German Literature - Northern Europe in the Middle Ages
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

German Literature

man sitting on bird and writing a book
Monk writing a book, seated on a wyvern
(North Germany, ca. 1150 AD
now in Metropolitan Museum, NYC)

The earliest stories of German and Scandinavian literature probably come from even earlier Indo-European stories. Some of these stories seem to be related to stories told by other Indo-European people like the Persians or the Greeks. Because nobody in northern Europe used writing, we don't know much about these early stories.

In the Middle Ages, men and women in the Holy Roman Empire (modern Germany and Austria) became Christians, and some of the monks and nuns learned to read and write in order to be able to read the Bible. Soon they began to also write their own stories down. About 830 AD, somebody wrote down the Hildebrandsleid, the story of King Hildebrand, and around 1000 AD somebody wrote down the story of Beowulf. Another famous story is the Niebelungenleid, from around 1200 AD. Around this time, people also wrote down many other stories, like the Orkneyinga saga. These stories have the same kind of plot about warriors fighting each other.

Learn by doing: write a good ending for the Hildebransleid
More about Beowulf
More about the Niebelungenleid

Bibliography and further reading about medieval German literature:

More about medieval literature
Quatr.us home


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 23 April, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT