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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Mouse Tower"

The Mouse Tower

To the traveller who has traversed the delightful environs of the Rhine, from the city of Mentz as far as Coblentz, or from the clear waves of this old Germanic stream gazed upon the grand creations of Nature, all upon so magnificent a scale, the appearance of the old decayed tower which forms the subject of the ensuing tradition forms no uninteresting object. It rises before him as he mounts the Rhine from the little island below Bingen, toward the left shore. He listens to the old shipmaster as he relates with earnest tone the wonderful story of the tower, and, shuddering at the description of the frightful punishment of priestly pride and cruelty, exclaims in strong emotion—

"The Lord be with us!"

For, as the saying runs, it was about the year of Our Lord 968, when Hatto II., Duke of the Ostro-franks, surnamed Bonosus, Abbot of Fulda, a man of singular skill and great spiritual endowments, was elected Archbishop of Mentz. He was also a harsh man, and being extremely avaricious, heaped up treasure which he guarded with the utmost care.

It so happened, under his spiritual sway, that a cruel famine began to prevail in the city of Mentz and its adjacent parts, insomuch that in a short time numbers of the poorer people fell victims to utter want. Crowds of wretches were to be seen assembled before the Archbishop's palace in the act of beseeching with cries and prayers for some mitigation of their heavy lot.

But their harsh lord refused to afford relief out of his own substance, reproaching them at the same time as the authors of their own calamity by their indolence and want of economy. But the poor souls were mad for food, and in frightful and threatening accents cried out—

"Bread, bread!"

Fearing the result, Bishop Hatto ordered a vast number of hungry souls to range themselves in order in one of his empty barns under the pretence of supplying them with provisions. Then, having closed the doors, he commanded his minions to fire the place, in which all fell victims to the flames.

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