Tiere. Begleiter des Menschen in der Literatur des Mittelalters. Herausgegeben von Judith Klinger und Andreas Kraß. Köln: Böhlau, 2017. 320 Seiten + 20 s/w und farbige Abbildungen. €40,00 gebunden.

Will Hasty

That the medieval conditio humana needs to be placed not just in religious but also in animalistic contexts in need of deeper scholarly consideration is an insight afforded by this useful collection of essays edited by Judith Klinger and Andreas Kraß. Departing from the basic assumption that the medieval zoological is heavily informed by the theological, as well as by the writings of ancient authorities on animals and their medieval transmitters (as well as vice versa: think of Mark as winged lion, Luke as winged ox, and John as eagle), humanity is placed by the essays in this volume vis-à-vis the (other) animals by means of which it defines itself in terms of possibilities as well as limits/dangers, and endeavors to assure its survival and prosperity. “Begleiter” needs to be understood as covering a correspondingly broad range of meanings and relationships. The approaches to animals taken in this volume range from the practical importance of certain animals (such as the horse) in medieval (and particularly chivalric) culture and the existential significance of domesticated animals (such as dogs and cats) bred to be companions, workers, and helpers to wild animals for which the medieval sources demonstrate fearful admiring fascination and which are used to define the uttermost limits of humanity in terms of goodness, strength, and courage (the lion) versus the evil, devious, and demonic, but also the ingenious (the fox), with interesting intermixtures (the wolf, the boar).

An Einführung by the editors provides a broad frame for the consideration of the manifold points of cultural intersection and production emerging from human interactions with animals by surveying seminal texts from different cultural domains (e.g. the Altdeutsche Genesis, the Altdeutsche Physiologus, Zauber- and Segensprüche). The volume surveys the broad spectrum of meanings of “Begleiter” under five headings. Under the first, “Ritter und Pferd,”Lieselotte Saurma-Jeltsch’s chapter (“Bucephalus als ,Alter Ego‘ Alexanders des Großen”) examines Alexander and his wondrous horse Bucephalus as interdependent “hybrid creations,” and Bernd Bastert looks at iterations of the similarly marvelous horse Bayard in Old French epic poetry (“Ritter hoch vier – Das Wunderkind Bayard und die Haymonskinder”).

The second, “Tiere des Hauses,” includes three essays that combine a variety of different Latin and vernacular sources. Denise Grduszak, writing on the cat (“Die Katze. Eine unabhängige Komplizin”), finds an ambivalent characterization based on felines’ independent nature. Lina Herz’s essay on the dog (“Der beste aller Freunde. Von Menschen und Hunden in mittelalterlicher Literatur”) explores various medieval evaluations of this animal as “the best of all friends.” Finally, Werner Röcke’s chapter on the donkey (“Die Esel oder die Klugheit des Dummen”) shows ambivalent meanings that shift over time from a more negative (based on perceived stupidity and obstinacy) to a more positive understanding (bearer of burdens).

The third section on “Tiere des Waldes” begins with Jan-Dirk Müller’s contribution on the boar (“Eber, Wildschweine überhaupt”) which, based largely on courtly sources, ranges from positive renderings on the part of military populations associated with violent force to negative ones emphasizing the illegitimate, demonic aspects of such force. Harald Haferland (“Der Fuchs in Tierdichtung und Erzählfolklore”) looks at portrayals of the wiliness of the fox, based on the Roman de Renart, Reinhart Fuchs, and Reynke de vos, as a means of testing and transgressing moral boundaries in often humorous ways. Judith Klinger’s analysis of the wolf (“Der Wolf: Vernichter, Wächter, Schattenbruder”) posits the status of this figure as a marker between civilization and wilderness (a point also made in different ways by the other chapters in this section), and as a vehicle for the portrayal of the “Nachtseite” of humanity. Andreas Kraß concludes the section with his chapter on the lion as “Begleiter des Menschen” (“Noble Doppelgänger. Der Löwe als Begleiter des Menschen in der Literatur”) and thereby as a reflection of humanity’s greatest aspirations, based on ancient and medieval sources and extending to Sibylle Lewitscharoff’s novel Blumenberg about the famous philosopher.

The fourth section of the book lifts the focal point to examine the three birds that figured most prominently in the ancient and medieval sources. Silke Winst’s chapter (“Der Rabe. Krieger – Bote – Totenvogel”) examines functions of the raven ranging from its associations with the dead of battlefields (and with death generally) and with sinfulness from a Christian perspective to its employment as companion of saints and messenger. The king of birds is the eagle in the contribution of Otto Neudeck (“König der Vögel. Der Adler als Herrschaftssymbol in mittelalterlicher Wap-pendichtung”), which demonstrates the evolution of this animal from symbol of rulership (and in association with this, of military capacity) to its crowning as the imperial symbol per se in the form of the Reichsadler (leading to the Bundesadler of today). Ronny F. Schultz’s chapter on the falcon (“so wol dir valke, daz du bist! – Falken als Begleiter des Menschen im Minnesang”) considers the uplifting functions of this bird of prey in its recurring use as a symbol of the knight or of courtly love in the medieval German love lyrics (Minnesang).

In a final section and chapter, Wolfgang Haubrich (“Tierische Identitäten. Zur symbolischen Kommunikation in Namen des frühen Mittelalters”) takes a linguistic approach to ways in which humans overlap with the perceived characteristics of other animals via their associations with these in the proper names of individuals. The emphasis in this chapter falls on naming systems of Germanic languages and dialects that endeavor to tap into the identificatory potential—particularly for military-aristocratic populations—of the different animal associations that have been explored in the other chapters of this volume.

This attractive volume, embellished with reproductions of manuscript illuminations depicting the various animals (a few in color; most in black and white in the manner of initials at the chapter beginnings), is intended for a more general audience than scholars of medieval (German) literature, though the latter will also benefit from it; correspondingly, modern German translations are provided for citations from the analyzed sources in the Latin and medieval vernacular languages (among the latter of which the German vernacular predominates by far). Some readers may find that the balance between plot synopsis of lesser-known texts on the one hand and analysis on the other occasionally drifts a bit too far in the former direction, but overall this book offers a cogent presentation that will be of interest to specialists as well as to a broader readership. Representing (German) medieval literary culture, it will occupy an important position in the growing corpus of critical literature in Animal Studies.