Friday, November 18, 2011

Walter Tell

Turtle duck turtle duck turtle duck duck duck!

We all recognize instantly the phrase from The William Tell Overture. But this article is not about opera, or music, or Rossini.

Today, if our legends are to be trusted implicitly, is the 704th anniversary of the famous cross-bow shot in Switzerland by one William Tell. It is a story that casts William Tell as a larger-than-life hero. I am of the opinion, however, that the real hero to be memorialized on this date is Tell's son, Walter. In case you need to brush up on your fifth-grade lessons, Tell refused to salute the hat raised on a pole which represented the Habsburg authority in Altdorf. Gessler, Austrian ruler of the dorf, was a harsh and unforgiving despot. He had Tell arrested, and because of Tell's fame as an archer, he required that Tell shoot an apple from his son's head, or both would be executed.

My father never earned any medals for it, because he never entered any competitions. But he had a clear eye and a steady hand which enabled him to be a crack marksman with a rifle. Prior to hunting season each year, we would go to the range to "sight in" the rifles. I have seen him shoot, and he was good. And yet. And yet I think that to persuade me to stand before him with an apple on my head-- oh, no. No, thank you very much. And thus I nominate Walter Tell as the hero of the tale to this point.

At any rate, Tell's shot cleanly split the apple. This is pretty much the end of the school-child tale as I recall it from my ten-year old experience. But Gessler had noted that Tell had taken two bolts from his quiver prior to the shot, so he asked, Why the second bolt? Tell replied had he killed his son, he would have put the second bolt through Gessler himself. Irate, Gessler had Tell arrested. One might like to read the rest of the tale, for it ultimately cost Gessler his life, and forever immortalized William Tell as a Swiss Hero.


John Cowart said...

Hi Vanilla,

Although you enjoyed the class reunion last Wednesday, you are still teaching.

Ran across a quote I thought you might like:

"Real heroes don't wear capes, they wear dog tags".


Pearl said...

Wow! I didn't know that tale. Where the heck have I been?!!

Great start to a Friday morning, Vanilla. I love learning new things.


Vee said...

I knew the story about Tell shooting the apple that was atop the head of a boy. I did not know the details. I was no doubt daydreaming!

vanilla said...

John, I guess a teacher just can't stop teaching. ;-)So true about the heroes.

Pearl, thank you. I'm always happy to present a short "lesson."

Vee, and thus you knew about as much as most of us learned about it.

Sharkbytes said...

I haven't thought about that story for a long time. Thanks.

vanilla said...

Shark, you are welcome.