The Tristan Tree

(by Albrecht Classen)

The scope of Tristan texts from the Middle Ages to the present seems almost infinite, below you will find a selection of the most important ones from almost all major European language areas. The subject also found its way into the world of the visual arts.

Celtic and Welsh Sources: 6th Century: Drustan. Son of Talorc, and: Drystan/Trystan

Possible: Arabic and Persian sources, such as the Persian Wîs and Rânîn

French Tradition

Brut, ca. 1155, Chrétien de Troyes: Cligès, ca. 1170/80

Marie de France: “Chèvrefeuille”: ca. 1160/1170 or around 1200

Béroul: Roman de Tristan. ca. 1160-ca. 1220 (?)

Thomas de Bretagne (Brittany) : Anglo-Norman fragments of the Tristan material, ca. 1150

Folie de Berne, Folie d’Oxford

Donnei des amants, ca. 1200 (episode with Tristan Rossignol, or Tristan imitating the nightingale)

Gerbert de Montreuil: Tristan episode in his continuation of the Perceval romance, 1st half of the 13th century

Prose Tristan, Tristan en prose (medieval “bestseller” far into the 16th century)

Joseph Bédier: Roman de Tristan et Iseut, 1900

Michel Cazenave: Tristan et Iseut, 1985

German Tradition

Eilhart von Oberg: Tristrant, ca. 1170/80

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan, ca. 1210

Tristan als Mönch, ca. 1220-1230

Ulrich von Türheim: Tristan, ca. 1235

Heinrich von Freiberg: Tristan, ca. 1285-90

[Czech version: Tristram. ca. 1390-1400]

Prose Tristan: Tristrant und Isalde, printed in 1484

Hans Sachs: “Meisterlieder” [master songs – some with references to Tristan], 1551

Hans Sachs: Tragedia, mit 23 Personen, “von der strengen lieb herr Tristrant mit der schönen königin Isalden,” 1553

Popular Songs with references to Tristan: 16th century

Many new versions, translations, and paraphrases in the Romantic period, late 18th and early 19th centuries

Richard Wagner: Tristan and Isolde, 1859 (opera)

Many new versions since the 1960s, including films and pictures

Nordic Tradition

Brother Robert: Saga af Tristram ok îsönd, 1226 (Iceland)

Strengleikar eda Liodabók, ca. 1250, collection of translated songs (cf. Marie de France)

Saga af Trîstram ok Isodd, Icelandic, 15th century

Tristrams Kvaedi (Iceland), ca. middle of the 15th c., mss. until the 17th c.

Tristrams Táttur, Faero Islands, copied in 1847/48 after the oral presentation of a woman Anna Hamsdotter

English Tradition

Sir Tristrem, ca. 1330

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte Darthu. (Boke of Syr Trystrrams de Lyones), ca. 1470

Matthew Arnold: Tristram and Iseult, 185 2

Alfred Lord Tennyson: Idylls of the King

Algernon Charles Swinburne: Tristram of Lyoness, 1882

Italian Tradition

Tristano Riccardiano  (end of the 13th century)

Tristano Panciatichiano (end of the 13th century)

Tristano Veneto (13th c.?)

Tristano Corsiniano (13th c.?)

Tristano Palatino (15th c.)

Zibaldone da Canal, end of the 14th century

Conto di Brunor e di Galeotto suo figlio (in: Conti di antichi cavalieri), end of 13th century

Tavola Ritonda, 14th-17th centuries

Straparola, The Facetious Nights (early 16th c.)

Novellino, 1572 (contains a Tristan episode)

Many balladesque cantari from the 14th century onwards

Ibero-Portuguese Tradition

Cancioneiro de Ajuda (de Lisboa), 13th and 14th centuries

Tristan fragment, Galician-Portuguese version, 14th century

Juan Ruiz: Libro de buen amor, 1343 (v. 1703b)

Cancioneiro de Baena, ça. 1445 (collection of popular songs)

Several Tristan romances, 15th century

Ballads, such as Heriod está don Tristán, 15th and 16th centuries

Coronica nueuamente emendada y anadida del buen cauallero don Tristán de Leonís y del rey don Tristan de Leonís, el joven, su hijo, 1534

Greek Tradition

Manuscript from the 14th century with a Greek version

Serborussian Tradition

Povest o Tristanu o Izoti, end of the l6th century

Czech Tradition

Old Czech Tristan epic

Bjelorussian Tradition

Il Tristano Biancorusso (this is an edition by Emanuela Sgambati and an Italian trans.)

Middle Latin Tradition

Romanus de Tristan, 12th c.

Many references to the Tristan material in textiles (tapestry), ivory carving, paintings, and sculptures from the 12th through the 16th centuries.

e.g. Convent Wienhausen near Celle, Germany

wall paintings in castle Runkelstein, South Tyrol, Italy

Chertsey Tiles, England

for further information, see Alain Deighton, “Visual Representations of the Tristan Legend and Their Written Sources: a Re-Evaluation,” Tristania XX (2000).
Roger Sherman Loomis and Laura Hibbard Loomis, Arthurian Legens in Medieval Art (London-New York 1938, 1965).