A German Legend
translated and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1996-2011
Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Noble Tannhäuser, a German knight, had traveled through many lands. He even visited the beautiful women of the Mountain of Lady Venus, hoping to see what great miracles occurred there. After sojourning there for a while, with joy and contentment, his conscience finally directed him to return to the world, and he asked to take leave.

Lady Venus, however, tempted him with whatever it might take to make him change his mind. She offered him one of her comrades for a wife, pointing out her red lips that never ceased smiling.

Tannhäuser answered that he desired no woman other than the one he was now thinking of, nor did he want to burn forever in hell. He was not interested in the red lips. He did not want to stay here any longer, for to do so would destroy his life.

Then the she-devil tried to lure him into her room, tempting him with love, but the noble night cursed her loudly, calling upon the Heavenly Virgin to help him escape.

Filled with remorse, he set forth toward Rome in order to confess his sins to Pope Urban, and thus do penance to save his soul. However, after he confessed that he had remained an entire year with Lady Venus in her mountain, the Pope said: "Not until leaves begin to grow on this dry stick that I am holding in my hand, will your sins will be forgiven!"

Tannhäuser said: "Had I but had only one more year to live, I would have shown remorse and done penance such that God would have taken mercy on me." Grieving that the Pope had cursed him, he left the city and returned to the demonic mountain, intending to stay there forever and ever. Lady Venus welcomed him as one welcomes a long absent lover.

Three days later leaves began to grow on the stick, and the Pope sent messengers throughout the country, attempting to discover where Tannhäuser had gone. But it was too late. He was inside the mountain and had chosen a lover.

There he will remain until Judgment Day, at which time God may send him to a different place. And a priest should never discourage a sinner but should forgive all who present themselves with remorse and penance.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised February 9, 2011.