Der Apfelschuss Picture

The story goes like this

In the year 1291 the Swiss kantone Uri. Schwyz and Unterwalden concluded a pact to liberate themselves from the supression of the Habsburgians. The the mighty Habsburg was not about to relinquish the economically valuable piece of mountains that was a transitway from the south of Germany to the north of Italy. So they sent a sheriff to keep the unruly mountaineers under control. To reinforce his presence and power Gessler set up a pole with his hat on it in the middle of the marketplace of Altdorf and demanded that everybody passing greet it with the same reverence he was due.
Wilhelm Tell was a simple chamois hunter and did not much care for politics. That was a matter for the rich. He had other worries. His wife was ill and so it came that he and his son Walter passed the hat on the pole without paying it attention.
Gessler was only too happy to pounce on the occasion. Wilhelm was seized and he and his son would have gone straight to the dungeons of Zwing Uri, the fortress Gessler had built.
Wilhelm tried to plead for his freedom, explaining that he had not acted out of disrespect but worry. His wife and his small children would perish if he and his oldest son were not there to provide for them.
Gessler had heard about Tell's famous hunting skills. And he liked his sport. So he gave Tell the choice - shoot an apple from the head of his son and they would both go free, or go to the dungeon.
Tell chose to shoot. He readied his crossbow, putting a second quarrel into his chest belt. Walter faced him bravely, secure in the knowledge of his father's skill. But Tell knew - it was a different matter to aim at a beast and fail to hit - or aim at his child.
But the quarrel flew true and Walter, yelling in triumph, presented the pierced apple.
"I'll stand true to my word." Gessler had no other choice but to let Tell go free. The hunter and his son turned to leave.
"One question. What was the quarrel for in your chestbelt?"
Tell gave Walter a shove and whispered. "Go. You must go now and not turn around. Your mother needs you."
Walter slipped away among the spectators, while Tell turned back to Gessler, squaring his shoulders.
"That quarrel was for you, should I have hurt only the smallest hair on the head of my child."
"Traitor! Seize him. You'll rot in the dungeon for this."
The guards tied Tell's hands in his back and he was brought to Zwing Uri. The fortress lay on the other side of the lake and during the crossing one of those sudden fönstorms came up. The waters were wipped into a frenzy, and the violent wind threatened to smash the small boat with Gessler, Tell and his men against the steep rocks.
"Tell, you cannot have an interest to drown. You know the lake. Guide us to safety and I will be lenient in my punishment!" Gessler pleaded with his prisoner.
Tell accepted the offer. He was cut lose and managed to guide the boat around the worst dangers into a slightly calmer bay. There he suddenly jumped to the shore, giving the boat a shove that sent it back into the raging storm. He clambered up the mountainside while the screams of the scared Austrians drowned in the howling storm.
But Gessler made it back to the shore. He was furious about Tell's escape. As a punishment and a warning to all he raised the taxes and demanded that Tell be delivered to him.
There was no question about handing Tell over, but the chamois hunter was now a hero against his will. He didn't care about that, nor about the politics but he knew that his family was suffering.
A few days later Gessler was riding towards Luzern. Tell heard about it and waited for Gessler and his escort in the 'hohle gasse', a place where the path squeezed through a narrow gap in the mountain. It was the perfect ambush and Tell's quarrel found its target unerringly. While Gessler collapsed Tell slipped away into the wilderness of the mountains, the guards unable to follow him.
The Habsburgians didn't relinquish their territory that quickly and the three kantone had to stand up and fight for their liberty. They were soon joined by other kantone who also wanted to be free. It was the beginning of Switzerland.

I was taught this story in school - and was 15 before I found out that this wasn't actual history but just a story. And not even an original one. There is no historic evidence there ever lived a Tell - or a Gessler for that matter. Not even the fortress Zwing Uri existed as far as history can determine. And the desire for freedom from oppression was also not the prime mover for those three kantone to seceed, they simply wanted to control the valuable transit across the Gotthard themselves. I can, however, understand them. It's not funny to do all the work and have somebody else cream off the top. Especially if you're as dirt poor as those mountaineers were without the income from the pass.

So this is my entry for the weekly challenge at
Continue Reading: