The Implanted Hare’s Heart

(See Bergenroth, “Die Stadt Marienburg” p. 117.)

Once, an incredibly rich and brave nobleman lived on the shores of the Vistula river. Whenever he had gained a lot of captives on his victorious raids, he used them for the heaviest labors, for the construction of a fortress which he built on an island within the Vistula. However, among these prisoners there was an old huntsman, whose wife had knowledge in the witches’ arts. After her husband died as a result of too much hard work and too little food, the witch decided to get revenge against the nobleman. She captured a hare and carved out its heart. With it, she went into the castle of the oppressor when he was in deep slumber. She succeeded in sneaking to his location. There, she opened his side with the aid of a witch knife, took out his heart, and put the hare’s heart in its place.

When the nobleman woke up, he felt that his entire nature had changed. He trembled out of fear, the buzzing of a fly terrified him, and the hammering of the craftsmen put him into a feverish state. His subjects, whom he feared from that moment on, pitied him. But his neighbors, who had been afraid of his bravery, now allied themselves in order to make him flee. Then the normally robust man tried to put on his armor in order to defend his castle, but he was crushed by its burden. He would have liked to crawl into a mousehole, but his comrades-in-arms forcefully put him on his steed so that he could ride forth at the front against the enemies. During the first assault by the enemies, he immediately jolted into the innermost chamber of his firm fortress. But soon, he heard cries of victory and the blowing of trumpets, for his subjects had struck down all of the attackers.

One of his men arrived in order to tell him of the victory. Then he dared to step forward to the window parapet and gaze upon the heaps of the slain enemies. But as it happened, a swallow flew past the open window at this very moment, and grazed the forehead of the hare-hearted noble with its wing. Suddenly, the noble collapsed to the ground with a scream of terror, and was dead.

Even today, the lords of Poland avoid taking old women into their service out of fear that they might implant hares’ hearts into their sons.

Source: Grässe, J. G. T. Sagenbuch des preussischen Staats. Zweiter Band. 1869, p. 655.

Notes & commentary: The Implanted Hare’s Heart