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  • Frau Feie and Jousting April 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    Another book from the burning libraries file, this time from thirteenth-century Saxony. The book is, as the burning library tag suggests, lost but we learn something of its subject matter from a surviving town chronicle. In 1281-1282 Magdeburg decided to hold a jousting tournament with an unusual prize: a woman.

    Now it must be remembered that women held an important role in chivalric life generally and in tournaments in particular. Women stood on the stands and cheered their men on: and knights very often jousted or fought in honour of a particular woman. Indeed, it is easy to see the whole institution of the tournament as being testosterone overflowing from the ‘grail’ of courtly love.

    But, still, giving a woman as a prize seems a little over the top even for thirteenth-century Saxons: more usually women gave the prizes. In their defence the local notables had stumbled upon a delectable creature by the name of Frau Feie.

    Frau Feie, it is reported, was both beautiful and loose in her morals: a combination that has always set men a-slavering. Excitement in Saxony reached fever-pitch. And many a knight must have dreamt of swimming towards Frau Feie’s opening thighs: or, to stay in the spirit of the times, of giving her a thornless rose with twenty petals.

    But, regrettably, it was not to be.

    Our chronicler does not record how this happened, but at Magdeburg ‘an old merchant from Goslar’ – a man ‘in trade’ no less… – won the competition: presumably by chance or through the lack of blood in his veins. And this despicable creature, instead, of allowing the cream of Saxony to live their fantasies vicariously through him decided to reform Feie. He provided her with a dowry, a generous one, and then married her off so that she would abandon her ‘wild ways’.

    And the burning library? The Magdeburg chronicle records that ‘a whole book in German was made about [this tournament]’ and the end of Feie. It doubtless described how the desiccated old Gosling [sic] won the contest: and, Beach likes to think, how Feie returned to her vices unpunished once she’d offloaded what ever joke of a husband had been thrown at her. But we will now never know as the book, along with Feie, has vanished from this earth.

    It is a shame for more than one reason as some heretical medievalists suggest that the tournament never took place, that it was a later parody of the way knighthood was going: cloth merchants displacing men with long swords. Personally, Beach cannot bear to think, though, of the thirteenth century without Frau Feie and his money is on the Magdeburg tournament as fact.

    Any other lost books in German or any other language? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com