Secular epics in the 13th to 15th century
Bavaria fully emerges with the classic epic around 1200, albeit in competition with the Wittelsbachers: on the one hand with the anonymous Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs) and on the other hand with Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (around 1170-1220). The Nibelungenlied, written at the bishop's court in Passau, is the first and at the same time the most important Middle High German heroic epic that brings the older heroic sagas from the Germanic Migration Period that only exist in oral song tradition to the written form and combines the Germanic ethos of inevitable human tragedy with Christian and courtly elements. The life and death of the hero Siegfried and Kriemhild's revenge are sung about in 39 Aventiuren (adventures) and around 2400 verses; the historical core of the saga is the defeat of the people's migratory Burgundian empire against Hun auxiliary troops in 436. Wolfram's Parzival is not only the most popular and widespread courtly epic of the Middle Ages but also the most wide-ranging work of the Middle High German classical period. The verse novel divided into 16 books dates back to old French sources and unites the two large courtly circles around King Arthur and the Holy Grail. The unfinished Titurel appears as a continuation of the material.
Wolfram, who probably named himself after the Franconian town of Eschenbach (Wolframs-Eschenbach since 1917), wrote the second great epic Willehalm at Thuringia's court of the landgraves in the years 1210-1220, modelled on a "chanson de geste". This work is continued by the "strong" Rennewart, named after the main hero, by Swabian Ulrich von Türheim (c. 1180-1250): the plot continues where Wolfram's "Willehalm" stops, with the victory of the Christians over the heathens in the second Battle of Aliscans. Ulrich also wrote the sequel to Tristan by Gottfried von Strasbourg (died around 1215): it concludes the events with Tristan's and Isolde's "love death" and follows pious, moral lines. In addition to the ancient novel and Arthurian novel, Tristan and its sequels form the third important complex of the courtly novel with the main subjects of the "love" and "suffering" of "noble hearts". As the offspring of a Hohenstaufen ministerial family, Ulrich von Türheim, together with the Minnesinger Ulrich von Winterstetten (before 1241-1280), was assigned to a circle of late Staufer poets.
The Jüngerer Titurel (Younger Titurel) epic (around 1260/75) by a poet named Albrecht, perhaps from Bavaria, who was identified with an otherwise unknown Albrecht von Scharfenberg for a long time, of which Ulrich Füetrer's (died 1496) Book of Adventures also contains a text, provides a further extension of the material in its predecessor "Parzival" or "Titurel". The reception of the work attributed to Wolfram in the Middle Ages dates back to the 15th century; the so-called Fernberger-Dietrichstein manuscript presented here has an artistically demanding picture cycle.
In the 13th century, literature with a didactic intent and scientific claim proves to set the trend with a view to the late Middle Ages. The most extensive German teaching poem of the Middle Ages with about 25,000 verses is "Der Renner" (The Racer) by the East Franconian poet and Bamberg school principal Hugo von Trimberg (around 1230-after 1313). The work combines all kinds of interesting facts from the fields of theology, law, medicine and natural science and also gives practical instructions. The genus of the courtly love song allegory is essentially more modern. The Upper Palatinate poet Hadamar von Laber (c. 1330-1355) dresses the theme of courtship in his Minne epic "Die Jagd" (The Hunt) in the form of a hunting allegory, whereby the hunting dogs are named allegorically according to the qualities of the hunter but also according to the attitudes of the (hunted) lady as well as aspects and actions of love. "The Ring" by the Constance lawyer Heinrich Wittenwiler (c. 1410) is one of the most astonishing narrative works of the German Late Middle Ages. The comic and didactic epic tells the love and wedding story of the foolish Bertschi Triefnas and the ugly Metzli Rürenzumpf from Lappenhausen and is only preserved in this parchment codex in a mixture of Alemannic and Bavarian language.