Sintram and his Companions
The story about Sintram is written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843), German writer of French origin who is best known by Undine, one of the most popular novellas in 19th century.
While both stories share many elements typical for romantic literature, including atmosphere which is often on the edge of eerie, many consider Undine as a typical fairy tale, but nobody dares to do the same for Sintram.
The book about Sintram, a knight in Norway, who is living in non-stop conflict. A part of him is wild, untamed, blood-thirsty, but the other part wants to become a true noble knight, with big heart, doing great things. This dualism emphasizes with an arrival of French knight Folko and his wife Gabrielle by the ship from Normandy.
It looks the presence of Gabrielle awakens all the best qualities of Sintram's personality, but on the other hand something wild in him pushes him to take her as she was his property.
This dualism of Sintram is seen on several levels, which make the book relatively hard to read (the plot could be better too), but enrich it at the same time.
We can start with his parents - a cruel knight practicing weird and bloody traditions as a father and mother with the quallites of the saint who actually becomes a nun.
We can continue with Sintram's actions, plundering and burning villages and praying for forgiveness in the same day.
And we can end with the ending, where Sintram gives in to his lust, yet does the right thing to enable at least somehow happy ending in this occassionaly trully creepy story.
It is believed the Sintram and his companions was inspired by Albrect Durer's engraving Knight Death, and the Devil.
The engraving was sent to Fouquet by his friend Edward Hitzig as a birthday present with a suggestion to write a ballad based on it.
t is believed the Durer's etching portrays Franz von Sickengen, who, along with his dog rides to the battle. In the surroundings we notice poisonous weed, repulsive lizards and an enemy with a raised claw. The knight rides seemingly calm what very likely led to alternative name of the picture: The Death Knight.
The most notable occurrences are Death as a rotting corpse, riding on the bony pony and holding an hourglass reminding him the shortness of one's life.The Devil goes behind with a goat head and a spear.
All the elements of this well-studied image are present in Sintram & his Companions too. Death is presented as a tall pale pilgrim who often repeats himself or others and the devil as an ancient historian with twisted sense of humour.
Both of them are tempting the knight (Sintram) on constant basis and he struggles from chapter to chapter until the final decision where help of his foster-father and his mother's prayings as life-long helpers against the sin: Grace and Prayer.
Such story of course offers superb material for imaginative illustrations and several top illustrators of different eras made full series of works among which we'll see how Gordon Browne (1858-1932) saw the story about Sintram in 1925 edition published by Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., Ltd. in London.
I hope you enjoyed in the powerful illustrations (together with five black and white reproductions of paintings) by Gordon Browne.
While Sintram and his Companions never gained (frankly it either deserved) the popularity and the influence of the Friedriche de la Motte Fouque's Undine, it definitely call for the adaptation for modern media like silver screen or video games.
We'll see how soon somebody decided to approach this powerful multilayered story.