Thursday, 7 April 2016

Wilde Frau

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.
Her 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.
For a 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.
Yet 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.
There 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!”
Naturally, 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.
There 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.
It was 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.
The 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