This is the story of William Tell.

The story of how one man made a stance against imperial tyrranny and played a pivotal part in the creation of an independent nation.

His name is William Tell and that nation is Switzerland.

The setting for the story is Lake Lucerne amid a panorama of snow capped alpine mountains.

William Tell lived with his wife and young son in the village of Burglen lay in green pastures to the south east of the lake.

From what we are told, we imagine him to be  a peasant and a man of the mountains, strong and muscular with powerful hands and no mean shot with a crossbow, proudly wearing an alpine hat with a feather tucked into it.

It was his custom to come to market at Altdorf, the largest town in the Uri region ruled by the Austrian Hapsburgs under the control of Baron Gessler.

On the morning of 18th November 1307, he came to Altdorf as normal with his young son.

It is the requirement when entering the town to take off your hat and pay respect to the Hapsburg rule of Baron Gessler.

William Tell refused to do so.

He was promptly challenged by the Baron Gessler to shoot an apple from the head of his young son at a distance of one hundred and twenty paces.

It is fair to assume that this was an event which must have been forseeable.

It was surely not the first time that the tyrant had confronted the mountain man for why otherwise would he have brought his crossbow with him and a quiver of arrows?

William Tell successfully shot the apple from his son’s head and his own  life was to be spared by the Baron.

When Tell prepared to shoot a second arrow to the heart of Gessler, he was arrested and told he would be transported to the castle dungeon at Kussnacht to see ‘no more sun or moon’ for his life.

William Tell was shackled and escorted by fifteen men on a small boat from the landing stage at Altdorf.

The boat did not complete the journey across Lake Lucerne to the northern shore at Kussnacht.

Within a few kilometres and only a short while of having setting out, a violent storm broke out, forcing the boat onto craggy rocks at Rutli.

William Tell was able to escape but not without his crossbow and quiver of arrows which he had been able to retrieve after it was confiscated on his arrest.

He then trekked for a day and night for twenty miles through dark forest and mountain passes to the Huhle Gasse, a narrow pass leading to Kussnacht.

It is here that William Tell waited with his one remaining arrow for his pursuer to catch up.

The time and the moment arrived.

William Tell shot the second arrow at the heart of Baron Gessler and killed him in an instant.

But not without uttering to him that he would no more see sun or moon.

He made haste then to return to the southern shore of Lake Lucerne near to Altdorf and for a rendezvous with three other freedom-fighters who represented the other three Cantons of the future Swiss Confederacy.

The four peasant farmers of forested settlements met on a grassy meadow opposite the Rutli and decided on terms which which would later become the essence of Swiss nationalism.

Unity, solidarity and harmony.

William Tell has been a celebrated Swiss Folk Hero ever since.


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