Numerous German works make brief reference to the roles played by camels in warfare. Ottokar’s Österreichische Reimchronik states that many dead were removed from the field on camel’s backs (ll. 45174–7), that the Sultan’s army contained some 30,000 camels (ll. 48723–7), and that »olbendîn«, »dromedi« and »kemmel« were all used as beasts of burden (ll. 49341–4 – here as elsewhere, these terms seem essentially interchangeable, though dromaderies are mentioned less often in German than in French). In Heinrich von Neustadt’s Apollonius von Tyrland the hero’s army is said to contain 20,000 camels (l. 3871), and in Rennewart the heathen king Matusalan arrives to join the besiegers of Orange with a tent that needed 30 camels to carry it (ll. 12842–4). In Wolfram’s Willehalm the field at Aliscans is populated by many well-laden camels following the decimation of the armies (91, 1–3) – and later Rennewart is described as having a »surkot von kambelin« (196, 2), a motif which establishes an implicit connection between him and John the Baptist.
Elsewhere the function of the camel as a beast of burden also in peaceful settings is recorded in Rudolf von Ems’s Der guote Gêrhart (l. 1294f.) and Weltchronik (l. 6541), as well as in Albrecht’s Jüngerer Titurel (862, 1f.); and in Kudrun (541, 2f.) there is a metaphorical allusion to this role, when we are told that camels could not carry the reward deserved by the doctor who has healed Hagen. Meanwhile the role of camels being given as presents, as distinct from merely bearing them, is recorded in Pfaffe Konrad’s Rolandslied (ll. 462–74, 615–20, 845–7) as well as in its source; and in Berthold von Holle’s Crane (ll. 2446f., 4749–52), camels form part of the Emperor’s daughter’s dowry.
The other main real-life function of the camel, namely as a mount (not least of messengers) is also pointed to in some German texts; its rider, though, is generally someone unusual and/or of manifestly non-European origin. This is true of the giant who acts as a messenger for King Matur in Der Stricker’s Daniel von dem blühenden Tal (ll. 426–9), and of the Moor Falech, the dwarf Galiander, and other Saracens in Apollonius von Tyrland (ll. 431–40, 17836–9). It applies also to the gargantuan messenger from the King of Persia in Reinfried von Braunschweig (ll. 18892–9), to whom Reinfried refuses access to his castle, and who in consequence takes matters literally into his own hands by flinging his camel at and through the castle gate, causing numerous fatalities. There is also an interesting scene in Seifrit’s Alexander (ll. 3253–69), in which, at the siege of Persepolis, Alexander ties large branches to the tails of his camels, so that, when they walk, they will stir up a great deal of dust – which, in turn, will deceive the enemy as to the size of his army. On the whole, however, the narrative (and indeed comic) potential of the camel is rather neglected by German authors, for whom its function seldom extends beyond the provision of some oriental ›colour‹.