This outrageous little masterpiece is connected somehow with a more elaborate French story, "the knight who could make both cunt and asshole speak" (li chevalier qui faisoit parler les cons et les culs).*
*done into audacious English verse by Robert Hellman and Richard O'Gorman, Fabliaux (Apollo A-134, 1966), 105-121, and again, with Old French text, by Robert Harrison, Gallic Salt (University of California Press, 1974), 217-255.
The French version tells how a knight claims this handy power from three bathing fairies as ransom for their stolen clothes. Eventually he proves his gift upon a countess. Having heard from another victim what this knight could make cunts do, she wagers he will get no answer from hers, which she has thoroughly stoppered with cotton, but she loses when her other vent betrays her. The German story might have been decocted from the French version or, as seems more likely, both are variations on a common source.
The German author (God rest him merry) invented a unique twist. First he splits the maid into her two vital ingredients, sex and beauty, discovering by this experiment that neither can go it alone. There is nothing original about that in itself, being a trick of allegory, the favorite medieval device of incarnating any quality or abstraction and giving it a speaking part in the human drama, normally with pedantic intent. But the vices and virtues of allegory are not born from, much less reassembled into, a person, like you or me. They make up instead the moral cosmos of the Middle Ages, through which the host of souls orbited majestically toward judgment day. In our story, the beauty is reunited and reconciled with her sexuality to create—a girl. Now, what is the moral?