The Story of William Tell: Hero of Switzerland

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As Tell passed by without bowing, he was arrested.

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He received the punishment of being forced to shoot an apple off the head of his son, Walter, or else both would be executed. Tell had been promised freedom if he shot the apple. On November 18, , Tell split the fruit with a single bolt from his crossbow, without mishap. When Gessler queried him about the purpose of the second bolt in his quiver, Tell answered that if he had ended up killing his son in that trial, he would have turned the crossbow on Gessler himself. In a storm on Lake Lucerne, Tell managed to escape.

This defiance of the Austrian, Gessler, sparked a rebellion, leading to the formation of the Swiss Confederation.

Legend of William Tell intro -better quality!-

The legend of William Tell appears first in the fifteenth century, in two different versions. One version, found in a popular ballad Tellenlied from around , in the chronicles of Melchior Russ from Bern written to and in the first theater adaptation of the story, the Tellenspiel from , portrays Tell as the main actor of the independence struggles of the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy; the other, found in the Weisse Buch von Sarnen of , sees Tell as a minor character in a conspiracy against the Habsburgs led by others.

Swiss Up! - The William Tell that never was

Aegidius Tschudi, a Catholic conservative historian, merged these two earlier accounts in into the story summarized above. All these early written accounts focus on Tell's confrontation with Gessler. The different versions are not always consistent. Similar variability exists concerning Tell's later life, of which the classic tale does not tell.

Was William Tell a real person?

The story of a great hero successfully shooting a small object from his child's head and then killing the tyrant who forced him to do it, however, is an archetype present in several Germanic myths. The motif also appears in other stories from Norse mythology , in particular the story of Egil in the Thidreks saga, as well as in the stories of William of Cloudsley from England , Palnetoke from Denmark , and a story from Holstein. There is also an entry in the Malleus Maleficarum regarding witch-archers that bears a surprising resemblance to the story of William Tell, telling of a wizard shooting a penny off the cap of his young son, including mention of a prince tempting the marksman to attempt the feat, and the second arrow intended for the prince in the event of failure.

Characters from the legend are featured in decks of playing cards popular in central Europe. The card German deck was developed in the fifteenth century with various face-card designs, but the William Tell design became extremely popular after the Revolutions of This view remained very unpopular, however. Friedrich von Schiller used Tschudi's version as the basis for his play Wilhelm Tell in , interpreting Tell as a glorified patriot assassin. This interpretation became very popular especially in Switzerland, where the Tell figure was instrumentalized in the early nineteenth century as a "national hero" and identification figure in the new Helvetic Republic and also later on in the beginnings of the Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft , the modern democratic federal state that developed then.

Historians continued to argue over the saga until well into the twentieth century.

Who was the real William Tell?

Yet 50 years later, in , a time where Tell again had become national identification figure, the historian Karl Meyer tried to connect the events of the saga with known places and events. Modern historians generally consider the saga just that, as neither Tell's nor Gessler's existence can be proven. Antoine-Marin Lemierre in wrote a play inspired by Tell. The success of this work established the association of Tell as a fighter against tyranny with the history of the French revolution.

Who was William Tell? - SWI

The French revolutionary fascination with Tell found its reflection back in Switzerland with the establishment of the Helvetic Republic. Tell became, as it were, the mascot of the short-lived republic, his figure being featured in its official seal.

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  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe learned of the Tell saga during his travels through Switzerland between and He got hold of a copy of Tschudi's chronicles, and considered writing a play about Tell. Ultimately, he gave the idea to his friend Friedrich von Schiller , who in wrote the play Wilhelm Tell , which had its debut performance on March 17, , in Weimar.

    Schiller's Tell is heavily inspired by the political events in the late eighteenth century, the French revolution in particular. In all Switzerland no man had a foot so sure as his on the mountains or a hand so skilled in the use of a bow. He was determined to resist the Austrians. Secret meetings of the mountaineers were held and all took a solemn oath to stand by each other and fight for their freedom; but they had no arms and were simple shepherds who had never been trained as soldiers.

    The first thing to be done was to get arms without attracting the attention of the Austrians.

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    It took nearly a year to secure spears, swords, and battle-axes and distribute them among the mountains. Finally this was done, and everything was ready. All were waiting for a signal to rise. Tell accompanied by his little son, happened to pass through the marketplace. He refused to bow before the cap and was arrested. Gessler offered to release him if he would shoot an apple from the head of his son. The governor hated Tell and made this offer hoping that the mountaineer's hand would tremble and that he would kill his own son.

    It is said that Tell shot the apple from his son's head but that Gessler still refused to release him. Story of William Tell is imprisonment and escape That night as Tell was being carried across the lake to prison a storm came up. In the midst of the storm he sprang from the boat to an over-hanging rock and made his escape.

    It is said that he killed the tyrant. That night the signal fires were lighted on every mountain and by the dawn of day the village of Altorf was filled with hardy mountaineers, armed and ready to fight for their liberty. A battle followed and the Austrians were defeated and driven from Altorf.

    This victory was followed by others. Story of William Tell his role in the Republic of Switzerland A few years later, the duke himself came with a large army, determined to conquer the mountaineers. He had to march through a narrow pass, with mountains rising abruptly on either side. The Swiss were expecting him and hid along the heights above the pass, as soon as the Austrians appeared in the pass, rocks and trunks of trees were hurled down upon them.