The thirteenth century romance Wigalois, by Wirnt von Grafenberg, is written in Middle High German. Marrien is a wise an benevolent figure who lives in the Valley of Marvels and is revered by the humans who live nearby. Marrien is described as having the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse, and he is known for his knowledge of herbs and medicine.
When the hero of the story, Wigalois, arrives in Marrien’s valley, he is attacked by a group of wild centaurs. Marrien comes to his aid and helps him defeat the other creatures. Marrien then becomes a mentor to Wigalois, teaching him about the ways of the world and helping him on his quest.
Marrien’s role in the story is significant, as he helps Wigalois on his journey and teaches him many important lessons. Marrien is a unique character in medieval literature, as centaurs were typically portrayed as wild and violent creatures.
Now listen more of this strange child,
Whose heart was pure and meek and mild,
For his father was a centaur,
Half man, half beast, a wondrous power,
Born and raised in that same land
Where Wigalois did first take stand.
The day he was born to this world,
He went to his father's house unfurled,
A dwelling high upon a mount,
Where he was given full account
To serve his father faithfully
And never stray from loyalty.
And as he grew in strength and might,
He learned the ways of knighthood right
And all the laws of chivalry,
So that when he returned to see
His land once more and take command,
He led with wisdom at his hand
And all could see his worth and skill,
As he fulfilled his duties still.
In this excerpt, Marrien is explicitly named as the child of a centaur and the one who becomes a wise and just ruler of his land. The passage highlights Marrien’s loyalty and dedication to his father, as well as his growth and development as a knight and leader.
Christopher W. Bruce tells us about Marrien in this way in his Arthurian Name Dictionary.
In the works of A devil-spawned centaur with the head of a dog.
It served the evil King Roaz of Glois, and it attacked Sir Wigalois (Gawain’s son) when he came to Glois to kill Roaz. Marrien carried a kettle full of magical fire, which could not be quenched, and which he hurled at Wigalois. Wigalois’ surcoat and horse were burned away, but he found that the fire could not burn through his magical armor. He advanced, gravely wounded Marrien, and used Marrien’s blood to put out the fire. Marrien, meanwhile, fled into a swamp full of poisonous fog and died.
Centaurs | Myths and Legends
Wigalois | Wirnt von Grafenberg, early 13th century