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Title page of the 1590 edition of the Heldenbuch.

Heldenbücher (singular Heldenbuch "book of heroes") is the conventional title under which a group of manuscripts and prints of the 15th and 16th centuries has come down to us. Each Heldenbuch contains a collection of primarily German epic poetry, typically including material from the Theodoric cycle, and the cycle of Hugdietrich, Wolfdietrich and Ortnit. The Heldenbuch texts are thus based on medieval German literature, but adapted to the tastes of the Renaissance, remodelled in rough Knittelvers or doggerel.

The Heldenbücher group was edited in 19th-century German scholarship, by Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen (Leipzig 1855, 2 vols.), Müllenhoff (Berlin 1866-73, 5 vols.), Simrock (Stuttgart 1843-49, 6 vols.) and A. von Keller (Stuttgart, 1867).


A fragmentary manuscript of the first half of the 14th century, containing Eckenlied, Virginal, Ortnit and Wolfdietrich, may be considered a predecessor or the earliest member of this group. Apart from this, the oldest Heldenbuch is a manuscript dated 1472, the so-called Dresdner Heldenbuch, containing Ortnit/Wolfdietrich, Eckenlied, Rosengarten zu Worms, Sigenot, Wunderer, Laurin, Virginal, the Younger Lay of Hildebrand, with Meerwunder and Herzog Ernst added in a later hand. A manuscript of the 1480s contains, Virginal, the tale of Antelan, Ortnit/Wolfdietrich, Nibelungenlied and Lorengel. There are two Heldenbuch manuscripts of Strasbourg, written between 1476 and 1480.


The first printed Heldenbuch dates to 1479, bearing the title der helden buch/das nennet den wolfdieterich, putting its main focus on Wolfdietrich, whom it makes an ancestor of Dietrich's. Later printed Heldenbücher appeared in Augsburg 1491, Hagenau 1509, Augsburg 1545, Frankfurt 1560 and Frankfurt 1590.


Das Heldenbuch, which F. von der Hagen published in two volumes in 1855, was the first attempt to reproduce the original text by collating the manuscripts. A critical edition, based not merely on the oldest printed text — the only one which has any value for this purpose, as the others are all copies of it — but also on the manuscripts, was published in five volumes by O. Jänicke, E. Martin, A. Amelung and J. Zupitza at Berlin (1866–1873). A selection, edited by E. Henrici, will be found in Kürschner's Deutsche Nationalliteratur, vol. 7 (1887).

Late in the 19th century, editions appeared of Der Rosengarten and Laurin. by G. Holz (1893 and 1897). All the poems were translated into modern German by Karl Simrock and others. See F. E. Sandbach, The Heroic Saga-Cycle of Dietrich of Bern (1906). The literature of the Heldensage is very extensive. See especially W. Grimm, Die deutsche Heldensage (3rd ed., 1889); L. Uhland, "Geschichte der deutschen Poesie im Mittelalter", Schriften, vol. i. (1866); O. L. Jiriczek, Deutsche Heldensage, vol. i. (1898); and especially B. Symons, "Germanische Heldensage", in Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie (2nd ed., 1898).

See also[edit]


  • Deutsches Heldenbuch. Nach Vorarbeiten von Karl Müllenhof, WEIDMANN. ISBN 3-615-17100-4.
  • Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, (ed.): Heldenbuch. Altdeutsche Heldenlieder aus dem Sagenkreis Dietrichs von Bern und der Nibelungen. (Meist aus einzigen Handschriften), 1855, reprinted 1977.
  • Joachim Heinzle: Einführung in die mittelhochdeutsche Dietrichepik. Berlin: de Gruyter 1999. ISBN 3-11-015094-8
  • Kofler, Walter (ed.): Das Dresdener Heldenbuch und die Bruchstücke des Berlin-Wolfenbütteler Heldenbuchs: Edition und Digitalfaksimile. Stuttgart: Hirzel, 2006. ISBN 978-3-7776-1435-9.
  • Kofler, Walter (ed.): Das Straßburger Heldenbuch: Rekonstruktion der Textfassung des Diebolt von Hanowe. Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1999. 2 vols. ISBN 3-87452-913-4.

Further reading[edit]