April 21, 2015
The story of the Knight of the Swan, or Swan Knight, is a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name.
In the early 13th century, the German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach adapted the Swan Knight motif for his epic Parzival. Here the story is attached to Loherangrin, the son of the protagonist Parzival and the queen of Pelapeire Condwiramurs. As in other versions Loherangrin is a knight who arrives in a swan-pulled boat to defend a lady, in this case Elsa of Brabant. They marry, but he must leave when she breaks the taboo of asking his name.
In the late 13th century, the poet Nouhusius (Nouhuwius) adapted and expanded Wolfram's brief story into the romance Lohengrin. The poet changed the title character's name slightly and added various new elements to the story, tying the Grail and Swan Knight themes into the history of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 15th century an anonymous poet again took up the story for the romance Lorengel. This version omits the taboo against asking about the hero's name and origins, allowing the knight and princess a happy ending.
In 1848, Richard Wagner adapted the tale into his popular opera Lohengrin, probably the work through which the Swan Knight story is best known today.