The Maid of Wildenloh

Several centuries ago there was a large farmhouse in Wildenloh1), and traces of it can still be found today. The well belonging to this farm was rediscovered some time ago. Even the location where the house was located is still shown by the elongated depression of the construction site and the occasional remnants of an old wall.

Once, the inhabitants of this house were at a wedding in Jedddeloh2) and had left only their maid behind in their home. A group of bandits consisting of seven brothers lived in the area and decided to exploit the absence of the master of the house. In the evening the seven brothers gathered at the house, but found everything well barred and locked. Thus they decided to dig a hole beneath the outer wall at the side of the house. However, the observant maid had noticed the bandits and their plans. She armed herself with a sharp peat spade3) and sat down at the spot where the bandits were digging. The hole was finally large enough that one of the bandits was able to stick his head through the hole and intended to come into the house. Quickly the maid decapitated him and dragged the bandit inside. When the others outside asked: “Have you managed to get inside?” she replied with altered voice: “Yes!” So she proceeded with one after another. When the seventh put his head through the hole, the blood of his killed brothers was flowing towards him. Hurriedly he pulled his head back, but the maid still managed to sever a piece of his skullcap. The bandit bandaged his injury and went to the wedding in Wildenloh where he joined the dancing. With a drunkard’s courage he shouted:

the maid of Wildenloh,
now she waits for the seventh man!”

Several years later a finely-clothed man came to the farmer in Wildenloh and stated his intention to marry the farmer's maid. He was able to present good references, and the maid accepted. After several days he arrived on a wagon drawn by two beautiful horses in order to fetch the bride. He drove with her across the marshes and the journey lasted for several hours without reaching their goal. When finally the bride asked if they would soon arrive at his home, he put his head on her lap and told her to ruffle his hair. She did so and immediately noticed that he was the bandit whom she had injured but not killed. Then he dropped the pretense and revealed to her that he had fetched her to avenge the death of his six brothers as well as his own wound.

Soon they arrived at the bandit’s home where his mother waited for them. On a fire they had a large cauldron full of oil, in which they intended to boil the captive. The bandit brought the maid into the house and led her to a large block with a big hatchet on top of it, which he intended to decapitate her with. The maid pretended to accept her fate, but asked the bandit to help her remove her beautiful new dress so that it would not be soiled by the blood and ruined. The bandit accepted this line of reasoning and started to untie the dress. Then she quickly grabbed the hatchet and hit the bandit so well with it that he dropped dead to the ground. Now the mother rushed at her with an axe, but she too was slain by the maid. Quickly the maid jumped on the wagon and raced back to Wildenloh in a gallop. From a distance she saw the master of her household stand before the house and, standing up, she shouted to him:

the maid of Wildenloh,
now she’s got the seventh man!”

Variants: In the bandit’s house the maid puts her head on the block, but pulls it back as the bandit attempts to strike it so that the hatchet gets stuck in the block. Then she grasps it herself and slays the bandit. Alternatively the maid drops her bracelet and slays the bandit as he bends down for it. Or the maid throws her dress over his head so that he becomes entangled in it. The old woman sometimes gets thrown into the cauldron with the oil. And a multitude of treasures can be found in their house, which the maid appropriates.

Source: Strackerjan, L. Aberglaube und Sagen aus dem Herzogthum Oldenburg. Zweiter Band, 1867. p 155f.

Notes & Commentary: The Maid of Wildenloh

Wildenloh is now part of the Edewecht municipality.
That would be Jeddeloh I, a hamlet dates back to at least 1270, as Jeddeloh II was only founded in the 19th century as a marsh colony. Both are now also part of the Edewecht municipality. Jeddeloh is about eight kilometers west of Wildenloh.
Since the northwestern parts of Germany where this story takes place consisted largely of peat bogs and peat represented the most common source of fuel, a peat spade would have been a common tool in such a farm. Furthermore, the physical movements involved in cutting peat would have been rather applicable in this situation…