Thursday, December 20, 2012

On King Arthur ballads

Here's an interesting paragraph about King Arthur in Zemach David (Prague 1592), interesting really for the end.
"Arthus: the great king of Angleterra, that is England, who is known of throughout the world. He made a great defeat of the Romans and the Gauls in the year [4]297, that is 537 in the Christian date. This is the Arthus whom they composed ballads about which are still popular today among the German minstrels."

So, any experts in German King Arthur ballads?


  1. You can also find out all you wanted to know about the various kings Ludovicusi and Caroluses and so forth. Second chelek.

  2. He also writes that Columbus discovered America in 1494 instead of 1492!

  3. For more than you ever wanted to know about German King Arthur epics, see

  4. You'd think that if any such ballads were still sung even "ad ha'yom ha'zeh hamon ha'Ashkenazim" that R. DZ Hoffman would have made some mention of them in his journal Otzar Tov where he records the short bio of King Arthur. Perhaps with the onset of the 17th century they fell out of style.

    S., any idea if Jewish minstrels too would (occasionally) recite them or does the Tzemach David mean only gentile ones? I'd find it ironic if Jews did as well.

  5. While I assume he meant non-Jewish ones, the Arthur legends seem to have made at least some impact among Jews for entertainment as well. There is the manuscript printed in Otzar Tov that you mentioned (I posted about it here) and there was also at least one Yiddish book about Arthur. If I remember correctly you can find it listed in "Collectio Davidis," the catalog of the Oppenheimer Collection. So we can see that, at least, R. David Oppenheim owned a copy!

  6. I once saw a kuntress by Ibn Ezra in which he indicated that he was writing on the river at the "k'tzeh ha'olam" (or was it k'tzeh tevel?); i.e., translating "Angleterra". Was this usage picked up by others?

  7. Was there a belief that he was an historic figure just like Robinson Crusoe


  8. Much ink has been spilled as to whether Arthur or an Arthur-like figure ever really existed. One theory is that he was based on a 5th century "high king" in Britain named Riothamus:

    When Manasseh ben Israel wrote "Hope of Israel" in 1650, seeking permission for the Jews to resettle in England, he argued that this step was necessary for the Messiah to come, because it would complete the dispersion of the Jews to the "end of the earth" = Ketzeh Ha-Aretz = Angleterre.

  9. See King Artus

    for a Jewish Take.



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