First of all, I will never understand why this story is called Der Blonde Eckbert. He seems to be definitely a secondary figure to Bertha. We don’t know his back story and we don’t really care. He does spend the last part of the story as the protagonist, but the action of the story is motivated solely by Bertha’s actions as a child. Very strange.
Frame story: Bertha and Eckbert living in bliss, but without children. Walther is the only person who regularly visits them. Eckbert tells Bertha to tell Walther her story one night. Story: Bertha leaves abusive family with the fantasy of returning one day to give them riches. She wanders for a few days, then finds the old woman, who takes her home to her small house in the middle of the woods. Bertha is supposed to feed the bird (which lays eggs with jewels and sings the song Waldseinsamkeit), and the dog as well as spin. She stays there for four years and the old woman leaves her to look after things for weeks at a time. Finally, Bertha steals some of the jewels the old woman had stockpiled over time, takes the bird, leaves the dog, whose name she can never remember, to starve to death, and runs away. She wanders for a while, the bird stops singing, she eventually comes to her hometown, but learns that her parents are dead. She moves on, rents a house, the bird starts singing a new song about missing the woods, Bertha kills it and buries it in the garden. Eventually she meets and marries Eckbert. After hearing the story, Walther mentions the dog’s name which Bertha could never remember. She falls into hysterical breakdown. She tells Eckbert what it’s about and he goes on a ride to clear his head. On the ride he sees Walther and kills him. When he gets back to their castle, Bertha is dead. Eckbert moves to a new town, befriends Hugo, who he eventually confesses his murder to. Hugo seems to suddenly look just like Walther. Eckbert rides all night to get home and meets the old woman after his horse dies. She confesses that she was Walther and Hugo all along. She says that she had warned Bertha all along that she’d be punished for her bad deeds and tells Eckbert that he and Bertha are actually siblings. Random ending.
Similar to the Runenberg, the woods function as a kind of adolescent testing ground. They are still associated with threatening, magical powers and mystery. Bertha only gains awareness at the expense of her innocence. Definitely an allegory of adolescence. There is also a lot of emphasis on Einsamkeit as a positive experience. Waldeinsamkeit, obviously, but also the Einsamkeit in which Bertha and Eckbert live together. There is also value placed on the idea of living in harmony with nature, but this isn’t entirely borne out. This story is less interesting landscape-wise, than the Runenberg, for sure.
Narrated in the 3rd person, omniscient. Preterite. Also, in many places, subjunctive is used to cause uncertainty in the reader about the reality of what’s happening.