Atta Troll

Atta Troll. Ein Sommernachtstraum; Atta Troll: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (published 1843, revised 1847)

Atta Troll is one of Heine’s most challenging texts. It is a mock-epic set in the Spanish Pyrenees about an escaped dancing bear, Atta Troll. As the escaped bear is hunted through the mountains, the readers are treated to some dazzling intellectual set pieces. There is a political allegory here, as Heine mocks the pomposity of some of his colleagues in the political movement Das Junge Deutschland; Young Germany. In Caputs XIX and XX the poet witnesses the pagan celebration of an ancient folk myth, the Wild Hunt. There he encounters three divine women: the Roman goddess Diana; the Celtic goddess Abunde, and the Biblical queen Herodias. Faced with the choice between the three women, the poet chooses the dead Jewess Herodias. This section of the poem anticipates the fin-de-siècle decadence of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé by around fifty years.

Further Reading

Brenda Donnellan, ‘The Structure of Atta Troll’, Heine Jahrbuch 21 (1982), 78-88

Nigel Reeves, ‘Atta Troll and his Executioners: The Political Significance of Heine’s Tragi-Comic Epic’, Euphorion 73 (1979), 388-409

Nigel Reeves, ‘Retribution in the Mountains: Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell in the Distorting Mirror of Heine’s Satire Atta Troll: Ein Sommernachtstraum’, Oxford German Studies 37:1 (2008), 27-35

Ritchie Robertson, ‘“A World of Fine Fabling”: Epic Traditions in Heine’s Atta Troll’, in Heine und die Weltliteratur, ed. by T. J. Reed and Alexander Stillmark (Oxford: Legenda, 2000), pp. 64-76

Ritchie Robertson, Mock-Epic Poetry from Pope to Heine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Chapter 11 on Atta Troll