Deep in a German forest lives the Wilde Frau, in a wooden hovel with a turnkey for protection: hers and that of the nearest hamlet. She has been so hidden because of her fits of madness and of fever, although the Wilde Frau has never to anyone's knowledge actually killed. Murdered a human being, although she may have slaughtered a pig or two, and twisted the necks of some old hens that had stopped laying. But that was years before then. Now.
imprisonment although sudden had not been unexpected. Eyes belonging
to skulking figures had watched her for months; children at play had
run away when they saw her coming, and wives had hurried inside and
bolted their doors. Men stood in huddles and talked in hoarse
whispers, their backs turned, and glanced round nervously as she
strode passed them. Ostracised, though she did not remember the
untoward behaviour that caused these reactions.
while she thought perhaps she was wrong: it wasn't she they fled
from, but some other. A terrifying being she couldn't see, that for
some inexplicable reason didn't exist for her. A grotesque beast who
hid during the day and disappeared round corners at night, always up
ahead and staying out of sight. That was the life she imagined for
this being; she didn't think that would be her in a year's time,
especially when she had no concept of the threat she posed.
there were malevolent incidents: cottages entered and food
deliberately spoiled; animals freed from their holdings; a baby taken
and found unharmed on a bed of straw in a pig sty; and tools,
mysteriously lost, recovered crusted with rust at the bottom of the
well, and as you might expect after such incidents in a close-knit
community there were murmurings, which at some point indicated her.
An observation she came to as aforementioned rather late.
goes the Wilde Frau” she'd hear in her passing and she'd follow
their gaze, thinking their eyes were directed elsewhere and unseeing
who they could possibly be referring to for apart from her the path
was clear. The truth dawned on her one sunny market day when the
horses and cows were wandering and chickens were scattering the dusty
roads, when a scrawny man with bulging eyes lunged at her with his
pitchfork shouting “Get thee gone, servant of the devil!”
she was affronted, but thought this man with his underfed, desperate
look was surely a village idiot; nobody she'd seen before but then
brothers and cousins returned from town on market days. However,
others soon joined in, surrounding her with their profanities, their
eyes blazing with a mixture of rage and jubilation at having cornered
her. It was unfortunate that though she had no recollection of having
partaken in the incidents much talked of, that she snapped. Seeming
to enter into a different state entirely: swinging round and round,
her colour rising as her blonde hair came undone, with fits of mad,
uncontrollable laughter thrown into the faces of all those that
encircled her until her giddiness forced through an exit, whereby she
ran into the back entrance of the nearby tavern and armed herself
with a butchering knife.
she stood, wild-haired and having lost her shoes somewhere,
brandishing a very sharp knife. There were blood-curdling screams as
she directed it at her own laced bosom, but thought better of in a
matter of seconds, and attempted instead to shear her loose golden
hair with a wicked grin plastered across her face.
at this stage that the Landlord having seen enough decided to
intervene. He skilfully tackled her to the ground and successfully
wrested the knife from her after a determined struggle, whereupon she
instantaneously relaxed in his bear-like grip, and her eyes that had
previously been triumphant returned to a glazed calm. Visibly wilted,
she was dragged up and held in custody in a upper floor room, where
she remained passive: awake but in a doped state as authoritative
figures decided her fate.
rest as they say is history. A history that leads us back to the
beginning: Deep in a German forest...
Picture Credit: In a German Forest, vintage travel poster