“Wolfram, Hans discovered, said of himself: I fled the pursuit of letters. Wolfram, Hans discovered, broke with the archetype of the courtly knight and was denied (or denied himself) all training, all clerical schooling. Wolfram, Hans discovered, unlike the troubadours and the minnesingers, declined to serve a lady. Wolfram, Hans discovered, declared that he was untutored in the arts, not to boast of a lack of education, but as a way of saying he was free from the burden of Latin learning and that he was a lay and independent knight. Lay and independent.
Of course, there were German medieval poets more important than Wolfram von Eschenbach, like Friedrich von Hausen or Walther von der Vodelweide. But Wolfram’s pride— ‘I fled the pursuit of letters, I was untutored in the arts,’ a pride that stands aloof, a pride that says, ‘die, all of you, but I’ll live’— confers upon him a halo of dizzying mystery, of terrible indifference, which attracted young Hans the way a giant magnet attracts a slender nail. Wolfram had no lands. Wolfram therefore lived in a state of vassalage. Wolfram had some protectors, counts who allowed their vassals, or at least some of them, to be visible. Wolfram said, ‘my hereditary office is the shield.’ And as Halder told Hans all these things about Wolfram as if to place him at the scene of the crime, Hans read Parzival from beginning to end, sometimes aloud, out in the fields or on the path home from work. And not only did he understand it, he liked it. And what he liked most, what made him cry and roll laughing in the grass, was that Parzival sometimes rode— ‘my hereditary office is the shield— wearing his madman’s garb under his suit of armor.”