Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart - By Jesse Bullington

I: The First Blasphemy

II: Bastards at Large

III: Night in the Mountains

IV: A Lamentable Loss

V: The Other Cheek

VI: The Teeth of a Donated Horse

VII: A Cautionary Yarn, Spun for Fathers and Daughters Alike

VIII: Enough Distractions

IX: Odd Men at Odds

X: Fresh Paths and Good Intentions

XI: A Humourous Adventure

XII: A Telling on the Mountain

XIII: The Start of a Tale Already Concluded

XIV: The Monotonous Road

XV: Prophets of the Schism

XVI: The Gaze of the Abyss

XVII: The Difficult Homecoming

XVIII: Beards of a Feather

XIX: Like the Beginning, the End of Winter Is Difficult to Gauge in the South

XX: Venetian Heartbreak

XXI: The Conflagration of Desires

XXII: Sins of the Father

XXIII: Ever Southward

XXIV: The Execution of the Grossbarts

XXV: The Monotonous Sea

XXVI: The Children’s Crusade

XXVII: Rhodes to Gyptland

XXVIII: The Rapturous Hunt

XXIX: Like the End, the Beginning of Winter Is Difficult to Gauge in the South

XXX: Their Just Reward

XXXI: The Final Heresy




Meet the Author


A Preview of THE COMPANY

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The story of the Brothers Grossbart does not begin with the discovery of the illuminated pages comprising Die Tragödie der Brüder Große Bärte tucked inside a half-copied Bible in a German monastery five hundred years ago, nor does it end with the incineration of those irreplaceable artifacts during the firebombing of Dresden last century. Even the myriad oral accounts that were eventually transcribed into the aforementioned codex by an unremembered monk hardly constitute a true starting point, and, as the recent resurgence in scholarship testifies, the chronicle of the Grossbarts has not yet concluded. The pan-cultural perseverance of these medieval tales makes the lack of a definitive modern translation even more puzzling, with the only texts available to the contemporary reader being the handful of remaining nineteenth-century reprints of the original documents and the mercifully out-of-print verse translations of Trevor Caleb Walker. That Walker was a better scholar than a poet is nowhere more evident than in that vanity edition, and thus came the impetus to retell Die Tragödie in a manner that would transmit the story as it would have been appreciated by its original audience.

The distinction here between stories and story represents what is, presumably, a first in the field—rather than treating Die Tragödie as a collection of independent fragments, comparable to the contemporaneous Romance of Reynard, I have focused on the quest continuously reiterated by the Grossbarts themselves in order to cobble together a cohesive and linear narrative. A benefit of transforming the work into a single account is the inclusion of previously unlinked stories, divergences that illuminate aspects of the greater narrative even if they at first seem quite disparate save for their era and locale. Another consequence of this approach is that small leaps occasionally occur in the journey as overly repetitious adventures are elided.

Scholars curious as to whether this humble author sides with the apologists Dunn and Ardanuy or the revisionists Rahimi and Tanzer will be disappointed—this tale is intended for those members of the public having no previous acquaintance with the Grossbarts, and is thus unadorned with academic grandstanding. For this reason, and to avoid unduly distracting the average reader, the following pages lack annotation, with the most popular interpretation of any given incident defaulted to when variations arise. As has already been stated, the adventures of the Grossbarts are often remarkably similar save for locale—reflecting regional differences on the part of the original storytellers—and so marking up these deviations would defeat the entire purpose of the project, which is to convey the tale as it would have come across in its original form. After all, the average German serf would be no more aware that his Dutch neighbors blamed his region for spawning the Grossbarts than the merchant of Dordrecht would be that down in Bad Endorf the Germans insisted his town was where the twins were born.

This is indicative of the gulf separating contemporary readers from the original audience, an audience alien almost to the point of incomprehensibility. Those first storytellers and listeners might, for example, have taken the fantastic and violent elements much more seriously with only hearth or campfire to stave off the perilous night. The fourteenth century, wherein the tales were both told and set, was, as Barbara Tuchman opens her history of that era, a “violent, tormented, bewildered, suffering and disintegrating age, a time, as many thought, of Satan triumphant.”

Yet it was no arbitrary decision that led Tuchman to title that work A Distant Mirror. Tragedies and atrocities may seem inherently worse when appraised from long after they occurred, but despite all we have accomplished wars rage, righteous uprisings are viciously suppressed, Copyright 2016 - 2021