Swiss Folkhero William Tell
We all know the story about how William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head. With that one shot of his crossbow he supposedly started a series of events that turned a few poor isolated settlements into what we now know as Switzerland.
According to Swiss Chronicler Aegidius Tschudi, Tell was known as a strong man, a mountain climber, and an expert shot with the crossbow. During this time Habsburg emperors of Austria were seeking to dominate Uri and Tell became one of the conspirators of Werner Stauffacher vowing to resist Habsburg rule. Gessler, the newly appointed Austrian Vogt of Altdorf, raised a pole under the village linden tree, hung his hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townsfolk bow before the hat.
On November 18, 1307, Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed by the hat, publicly refusing to bow to it, and was arrested. Gessler devised a cruel punishment for Tell. His son would be executed, but he could save his life by shooting an apple off his son in a single attempt. Tell would split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow, lLeaving his son unharmed.
Gessler noticed that Tell had removed two crossbow bolts from his quiver, not one. Before releasing him, he asked why. Tell replied that if he had killed his son, he would have used the second bolt to kill Gessler. This angered Gessler and he demanded Tell be imprisoned for the remainder of the life.
He had Tell brought to his boat to be taken to the dungeon in his castle at Küssnacht. A storm started on Lake Lucerne, the soldiers were afraid that their boat would founder, and they begged Gessler to allow them to remove Tell’s shackles so he could steer the boat and save them. Gessler agreed, and Tell used the opportunity to escape, leaping from the boat at the rocky site now known as the Tells platte (“Tell’s slab”). It has been the site of a memorial chapel.
Tell ran cross-country to Küssnacht. He later assassinated Gessler with the second crossbow bolt and that spot is now known as the Hohle Gasse.
Many historians doubt that Tell ever made those two famous arrow shots in 1307, and many are convinced that no such person as William Tell ever existed. Tales of his existence weren’t told until 250 years after the supposed incident. Whatever the truth his story is still amazing.