OTMAR: “The Wild Hunter of Hackelnberg”
Excerpt, “The German Novelists: Tales Selected From Ancient and Modern Authors in That Language: From the Earliest Period Down to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. Translated from the Originals: With Critical and Biographical Notices.” Editor, Thomas Roscoe. In Four Volumes. 1826.
It is related by Hondorff (in his Theat. Hist.) that in the year 1272, a certain necromancer who arrived at Creusnach from the Netherlands, one day in the open market place struck off his page’s head, and after leaving the body for the space of half an hour upon the ground he again united it to the trunk. The page then riding with his dogs into the air, gave the huntsman’s cry, and rode about as if engaged in the chase.
A similar exhibition in the clouds was displayed by Doctor Faustus to the Italian Ambassadors; and is likewise said to have been in the power of J. Scotus of Frankfort, of Zoroaster, and of Robert of Normany (Görres Deutschen Volksbücher).
.“The Wild Hunter of Hackelnberg”
Far around this castle, among the mountains of the Hartz and in the Thuringian forests, appears the Wild Hunter of Hackelnberg. His favorite haunts, however, are in Hackel, from which he derives his name, and more particularly in the district of Dumburg. He is often heard at midnight, as he drives through storm and rain, or in the dim moonshine, when the heavens are overcast. With his swart hounds, he chases through the clouds the shadows of wild animals he once destroyed.
Most frequently the chase goes over Dumburg, straight athwart the Hackel towards the now ruined villages of Ammendorf – upon the limits of the village of Hakeborn, not far from the little town of Egeln.
He has never been seen except by a few Sabbath-born children. Sometimes he meets them as a solitary hunter with a single dog; at others borne in a chariot with four horses, attended by six large hounds. All, however, may hear his fierce progress through the rushing air, the hoarse cry of his dogs, and the tramp of his steeds, as if dashing through the moor waters, and often, too, his wild hu! hu! as he speeds along, preceded by his guide, the large horned owl, with her solitary whoop.
There were once three travelers who had sat down to refresh themselves, not far from Dumburg. The night was gathering fast, the moon shone fitfully through the fleeing clouds, and all was silent around as the tomb. Suddenly was heard a rushing like a strong current. They looked up, and a great horned owl flew over them.
“Ha!” cried one of the travelers, “there is the Stut-ozel, and the Wild Hunter Hackelnberg is not far.”
“Let us fly then,” exclaimed the second in great alarm, “before the monster overtake us.”
“There is no time,” said the other, “Do not provoke him, and you have nothing to fear. Lie down on your faces. Say not a word. Remember the fate of the shepherd.”
The travelers lay down among the bushes. Loud rushing of the hounds, as if tramping down the grass, and high above them in the air the stifled cry of hard-pressed beasts; mingled from time to time with the fierce sound of the hunter’s hu! hu! Two of the travelers pressed closer to the ground; the third could not resist. Glancing through the bush, he saw the shade of the Dark Hunter, urging on his dogs, as his horses galloped by.
As suddenly again everything was still. The travelers rose trembling from their hiding place, and gazed wistfully towards Hackelnberg; but all had vanished and was seen no more. “But what is the Stut-ozel?”
“In one of the convents at Thuringen, there once resided a nun of the name of Ursel. This creature being of a violent temper, beat the sisterhood, and often interrupted their hymns with her harsh sharp voice; so that they soon gave her the nickname of Tut, or Stut Ursel. But they bitterly repented having done this after her death.
For always, after eleven o’clock at night, she appeared in the shape of a screech owl, and thrush her head into the choir of the church, destroying the harmony of their hymns with her harsh tones, stammering worse than before. The same occurred in the morning at four o’clock, as she never failed to join in their choral songs.
“With trembling limbs the sisterhood supported this situation for a few days; but on her fourteenth visit one of the nuns whispered in great alarm. “Now I am sure it is the Ursel!” The hymn ceased, a sudden terror seized on all; their hair bristled, the colour forsook their lips, and they all ran out of the church during service, shrieking.
“It is the Ursel, the Tut Ursel!” and no threats or persuasions could induce them again to enter it, until the persecuting spirit of Ursel was banished from the convent walls. One of the most celebrated exorcists of his time was sent for from the borders of the Danube. Belonging to an order of Capuchins, and by dint of fast and prayer, he succeeded in expelling Ursel — in the shape of a great horned owl — and driving her among the ruins of Dumburg.
“At that time, the Wild Hunter was passing over Hackelnberg. Hearing the hu! hu! of the great horned owl as he drove along, he found it so well adapted to his own cheer for his hounds and horses, that he entreated to have her company in the chase; and they were never afterwards separated.
And away they sped, pursuing their prey through storm and rain and cloud, (she rejoicing to be freed from the close convent walls), and listening to the mountain echoes of their own wild shouts and songs, mingled with the cry of their hounds, and the sighs and pantings of their prey.”
“Such,” said the traveler, shuddering, “is the story of the Tut-ozel; but what became of the young shepherd who hailed the hunter as he passed?”
“Listen to his strange adventure: A shepherd once heard the Wild Hunter drawing near the place where he fed his flock. Calling out, he gave the hounds a cheer. “Good luck to Hackelnberg,’
The Wild Hunter checked his speed, his voice a shout of thunder. ‘Hast thou helped me to urge my dogs! So shalt thou have a share in the quarry!’
The poor hind shrank trembling away. But Hackelnberg flung after him a half-devoured thigh bone of a horse; which smote him as he sat in his sheep cart, so severely, that he has never since been able to hold himself upright.”
It is most probable that some great hunter who rode in the Middle Ages gave occasion to the preceding tradition, belonging likewise to the family of the nobles of Hackelnberg or Hackelberg.
The last distinguished Nimrod of his race was Hans Von Hackelnberg, who ended his days in an hospital, during the sixteenth century, at a place not far from Hornberg, which lies on the borders of the Duchy of Brunswick. Upon his grave-stone in the church-yard, of that place, is engraved the figure of a full equipped knight, mounted upon a mule.
Travelers passing through Wulperode, used to stop to admire the heavy armour of Hans there exhibited to view. But the helm alone now remains; the rest of his accoutrements having been transferred to Deersheim.
In regard to the strange manner of his death, the following tradition has obtained currency; and this, as being historically connected with the foregoing, may here be added.
Hans von Hackelnberg, the ducal master of the forests in Brunswick, appeared to live only for the chase. In order to indulge this propensity, he bought or hired a number of neighboring chases, and devoted the whole of his time to the hunt; traversing with his followers and his large stag hounds all the fields, forests and mountainous districts round the Hartz; year after year, both by day and night.
He once passed the night in Hartzburg; and there he dreamed that he saw a terrific wild boar, which he attacked, and after a long struggle he fancied that he was overcome. As he waked, the dreadful apparition seemed still to haunt him; he could in no way vanquish its impression, though he was the first to laugh at the occurrence.
Wandering a few days afterwards among the Lower Hartz, he encountered an immense boar, the exact image of that he had beheld in his sleep; in colour, in size, and in the length and strength of his tusks. But Hans knew no fear, and was the first to begin the battle, which was equally ferocious, crafty, and unyielding on both sides.
It long remained undecided; only by employing his utmost dexterity and courage, when nearly reduced to the last extremity, that Hackelnberg finally succeeded in laying his enemy low.
Long he gazed upon his savage foe as he lay dead at his feet; then stomping upon his head with all his force. “Thou hast not, and thou shalt not tear me, as thou tore me in my dream!” Such was the violence with which he struck him, that one of the sharp tusks pierced his boot, and wounded him in the foot.
At first he thought little of the wound; until late at night, continued the chase. However, for want of proper care, his wound worsened, compelling him to hasten towards Wolfenbüttel. Only with utmost difficulty did he reach the hospital at Wulperode; and, shortly after his arrival, died.