The Legend of William Tell



Today I am going to be telling you about the legend of William Tell, and also a little bit about the Swiss revolution.

This story takes place in a town in the heart of Switzerland called Altdorf.  The time is the late 1300s.  The Hapsburg dynasty is ruling neighboring Austria.   A man named Gessler is set up in Altdorf (by the Hapsburgs) to govern the town.  Gessler was a very tyrannical man.  One day, he decided to test the “loyalty” of his people.  He erected a pole in the town square, and put his hat on the top.  Then, he commanded that everyone that passed it had to bow to it.  Ridiculous!  Most of the townspeople did bow to Gessler’s hat, but William Tell refused to do it.  He even refused to bow to Gessler himself!  William was immediately arrested.  Unfortunately, he had his young son Robert with him, so his son got arrested too.

William was a very skilled bow-hunter, and marksman.  When Gessler heard about this, he wanted to see how good William really was, so he stewed up an evil plan.  Gessler called William, and told him that he had to try to shoot an apple off of his son’s head with his crossbow.  William pleaded to not have to, just in case he missed and killed his son.  Gessler paid no attention to William though, and said that if he did not at least attempt it, he would have his son killed.  So, Gessler set a date and time.

Quite a crowd had gathered on the day, at the town square.  William put the apple on his son’s head, counted 50 paces back, turned around, aimed, and let fly.  His arrow went flying through the air straight toward his son’s head.  But he made it!  The arrow went straight through the apple, without so much as scratching his son!  William was overjoyed!  But then, Gessler saw an extra arrow in William’s coat.  He asked what it was for.  William told him that if anything would have happened to his son, it would, at this moment be in Gessler’s own heart.  This, of course, made Gessler absolutely furious!  He decided to take William across lake Lucerne to throw him in the dungeon of the castle at Kussnacht.  On the way to the dungeon, a big storm blew in.  It was so bad, that the crew was afraid for their lives.  Gessler ended up un-chaining William.  He turned out to be the one that guided them safely to shore.

As soon as the ship touched the shore, William grabbed a spear from a solder, and then ran for his life!  He ran all the way to Kussnacht, where he knew Gessler was heading.  Once Gessler arrived, William took the second arrow that he had, and assassinated him.

After William Tell returned to Switzerland, he joined the revolution, and became a main leader in it.  Though this story is just a legend, the Swiss revolution was real, and is what formed the Swiss Republic.




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