TANNHAUSER, the subject of one of the most attractive German legends of the mid dle ages, is a knight who,•in the course of his travels, comes to Venusberg (q.v.), and enters the cave-palace, to behold the wonders of the lady Venus and her court. After having lived there for some time in every kind of delight, his conscience smites him. Invoking the Virgin Mary, he obtains leave of absence, and makes a pilgrimage to Rome, to pope Urban, to seek, through confession and penance, remission of his sins, and escape from damnation. But the pope, who happens to have a wand in his hand, tells him that he can as little obtain God's mercy as that dry wand can become green again. Thereupon TannhAuser departs in despair, and returns to the lady Venus in the moun tain. Three days afterward, however, the wand begins to sprout and bear green leaves; and the pope immediately sends out messengers to every country,but in vain—TannhAu ser can nowhere be found. Such is the story as told in the popular ballad once com mon all over Germany, and even beyond it, and sung in the district of Entlibuch as late as the year 1830—the best version of which is in Ubland's Alte Koch- and niederdeutsehen Volkslieder (Stuttg. 1845). In the preface of the Heldenbuch, it is further added, that " the faithful Eckhart "—a character in German heroic legends—sits before the moun tain, and warns the people of its dangers. In this shape, the story may be traced as far back as the 14th c. ; but the substance of the legend is much older, and goes back to the days of German paganism. Some traditions connect it with the Hoselber,,o. or Horsel berg, near Eisenach, in which the lady Holle or Holda (see BERERTA) held her court, who, on her part again, seems to be identical with Freyja, the Scandinavian Venus. The peculiar mythological meaning of the saga, which has numerous points of contact with many other has, however, never yet been thoroughly inquired into. Grimm sees in it a touching portrayal of the regret that lingered in the popular heart after the departing paganism, and of the sternness of the Christian priesthood in regard to it. Compare Kornmann, Mons Veneris (Fkf. 1614); Grasse, Die Sage eon?.
Ritter Tannhduser (Dres. and Leip. 1846). In later times, the saga has been put into poetical form, among others by Tieck, and made use of by R. Wagner in an opera. This idea of subterranean palaces in which the king or queen of dwarfs, pigmies, fairies, and so forth, held their court, seems to have been universal. Everywhere, stories are told of men being enticed to enter, and finding it difficult or altogether impossible ever again to obtain their liberty. See RHYMER, THOMAS. The visit of Ulysses to the isle of Calypso, and that of Circe, appear to be only modifications of the same idea.
About the middle of the 13th c., and contemporary with pope Urban (Urban IV., 1261-65), there lived in reality in Germany a Bavarian knight named TannhAuser, who, as Neidhart relates, after returning from the wars, resided as minnesinger (q.v.) at the court of the Austrian duke Frederick II. the quarrelsome. At the duke's death, and after having wasted his substance in dissipation, he resided partly with duke Otto II. of Bavaria, and partly led a wandering life. TannhAuser has composed fine spir ited ballads, which, however, show the decay that had already set in in the minnesin ger's art. TannhAuser's memory was held in high regard by the meistersingers, who also preserved one of his measures; and it is quite possible that this Tannhltuser may have been introduced into popular fiction, and have had his name Worked into a myth, in which there is some resemblance to his actual fortunes; in which process, however, that old myth became transformed into the more modern saga. The poems of Tann hAuser are published partly in the second part of the Minneranger (published by Von der Hagen, Leip. 1838), and partly in the 6th vol. of Haupt's Zeitschrift fur Deutsches Alterthum (Leip. 1848).