall. Born of a secret union between the two and soon orphaned, Tristan is raised in ignorance of his noble origins. Chance leads him to Cornwall where he becomes a favorite of King Mark before it is revealed to one and all that Tristan is the king's nephew.

The next phase of the story is familiar to any who have enjoyed Richard Wagner's opera "Tristan und Isolde." After having fought a duel to free Cornwall from having to pay tribute to the King of Ireland, Tristan is sent to Ireland to solicit the hand in marriage of the king's daughter Isolde for his uncle Mark. Through a combination of bravery and trickery, Tristan is successful in bringing the princess back with him, but Isolde makes no secret of her hatred of Tristan for having killed her uncle in combat. This changes dramatically, however, when the two accidentally drink a love potion and fall hopelessly in love with each other.

Tristan's dilemma is that he cannot betray his uncle and king by denying Isolde to him, yet he cannot refrain from loving Isolde. The result is years of subterfuge and scandal as Tristan and Isolde carry on an affair under Mark's nose. Their first challenge, however, is to somehow hide from Mark the fact that his bride is no longer the virgin she was advertised to be.

Compared with other romances of its time, Gottfried's Tristan touches very lightly on the elements that characterize the Age of Chivalry. There is less emphasis on knightly behavior, the pageantry of jousting tournaments, the rituals of courtly love, or religious piety. Instead the focus is on the nature of Love itself and the lengths to which it will drive those afflicted with it. The author's attitudes towards society and religion are surprisingly more modern than medieval.

Gottfried based his poem on one by a man named Thomas, and several times insists that he is being as true as possible to his source. The last part of Gottfried's Tristan has not survived, but, oddly enough, ONLY the final part of Thomas's "Tristan" is still in existence. So the editors have pieced the two together to tell the complete story. The transition from one author to the other is surprisingly smooth, possibly because it is the work of the same translator, though Thomas's writing is perceptibly more succinct and less colorful than Gottfried's. A. S. Hatto's translation in both cases is highly readable prose. ( )
4 vote StevenTX | Dec 13, 2011 |
Forget Lancelot and Guenivere, Tristan and Isolde are the original Romeo and Juliet!

Gottfried caries on the romatic tradition and creates a love tringle between Isolde, Tristan, and King Marke. The legend of the doomed lovers unfolds in the classic tradition that ends (albeit abruptly) in tragedy. Gottfried's poem is unfinished but the book also contains the translation of Thomas' "Tristan" as well. The book omits the connection to the Court of King Arthur but it does not detract from the legend. This book is closer to Beroul's Tristan and the 2006 movie staring Franco, Myles, and Sewell rather than the 15th century "Le Morte D'Arthur" by Malory. I recommend this version of the tale over all the others I've read! ( )
  Shuffy2 | Aug 7, 2009 |
FF: One of the great romances of the Middle Ages, Tristan, written in the early thirteenth century, is based on a medieval love story of grand passion and deceit. By slaying a dragon, the young prince Tristan wins the beautiful Isolde’s hand in marriage for his uncle, King Mark. On their journey back to Mark’s court, however, the pair mistakenly drink a love-potion intended for the king and his young bride, and are instantly possessed with an all-consuming love for each another - a love they are compelled to conceal by a series of subterfuges that culminates in tragedy. Von Strassburg’s work is acknowledged as the greatest rendering of this legend of medieval lovers, and went on to influence generations of writers and artists and inspire Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.
  edella | Jul 28, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gottfried von Strassburgprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas of BritainAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas of Britainmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Hatto, A. T.Translatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This edition of Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan also includes Thomas's Tristan. It should not be combined with editions that only include Gottfried's version.
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