In a contest between a goddess and a mortal woman there will be only one victor. But what happens when a man gets between them? Will he survive the encounter?
Parzival of Monsalvat sends his son Kardeiz to rescue Tannhäuser, the poet-knight, from the clutches of Venus and return him to the woman he really loves. In this task he is helped by the story teller Wolfram von Eschenbach and hindered by an old enemy of Monsalvat. Tannhäuser and Elisabeth are reunited – but not for long. Can Kardeiz engineer a happy ending? Or is he to be thwarted by the Pope and a goddess?
Kardeiz arrives at the Venusberg to meet Heinrich Tannhäuser, who is in thrall to Venus and wishes to escape and return to his life in Thuringia. With Kardeiz’s help, Tannhäuser leaves Venusberg and not long into their journey back to Thuringia they arrive at Waleis, Kardeiz’s temporal home, and leave with money to buy horses and for provisions. When they arrived at the Wartburg in Thuringia they meet Wolfram von Eschenbach, an old friend of both Kardeiz and Tannhäuser, who warns them not to mention thatTannhäuser has been in the Venusberg. Von Eschenbach takes them to Landgrave Hermann’s castle, where Hermann’s niece, Matthilde, has declared that she will marry the man who wins the next song contest. He also tells them that Matthilde is accompanied by her cousin Elisabeth, with whom Tannhäuser was once in love.
Landgrave Hermann and Matthilde greet Tannhäuser and Kardeiz, and tell them that the contest is a sham – Matthilde is to marry Biterolf who will win the contest, which is her idea of a bit of fun before married life. All goes as planned with the contest until Tannhäuser sings of profane love. Elisabeth intervenes as Landgrave Hermann condemns Tannhäuser for consorting with Venus, and he is told to go to Rome to beg forgiveness of the Pope.
Kardeiz accompanies Tannhäuser to Rome, noticing that his health is failing. Tannhäuser confesses to Pope Zacharius, who declares Tannhäuser is damned – until his carved wooden staff bursts forth green shoots. A fire starts in the cathedral and, in the ensuing confusion, Kardeiz gets Tannhäuser out of Rome, and they return to the Wartburg. By the time they get to the Wartburg, Tannhäuser is dying. As he rests, Kardeiz goes to see Landgrave Hermann and Matthilde and finds Venus, disguised, having come to claim Tannhäuser. The chapel bells toll, and they rush there to find von Eschenbach has summoned everyone as Elisabeth is dead, and Tannhäuser holds her body. When a messenger arrives with the Pope’s staff in leaf, Parzival of Monsalvat appears to tie up loose ends, and von Eschenbach plans another story.