Garin le Loherain

The 12th-century chanson de geste of Garin le Loherain is one of the fiercest and most sanguinary narratives left by the trouvères. This local cycle of Lorraine, which is completed by Hervis de Metz, Girbers de Metz, Ansis, fils de Girbert, and Von, appears to have a historical basis. Although the actions as recorded cannot be identified with specific historical events, the poems are valuable depictions of the savage feudal wars in the 11th and 12th centuries.

An early 20th-century critic[1] suggested that these poems resume historical traditions going back to the Vandal irruption of 408 and the Battle of Chalons fought by the Romans and the West Goths against the Huns in 451. Episodes are evolved naturally, and the usual devices adopted by the trouvères to reconcile their inconsistencies are absent.

The cycle relates three wars against hosts of heathen invaders. In the first of these Charles Martel and his faithful vassal Hervis de Metz fight by an extraordinary anachronism against the Vandals, who have destroyed Reims and besieged other cities. They are defeated in a great battle near Troyes. In the second Hervis is besieged in Metz by the Hongres. He sends first for help to Pippin, who defers his assistance by the advice of the traitor Hardré.

Hervis then transfers his allegiance to Ansis of Cologne, by whose help the invaders are repulsed, though Hervis himself is slain. In the third Thierry, king of Morianel sends to Pippin for help against four Saracen kings. He is delivered by a Frankish host, but falls in the battle. Hervis of Metz was the son of a citizen to whom the duke of Lorraine had married his daughter Aelis, and his sons Garin and Begue are the heroes of the chanson which gives its name to the cycle. The dying king Thierry had desired that his daughter Blanchefleur should marry Garin, but when Garin prefers his suit at the court of Pippin, Fromont of Bordeaux puts himself forward as his rival and Hardré, Fromont's father, is slain by Garin.

The rest of the poem is taken up with the war that ensues between the Lorrainers and the men of Bordeaux. They finally submit their differences to the king, only to begin their disputes once more. Blanchefleur becomes the wife of Pippin, while Garin remains her faithful servant. One of the most famous passages of the poem is the assassination of Begue by a nephew of Fromont, and Garin, after laying waste his enemy's territory, is himself slain. The remaining songs continue the feud between the two families.

According to Paulin Paris, the family of Bordeaux represents the early dukes of Aquitaine, the last of whom, Waifar (745-768) was dispossessed and slain by Pippin the Short, king of the Franks; but the trouvères had in mind no doubt the wars which marked the end of the Carolingian dynasty.



Hervis de Metz
Garin le Loherain
Gerbert de Metz
Anseïs de Metz



Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Garin Le Loherain.
  1. F. Settegast, Quellenstudien zur gallo-romanischen Epik, 1904.
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