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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creativity, the trickster, and the cunning harper king: A study of the minstrel disguise entrance trick in “King Horn” and “Sir Orfeo”
by Schultz, Jerrianne D., Ph.D., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2007, 313; 3291674
Abstract (Summary)

This study focuses on Stith Thompson's minstrel disguise motif K2357.1 "Disguise as musician to enter enemy's camp," or the minstrel disguise entrance trick, and its use in King Horn and Sir Orfeo. Heroes in this motif use unexpected cunning trickery, posing as minstrels to enter an enemy stronghold peacefully, overcoming a formidable problem.

This study compiles a comprehensive catalogue of twenty-three twelfth through fourteenth century Northern European minstrel disguise entrance trick episodes, undertaking a comparative analysis defining the motif's basic features and typical patterns. Along with providing the necessary contextual framework for a study of Horn and Orfeo's disguise episodes, this analysis suggests amending the motif's currently indexed title, increasing the number of episodes catalogued from three to twenty-three, and adding a previously uncatalogued motif, "noble fosterling excels in music."

Additionally, this study examines the motif's archetypal associations, revealing two main informing traditions in Hermes the mythological trickster and David the Biblical cunning harper king, resulting in three classifying categories for these episodes: Chronicle Tales, Tales of Enchantment and the Trickster, and Noble Fosterling Tales.

From the harper king tradition, these episodes generally contain a cunning, higher-ranking/noble hero who is a soldier and a talented performer in the northern minstrelsy tradition, with a substantial problem. The trick also represents five distinctive Hermean characteristics: border-crossing, disguise, trickery, music/the bard, and paradox. Each of these disguise-heroes also uses what appears to be a form of human magic combining trickery, technical skill, and music or spoken words, all of which traditionally have magical connotations. The trick also illustrates two creative thinking processes in its intersection of contradictory concepts—minstrel and warrior—as well as evidencing a boundary-crossing form of identity-play with the hero's simultaneous possession of two incompatible sets of societal expectations as he assumes the identity of minstrel without relinquishing his identity as knight. Although cunning can be a dangerous trait, these heroes or their tricks are generally portrayed positively, as the welcome resolution to a seemingly insurmountable problem, most often performing a positive function in these episodes and highlighting the value in medieval society of leaders with creative ingenuity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Amos, Mark A.
Commitee: Netzley, Ryan, Stocking, Rachel L., Wiley, Dan M., Winston-Allen, Anne
School: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 69/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Medieval literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Creativity, Cunning, Cunning harper king, Disguise, Hermes, King David, King Horn, Minstrel, Minstrel disguise entrance trick, Sir Orfeo, Trickery, Trickster
Publication Number: 3291674
ISBN: 978-0-549-38095-5
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