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Survey Article


Elsa, soil ich dein Gatte heissen,
Soll Land und Leut' ich schirmen dir,
Soll nichts mich weider von der reissen,
Musst Eines du geloben mir:
Nie sollst du mich befragen,
Noch Wissens Sorge tragen,
Woher ich kam der Fahrt,
Noch wie mein Nam' und Art!

The renowned composer and dramaturge Richard Wagner assimilated several hundred years of German myth and legend into his epic "music drama" Lohengrin. Elsa, the paradigmatic damsel in distress, is miraculously rescued by the mysterious, sword-bearing Swan Knight, on the sole condition that, as the stranger solemnly enjoins in the passage quoted above, she never ask him his name or his lineage. The climax comes when Elsa, unable to still her doubts, demands to know her hero's name. He reveals, "I am Lohengrin, knight of the Holy Grail. My power lies in my mystery," as he sweeps away and Elsa, overcome with grief, falls dead.

In contrast to Elsa, our distress in dealing with the "legal Lohengrin"' known as torts is not in knowing from whence it came, but rather in attempting to discern where it is going. To assimilate several hundred appellate cases into a coherent survey of Georgia tort law perhaps requires more of the abilities of the thaumaturge than the dramaturge. With the inspiration of the Holy Grail on some Montsalvat regrettably remote from our endeavors, we have had to fall back on Lohengrin's other source of strength: the cutting power of the sword (in this instance replaced by the delete key) to sweep away all but the most epic, or grievous, decisions. Unlike Wagner, however, we hope we have left our subject alive.

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