The story of William Tell is the biggest Swiss of all.

It is pure farce and cannot possibly be true.

Whether it is a legend derived from folklore is a matter of debate.

There are a number of reasons why I think the William Tell story is a big Swiss.

To understand the story better, we must first have a grasp of the geographic setting.

The town of Altdorf in the region of Uri sits on the southern shore of Lake Lucerne.

The small village of Burglen is no more than three kilometres away from the town over green pastures.

Lake Lucerne is unusual in that it has four arms branching out from its main body of water.

The city of Lucerne lies on the western shore and against a backdrop of picturesque alpine mountains.

Away on the northern shore you will find a medieval castle at Kussnacht accessed via a short narrow pass.

This whole mountain area is under the colonial control of the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire.

The era is the fourteenth century and the key on which events begin to unfold is 18th November 1307.

Anyway, let’s get down to the story, detail by detail.

First of all, there is no reason to suppose that William Tell was not a man of the mountains who had a wife, fathered children and lived within spitting distance pretty much of Lake Lucerne.

Most legends sprout up from real people who actually lived and the stories have become exaggerated over time.

William Tell was Swiss.

Absolutely not!.  He hailed from the district (or Canton) of Uri and the Canton of Schwyz was across the waters of Lake Lucerne.

William Tell went from his home in Burglen with his young son to the nearby small town of Altdorf on 18th November 1307.

Maybe he did.  Altdorf was the nearest market town to Burglen and no doubt it is a place he went often to do some shopping and have a few beers.

It was required when entering the town of Altdorf to bow to the Hapsburg hat of Baron Gessler as a sign of respect

This sounds quite reasonable to me.  The problem I have is that as treasonable as the offence may be, the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire never extended this far and Gessler, if he existed at all, was much more likely to have been a local tyrant..

William Tell took his crossbow with him to Altdorf with a quiver of arrows.

This is a bit like saying a cowboy would not be seen dead without his gun in the wild west or a knight not leave the castle without his sword.

William Tell, if he ever existed, was a simple peasant farmer who may or may not have been an expert marksman with a crossbow.  Taking it with him to Altdorf on the morning of 18th November 1307 would only suggest that he was not just going to Altdorf to buy general provisions to take home to his wife in Burglen.

Baron Gessler set the challenge to William Tell to shoot an apple from the head of his young son at a distance of one hundred and twenty paces.

No Father in his right mind would want to endanger the life of his son, however expert a marksman he may have been with a crossbow.

This cannot be excused irrespective of the distance between the marksman and the target and even if William Tell had practised beforehand.

How did William Tell manage to conceal the second arrow?

William Tell would surely have come to Altdorf town that morning with more than two arrows in his quiver and a second arrow would have been awfully difficult to conceal while going through the motions of shooting the first one, if indeed, it was concealed at all.

What happened when William Tell proposed to fire a second arrow directly at Baron Gessler?

We can perhaps assume that Baron Gessler ordered his soldiers to arrest William Tell, overpowering the tall, muscular man and confiscating his weaponry while his frightened son made haste to run home and tell his Mother what terrible event had taken place.

The circumstances of William Tell’s transportation to the castle dungeon at Kussnacht.

Boats were not big in those days and the boat to be used would have been big enough to carry no more than fifteen men including the detainee William Tell.

The boat was boarded at the landing stage at Altdorf but appears to have only got a few kilometres upstream before hitting a violent storm at Rutli which forced the boat onto craggy rocks and enabled William Tell to make his escape, it seems, with a crossbow and a quiver of arrows.

Would such an important person as Baron Gessler had considered necessary to accompany his men and William Tell on this mission?

And did they not check the weather forecast before setting off?

If Baron Gessler was party to the boat mission, arguably, William Tell may have had the opportunity to kill Baron Gessler as he escaped.

But perhaps he did not and circumstances dictated that escape was his priority.

Why then did William Tell trek twenty miles through dark forest and mountain passes to reach a narrow pass called Huhle Gasse near the very place he was being taken by boat on the lake?

This suggests that Baron Gessler was on the boat which became wrecked on the craggy rocks, that he survived with at least some of his men and was able to track an expert mountain man for twenty miles before being finally confronted and shot at Kussnacht.

How come Baron Gessler was shot with the last arrow by William Tell?

The earlier part of the story suggests that there were only two arrows available to William Tell.  If there were more in the quiver, we can only assume that they were used by William Tell on his trek from Rutli to Huhle Gasse at Kussnacht.

William Tell returns to the southern shores of Lake Lucerne to meet three pals of neighboring forested settlements and agree a pact and swear an oath to form a confederacy

Picnic time for four freedom fighters on a grassy meadow on the opposite bank to the Rutli where one freedom fighter had managed his escape.  That must have been some picnic!

To top it all, William Tell seems to have faded into oblivion, the Swiss Sniper that never was

What a Swiss!  As my essay is titled, The Biggest Swiss of All.

The Legend of William Tell is relived with a play written about his adventures, a wonderful piece of music called the William Tell Overture and of course the cartoon animation The Lone Ranger.

The Swiss people live to Tell the Tale.


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