Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 5 of 8 from 1860 edition - online book

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Little John and Much, in Robin Hood and the Monk. The incident of the shot at the apple, in the third fit, for a long time received as a part of the genuine his­tory of William Tell, is of great antiquity, and may be traced northward from Switzerland through the various Gothic nations to the mythical legends of Scandinavia. The exploit is first narrated in the Wilkina Saga of the archer Eigill, who, at Nidung's command, proves his skill at the bow by shooting an apple from his son's head. Eigill had selected three arrows, and on being questioned as to the purpose of the other two, replied that they were destined for Nidung in case the first had caused the death of his child. This form of the legend is of the 10th or 11th century. In the 12th century, Saxo Grammaticus tells this story of Toko and King Harald. The resemblance to Tell is in Toko's case stronger than in any; for, besides making the same speech about the reserved arrow, he distinguishes himself in a sea-storm, and shoots the king,—this last feat being historical, and dated 992. Similar achievements are ascribed in Norwegian sagas to St. Olaf (died, 1030), and to King Haraldr Sigur-tharson (died, 1066), and in Schleswig Holstein, to Heming Wolf, who having, in 1472, been outlawed for taking part with a rebel against King Christian, and falling into the hands of his enemies, was obliged to exhibit his skill at the risk of his son's life. Again, in Sprenger's Malleus Malejicarum, a work of the 15th century, the story is related of one Puncher, a ma­gician of the Khine country; and finally, about two hundred years after the formation of the Swiss con­federacy, this famous exploit is imputed to Tell, though early chroniclers have not a word to say