The Freischütz (of Glücksburg)

The last Duke of Glücksburg had a huntsman in his employ who had been unable to hit any wild game during his entire term of service. Annoyed at this, the duke released him from his employ. With deep sadness the huntsman went away, worrying how he should live now. He simply couldn’t understand how he was completely unable to shoot anything these days, even though he had been a good marksman in his younger days.

Pondering such thoughts, he walked through the Tremmerup Woods where he encountered an old woman. She asked him what was wrong with him, and he immediately told her everything. “This is easily solved,” she said, “when you attend the Rite of Communion, take the altar bread out of your mouth when you are behind the altar. Then, when you get home, you should hang it on a tree and shoot at it. Then you will be a better marksman than ever before.”

The huntsman did as instructed. And soon he returned to the Duke and told him that he had practiced his marksmanship so much that he could hit anything, and would like to return to the Duke’s service. “We shall test this,” said the Duke, “take your rifle and follow me into the forest.” When they walked across the bridge, the Duke saw three wild ducks flying above them. He pointed them out to the huntsman and told him to shoot one of them. “Which one?” the latter replied. “The drake”, said the Duke. The huntsman aimed, shot, and the drake dropped down at their feet. Then the Duke became nervous, for surely the Evil One must have had his hand in this. He thus told the huntsman: “I don’t need you in my service, for you are a better shot than I am” and let him go again. And soon the huntsman’s hat was found under the red bridge and his body quartered several hundred steps away beneath the alders which stand close to the path.

Source: Müllenhoff, K; Mensing, O. Sagen, Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg. 1845, p. 549.

Notes & commentary: Infernal Marksman - The Freischütz