A medieval German legend about how a minstrel and knight
of that name, who passed by the Hörselberg (Hill of Venus) and
entered therein in answer to a call. He remained there with an
enchantress and lived an unholy life. After a time he grew weary
of sin, and longing to return to normal living, forswore the worship
of Venus and left her.
He then made a pilgrimage to Rome to ask pardon of the
Pope, but when he was told by Urban IV himself that the papal
staff would as soon blossom as such a sinner as Tannhäuser be
forgiven, he returned to Venus. Three days later, the Pope’s
staff did actually blossom, and the Pope sent messengers into
every country to find the despairing minstrel, but to no purpose.
Tannhäuser had disappeared.
The story has a mythological basis that has been overlaid by
medieval Christian thought, and the original hero of which has
been displaced by a more modern personage, just as the Venus
of the existing legend is the mythological Venus only in name.
She is really a German earth-goddess, Lady Holda.
Tannhäuser was a minnesinger (love-minstrel of the middle
of the thirteenth century). He was very popular among the minnesingers
of that time. The restless and intemperate life he led
probably marked him out as the hero of such a legend as has
been recounted.
He was the author of many ballads of considerable excellence,
which were published in the second part of the Minnesinger
of Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Leipzig, 1838) and in the
sixth volume of Moriz Haupt’s Zeitschrift für deutsches Althertum
(1841). The most authentic version of this legend is given in J.
L. Uhland’s Alte hoch und niederdeutsche Volkslieder (Stuttgart,