The Wild Huntsman in the Oderwiesenwald Forest

Many hundreds of years ago, a charcoal burner lived in the Odenwieserwald forest1). He had a single beautiful and virtuous daughter named Lili. One day, while her father was at the charcoal pile, Lili walked into the forest to gather strawberries, her father's favorite. She went deep into the forest and gathered many berries when she came to a small stream. There she saw a large man with a pale face sitting below a beech tree. Next to him were his coal-black horse, his hounds, and his falcons.

The girl startled, but lost all fear as the strange knight greeted her warmly. He demanded something to eat, and the beautiful maiden gave him her basket with the strawberries. Then he put her on the horse in front of him and rode towards the charcoal burner's hut. The charcoal burner was delighted about this noble visitor and gave him a place to sleep for the night. The next dawn, the knight gave his fond farewells to Lili and promised to return.

However, Lili already had a beloved - a shepherd who watched over her father's sheep. When they saw each other again, Lili reddened and was confused. The shepherd, who believed that her behavior was because of other people's gossip about the two of them, tried to comfort her by telling her that they would marry soon.

The knight now started to visit the charcoal burner's hut frequently, and thus gained the favor of Lili so that she soon stopped thinking about the shepherd. The charcoal burner was happy with the thought that Lili might become a noblewoman, and in this manner several months passed in blissful courtship. The shepherd was found torn into pieces within the forest, and nobody knew who or what was responsible. Other people started to fear the charcoal burner's hut, as the Wild Hunt frequently stormed and roared nearby.

Eventually, Lili could no longer bear her betrothed's continued silence about his ancestry and rank, and she and her father pressured him to reveal his background. While the knight tried to dissuade them, they continued to insist on it.

The wedding was scheduled for New Year's Eve. A large entourage gathered, and many knights and squires in shining armor were present. There were tournaments and a multitude of other knightly games. The beautiful bride Lili shined adorned with gold and jewels. The knight had told her that he would only reveal his rank and heritage in the bridal chamber.

As the midnight hour approached, hellish weather broke loose. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled. A wild flame struck down from the heavens into the charcoal burner's hut, and from it the groom appeared on his horse with his bride in a snow-white dress. They rose up into the air and vanished over the trees of the forest. The wailing of the maiden was heard for a long time, until it too ceased.

There was no trace left of the charcoal burner's hut, and the charcoal burner was burned to a crisp, as God's punishment for his pride. At the site where the hut was located there used to be a cross until a few years ago, and nobody wanted to stay there in the evenings. Lili herself was frequently seen at the beech tree near the spring. People would hear her crying and singing with her beautiful voice, and even today she visits there.

The Wild Huntsman was seen from time to time roaring through the air on moonlit nights on his snorting horse, with the wailing Lili in tow. And whoever hears the Wild Hunt approaching should speak the name “Lili” - then the Wild Hunt will let them pass and cannot harm them.

Source: Panzer, F. Bayerische Sagen und Bräuche. Beitrag zur deutschen Mythologie. Erster Band, 1848. p. 84ff.


Notes & commentary: The Wild Hunt - Hunting for Brides

After some research, I have concluded that this is the forest surrounding the hamlet of Oedwies, a hamlet now part of the municipality of Achslach in Lower Bavaria.
As a reminder, the book this story was published in was originally published in 1848.