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The youth was a miller’s son[[²|1]]
but he did heed the master’s call
And with sword and shield, upon the field
[[He sacrificed it all]]So put down your oaken shield[[³|2]]
and put down your elder stave[[⁴|5]]
Now only the witch beyond the woods
[[can save you from the grave]]
The blood moon[[⁶|red]] is rising high
and your life is ebbing fast,
cross moor and heath, what lies beneath
[[or this ride will be your last]]
She said the witch beyond the woods
has a mouth ringed twice with teeth[[⁷|teeth]]
and paws like gristles that sprout like thistles
[[to trap a man beneath]]
The path began to narrow
as he approached the vale of bone[[¹⁰|h]]
so he left his horse[[¹¹|horse]] among the gorse[[¹²|gorse]]
[[and proceeded on alone]]
Down went he to the river’s end[[¹³|u]]
where the darkened waters clot
where stepping stones are nought but bones
[[of corses left to rot]][[¹⁴|iy]]
on to the barrow mounds
where the wolves refuse to prowl[[¹⁵|o]]
and a maid of grief, all toes and teeth[[¹⁶|k]]
[[hides beneath a cambric cowl]]
“Why do you come this way
so far past the lands of green?”
“I seek the Witch beyond the Woods
[[who dwells in the space between.”]]
“What treasures bring ye, young gray knight
To pay a witch’s fee?”
“A silver chain, a golden cup
[[are mine to gift to thee.”]]
“I want not your silver chain,
I want not your golden cup
But lie thy head in my kurgan bed
[[‘til the red sun does come up.”]]
Down went they to the catacomb,
to a chamber dark and drafty
for rites so drear upon a bier,
[[under fingers cold and crafty]]
"Wherefore dream thou, good gray knight?"
Asked the lady, white and ill.
"My mother's hands, my father's lands
[[and the grindstone at the mill.]]"
On the morn, the good knight returned home
and thought of the past no more
til a bairn all toes and teeth, on a laurel wreath
[[was lain mewling at his door]]Ride along the winding stream
and cross the misty fen
and seek the witch beyond the woods[[⁵|y]]
[[or ne’er pass this way again]]That night slept he in a mossy glen
on a bed of earthen mould
and dreamt of the witch beyond the woods
[[and the tales his mother told]]
Her heart when it beats is slow and cold
her toes like the chanticleer[[⁸|rooster]]
with groans and grumbles, she eats like numbles[[⁹|numbles]]
[[the knight who succumbs to fear]]
"Then rise up, my good young knight[[¹⁷|p]]
and find your wounds full healed.
Your just reward is your life restored.
[[So return to thine father's field.]]"Several experts have remarked upon the unusual symbolic [[color scheme]] that runs throughout The Witch Beyond the Woods. The knight is several times referred to as "gray," possibly in reference to the moral ambiguity of his seeking to prolong his life beyond its alotted time via witchcraft or possibly simply a reference to an ashen comlpexion caused by his war wound.
[[Return|or ne’er pass this way again]]
The witch's teeth are a recurring motive throughout the ballad. In traditional analysis, the tooth represents wisdom and hidden knowledge; the witch's [[extra teeth]] may therefore indicate a deep connection with knowledge beyond that of ordinary men.
[[Return|and the tales his mother told]]
A name given to a [[rooster|feet]], especially in fairy tales.
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]The entrails of an animal, especially a deer, used for food.
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]According to folklorist Joshua Gibbons, the knight's abandoning of his horse is of particular significance to mark the crossing of the threshold between the "world of green" and the liminal world inhabited by the Witch Beyond the Woods. In medieval thought, dumb animals were beings of pure physicality that lacked the soul that God had given to humans. As such, no animal may cross the boundary that demarks the physical realm. The Witch exists in a realm that supercedes that of the flesh, so only one who likewise supercedes mere flesh may enter its borders.
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]A yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family, the leaves of which are modified to form spines, native to western Europe and North Africa.
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]Feminist scholar Katlyn Ruttledge offers a novel interpretation of the witch's "twice-ringed" mouth as a vagina dentata, an adaptation suited for "trapping men beneath" and surely one to strike fear into any man's heart.
[[Return|and the tales his mother told]]The Witch Beyond the Woods is a traditional ballad from the Teufelswald region of Germany, first recorded by amateur folklorist [[Karl Heinz Hemmel]] and is classified as Gillibrand ballad 164. The ballad concerns a knight, wounded in battle, who undertakes a katabasis to seek help from a witch. It is thematically similar to Gillibrand ballad 125 'The Two Crones' and Gillibrand ballad 79 'Fair John.'
[[Return|3]]Double-click this passage to edit it.Many versions omit the detail that the wounded soldier is, in fact, a miller's son, which would indicate that he is a conscript rather than a professional mercenary or landed knight. Other variants decribe the youth as the son of a cooper, a cobbler, or simply a farmer.
[[Return|b]]In traditional ballads, the wood of the European oak (Quercus Robur) represents strength, morale, and resistance -- all appropriate aspects of a shield -- making it more ironic that this shield has failed in its assigned task, to protect his bearer from harm.
[[Return|He sacrificed it all]][[The Witch Beyond the Woods|b]][[¹|ballad]]
A Traditional Ballad of the Teufelswald region of Germany
and other collected tales of the Teufelwald
By Bitter Karella
Double-click this passage to edit it.The wood of the elder (Sambucus Niger) is traditionally fraught with magical possibilities. It is a powerful totem of protection and charms made from elder wood are renowned for their potency against supernatural foes -- the stake hammered through the [[heart of a vampire]] should ideally be fashioned from an elder branch for maximum effect. When the balladeer calls upon the knight to abandon his elder stave, he exhorts the knight to abandon his previous faith and put his fate entirely into the hands of the Witch Beyond the Woods.
[[Return|He sacrificed it all]]Subsequent stanzas suggest that the Witch Beyond the Woods may well be some sort of revenant returned from the grave. Folklorist Albert Rotweg suggests that abandoning the elder stave is thus a show of good faith on the knight's part; he leaves behind the one weapon which would be of use should he need to defend himself against the forces of darkness. It is possible that abandoning the elder stave is a necessary prerequisite to convincing the Witch Beyond the Woods to render aid.
[[Return|He sacrificed it all]]Hemmel believed that the Witch Beyond the Woods was a purely fanciful creation, but folklorist Jessica Hashimoto has suggested that she may represent a garbled folk memory of [[The White Maiden]], an unknown woman of supposedly Lapland descent who caught the eye of the reigning [[Baron von Rattzau]] in the latter half of the 14th century and, according to local histories, seduced him to "ignore his Christian duties for foreign lewdnesses."
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]Chapbooks include lurid details -- no doubt added centuries after the death of the Baron -- about her vampiric tendencies. She was said to abhor sunlight and only emerge from the Baron's bedchamber after dark to prowl the streets. A sexton was said to have caught her wallowing in the dirt "like a swine" of a freshly-dug grave in the cemetary in the early morning hours. Both the Baron and his unnamed consort died during one of the many outbreaks of the pest that scoured the region in the 14th century.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]Supernatural shape-shifters are traditionally unable to form a perfect imitation of God's creation and are this always detectable by some minute flaw or imperfection. Demonic succubi and incubi, for example, were often said to have one leg which resembled that of a [[goose or cock]].
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]Again, the motif of animals continues. [[Wolves]], like all dumb beasts, are refused entry into the liminal world of the Witch Beyond the Woods.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]Throughout the ballad, the Witch Beyond the Woods is associated with the motifs of teeth and toes and she exhibits explicitly monstrous aspects of each. It is her toes and her teeth that mark her as something beyond the world of men, something to be feared but also something to be assuaged.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]The river's end frequently represents the end of the journey, the place where the hero expects to experience the epiphany that will lead to greater understanding of his story. In this instance, the river also represents the border between the world of the physical (the green lands) and that of the uncanny.
[[Return|and proceeded on alone]]Archaic term for corpses.
[[Return|and proceeded on alone]]The significance of the witch's question is still unclear, although many scholars believe that it serves as a test of the knight's worth and that had he answered differently the Witch would not have allowed him to return to the "world of green." The knight's answers all draw from explicitly physical images and it is their [[physicality]] that differenciates them from the uncanny surroundings of the Witch's domain.
[[Return|and the grindstone at the mill.]]The land beyond the woods is only once explicitly given a name. Scholars are unsure of the meaning behind the name, but it likely refers to the witch's dwelling among the dead as well as to her power over life and death.
Kathlyn Ruttledge has noted that the Vale of Bone has also been used to refer locally to the [[Dunkle Höhlen caverns]]. Mentions of a "narrowing path" and a river to be crossed -- possibly the Teufelsfluss River -- as well as the witch's subterranean dwelling point to the possibility that the Vale of Bone is an actual physical place in the real world.
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]The Witch Beyond the Woods
A ballad by Bitter Karella
[[Read again?|3]]Karl Heinz Hemmel was a school teacher in the village of [[Eppen]] during the late 19th century, mostly notable for collecting local folk legends, songs and ballads in his book "Teufelswald Märchen." Inspired by the earlier work of the Brother Grimm, Hemmel collected approximately 100 oral stories and folk songs of the Teufelswald region through interviews. Many of Hemmel's stories are variations of traditional fairy tales found throughout Germany, but several, including the ballad Die Hexe über den Wald (The Witch Beyond the Woods) and [[Der Ratte Turm|turm]], appear to be unique to the [[Teufelswald region]].
[[Return|3]]Eppen is a village on the southern border of the Teufelswald. It was the traditional stronghold of the von Rattzau family until the line died out in the 1870s. Notable tourist attractions include the St.Joseph's Cathedral and the [[Dunkle Höhlen]].
[[Return|3]]Der Ratte Turm (The Rat Tower) is a ruined tower located in the Teufelswald forest. Several [[sinister legends]] have become attached to the tower, although in reality it was most likely only used for grain storage by the ruling aristocratic family of the region, the von Rattzaus.
[[Return|3]]Double-click this passage to edit it.Baron Reinhart von Rattzau was a member of the house of Rattzau, a minor aristocratic family that effectively held claim to the Teufelswald region from antiquity to the unification of Germany in 1871. Reinhart held the title of Baron of Rattzau from the death of his father Gunther in 1347 to his own death only four years later. In local folklore he is known as 'The Black Prince,' in reference to his supposed penchant for [[black magic]] and necromancy.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The Pandemonium Concerto was a medieval legend originating in the Duchy of Swabia sometime before 1300, mostly known today as a common subject for 19th century chapbooks. The Pademonium Concerto was an alleged [[musical composition]] said to induce madness and hysteria by tearing the veil of light from the world and revealing the truth beneath.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]Der Ratte Turm (The Rat Tower) is a ruined tower located in the Teufelswald forest. Several sinister [[legends]] have become attached to the tower, although in reality it was most likely only used for grain storage by the ruling aristocratic family of the region, the von Rattzaus.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The local Teufelswald variant of the legend, recorded by Karl Heinz Hemmel in the late 19th century, names the piece "Die Traurigheit des Teufels" and claims it was commissioned by Reinhart von Rattzau, a "decadent prince much given to eastern heresies," although other variants tie the piece to other minor nobles throughout the region. According to Hemmel's account, the Baron issued a proclamation that anyone who could produce a musical composition of such [[sublime beauty]] as to reveal the truth of the world would receive his weight in gold.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The author of the Pandemonium Concerto is never named in legend, but historians believe the character of "the concert master" probably refers to the choir director of St.Joseph's Cathedral in Eppen. Assuming that the Black Prince in the legend was indeed Reinhart von Rattzou and the creation of the Pandemonium Concerto coincided with his rise to the throne, then the concerto's author would most likely be the 1340 [[choir director]].
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The piece was eventually performed on instruments crafted from the polished bones of children, abducted and killed during the night. For this blasphemy, when the prince and his courtiers first heard the piece, God struck them with such madness that they tore themselves to pieces. The wicked choir conductor was transformed into a beast and cursed to forever roam the fields of the night.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]Katlyn Ruttledge noted, however, that the [[significance of wolves]] goes beyond merely a second animal species denied entry into the "Vale of Bone." During the 13th century, the gray wolf (Canis Lupus) was a constant source of fear to residents of the Teufelwald region; in times of famine, wolves were said to stalk lone humans who wandered too far into the woods or even steal into human villages at night, such as in the legend of [[The Wolf Mother|human villages at night]], in search of prey.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]One such legend takes place during the winter season between Catholic Christmas and Epiphany, a [[dark time]] when demons and the spirits of the unrepentant dead were free to leave Hell to visit the world above.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]It is unlikely that the battle described in the ballad corresponds to one particular historical event, but Karl Heinz Hemmel speculated that it could be a reference to the Battle of St.Joseph's Cathedral, ????
[[Return|b]]All during the Christmas season, no masses were held for fear that the tolling of the church bells would attract the attention of unclean spirits and the church remained empty. The only man who dared to remain on the church grounds during this unholy season was the [[sexton]], obliged to carry out his duties despite the danger so as to collect his wages.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]One day, a particular miser of notorious reputation was placed into the frozen ground. That night, as he was preparing for bed, the lone sexton heard a clamor outside his cottage. The sound drew him to the graveyard, where he spied a wondrous sight: A quartet of massive wolves hungrily pawed at the fresh grave, snapping and snarling as they sought to reach the [[body]] below.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]The sexton made as if to shout, but the largest of the wolves turned upon him and addressed him in the voice that belonged to the [[sexton's own deceased mother]]: "Go back to thine bed and trouble us not. Remember how I fed you as a babe and now allow us to eat."
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]In one Teufelswald legend, the priest of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Eppen was one night distracted from his writing by a sudden draft from the window. When he looked up from his work, he saw that an unknown woman stood before him, naked, her pale skin gleaming in the candle light.
A pious man would immediately suspect the [[devil's handiwork]] and a cunning man would immediately notice the visitor's scabbed and scaly calves, but the priest was neither.
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]The Teufelswald is a wild and sparsely populated region in southern Germany, mostly covered by wide swathes of ancient pine forest. The countryside is mountainous and unforgiving, so authorties discourage tourism since the cost of rescue operations to retrieve stranded hikers far outweight any small boost to the local economy. Caves are numerous and mostly unexplored, but along with the rest of the area's nuique geography have given rise to many interesting legends and fairytales. The only human habitation near the Teufelswald is the village of Eppen.
[[Return|3]]The Dunkle Höhlen are a series of subterranean caves beneath the Teufelswald. The most accessible entrance from the village of Eppen is colloquially termed 'The Hellmouth,' although it has no official name. The Teufelsfluss River, which cuts a deep gorge through the mountains, eventually empties into the caves and is believed to travel for many miles underground.
[[Return|3]]The Dunkle Höhlen are a series of subterranean caves beneath the Teufelswald. The most accessible entrance from the village of Eppen is colloquially termed 'The Hellmouth,' although it has no official name. The Teufelsfluss River, which cuts a deep gorge through the mountains, eventually empties into the caves and is believed to [[travel for many miles underground]].
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]To enter the caves, the explorer must navigate an ever-narrowing gorge, eventually wading through the waters of the Teufelsfluss as it pours into the Hellmouth. As the cave narrows and the waters rise, the explorer will eventually reach a point where they find that they can neither advance further into the cave because of the claustrophobic space nor retreat back to the daylight because of the pounding waters. In modern times, rescue operators equipped with the best in spelunking gear can often save the unprepared explorer, but in times gone past it was not uncommon for spelunkers to simply [[disappear]] in the darkness.
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]The Baron Reinhart von Rattzau is said to have imprisoned his sister Gisela in the tower upon his ascension to the barony. One variant of the legend posits that she was imprisoned at the behest of The White Maiden, since Gisela was a pious woman who apparently recognize the White Maiden for the unnatural thing she was. Another variant claims that Gisela was monstrously deformed and Reinhart had her hidden from public view to avoid scandal.
[[Return|3]]Karl Heinz Hemmel names Reinhart as the "dark prince" responsible for commissioning the [[Pandemonium Concerto|pandemonium_concerto]], and local legends posit that he had his deformed sister imprisoned in the forest's [[Ratte Turm|turm2]] to avoid scandal. He is also connected to the legend of The White Maiden.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The [[conductor]] of a local church choir is said to have penned the Pandemonium Concerto, but insisted before its premier performance that the notes "would sour" if played on instruments "[[without innocence]]."
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]Church records, however, do not list the name of the new choir director who assumed duties after the death of Kappellmeister Ludwig Saalbach in 1339; no name is mentioned again until the hiring of Kappellmeister Johnann Hemmel in 1360. However, a church program dated Christmas 1354 states that choir director duties continue to be performed by "der Fremde."
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]The natural world through which he must journey to eventually meet the Witch Beyond the Woods in her own domain is one of verdant green, but the witch herself is described as "white" or "pale" to emphasize that she is not of this world. Strangely, the color red is here associated with heavenly bodies like the sun and moon.
[[Return|or ne’er pass this way again]]If a [[victim]] noticed the tell-tale foot before the devil could complete its work, they might yet save themselves from damnation. The Witch Beyond the Woods' "chanticleer toes" may well put her in this grisly company of the night.
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]In the morning, an acolyte discovered the priest's body, "bloated & taut as if submerged for weeks under the fen," as well as peculiar footmarks made in spilled ink from the priest's inkwell upon the floor.
[[Return|to trap a man beneath]]For this reason, the caves were considered to be a portal to the next world and entering them was very much like crossing the threshold into the witch's domain, so the alert scholar should not be surprised that both received the same grisly moniker 'The Vale of Bone.'
[[Return|the knight who succumbs to fear]]The almost human cunning of the wolf belied an aspect far beyond a simple dumb beast, marking the wolf itself as a liminal creature. As such, the wolf's refusal to enter the Vale of Bone would have carried a special weight for audiences of the middle ages.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]It was during these cold days, when the night was long and the snow was deep, when the lord in his feather bed was no more safe in his sleep than the peasant on his straw palette, that the priest of St. Joseph's Church in Eppen [[abandoned his post]] in fear.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]No [[funeral rites]] could be practiced during the dark season, so bodies were quickly buried during the day without benefit of a priest's blessing; such niceties were to be delayed until after the end of Epiphany for the safety of the living.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]The stunned sexton knew not whether his own kin was indeed before him wrapped in a wolf's pelt or if a wolf had somehow learned to imitate human speech to bedazzle him. He resolved that the best course would be to obey the creature's command, so he quickly and quietly returned to his cottage, where he remained, hiding beneath his sheets, until the break of day.
[[Return|of corses left to rot]]A mother's hands represent caresses and affection, a bond between humans. A father's lands represent the innate ties between a person and the very land itself, and the millstone represents the grounding aspect of routine and work. Together, these three aspects betray the knight's continued connection to the physical world, revealing the impossibility of his continued existance away in the "vale of bone."
[[Return|and the grindstone at the mill.]]The Baron Reinhart von Rattzau is said to have imprisoned his sister Gisela in the tower upon his ascension to the barony. One variant of the legend posits that she was imprisoned at the behest of The White Maiden, since Gisela was a pious woman who apparently recognize the White Maiden for the unnatural thing she was. Another variant claims that Gisela was monstrously deformed and Reinhart had her hidden from public view to avoid scandal.
[[Return|can save you from the grave]]