Myths and Myth-Makers: Old Tales and Superstitions Interpreted by Comparative Mythology by John Fiske

Myths and Myth-Makers: Old Tales and Superstitions Interpreted by Comparative Mythology

By John Fiske

  • Release Date: 1989-04-23
  • Genre: Philosophy
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Description

FEW mediaeval heroes are so widely known as William Tell. His exploits have been celebrated by one of the greatest poets and one of the most popular musicians of modern times. They are doubtless familiar to many who have never heard of Stauffacher or Winkelried, who are quite ignorant of the prowess of Roland, and to whom Arthur and Lancelot, nay, even Charlemagne, are but empty names. Nevertheless, in spite of his vast reputation, it is very likely that no such person as William Tell ever existed, and it is certain that the story of his shooting the apple from his son's head has no historical value whatever. In spite of the wrath of unlearned but patriotic Swiss, especially of those of the cicerone class, this conclusion is forced upon us as soon as we begin to study the legend in accordance with the canons of modern historical criticism. It is useless to point to Tell's lime-tree, standing to-day in the centre of the market-place at Altdorf, or to quote for our confusion his crossbow preserved in the arsenal at Zurich, as unimpeachable witnesses to the truth of the story. It is in vain that we are told, "The bricks are alive to this day to testify to it; therefore, deny it not."

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