William Tell is a lie,
Gessler is a lie, the oath of Rütli is also a lie:
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"Tell is unverifiable"
Translation by Michael Palomino
Switzerland is such a lovely country, so one has to forgive
them for their propaganda which is a lying bluff to the
whole world with this invented Tell.
from: Thomas Compagno: Tell is
unverifiable; interview with historian Roger Sablonier; Coop
newspaper No. 28/2004, 2004-7-7, p.90 (orig. germ.: Tell ist
nicht nachweisbar; Interview mit Historiker Roger Sablonier;
Coopzeitung Nr. 28/2004, 7.7.2004, S.90)
Sablonier is professor for middle age history at
the university of Zurich and project manager of the forum
for Swiss history at Schwyz.
Coop newspaper: 60 percent of Swiss women and
Swiss men believe that William Tell had lived as a person.
Are they all wrong?
Roger Sablonier: Yes. It's clear that the population has
difficulties with the idea that Tell could not have existed.
In school they heard it otherwise. But William Tell as a
historic figure is unverifiable.
Why are you so shure?
Of course you cannot prove that somebody has not existed.
But when you consider historical criteria it's very
implausible because the story does not match to the
historical conditions of the 13th century. Tell is an
Did Gessler exist?
A person with the name "Gessler" who existed in the canton
of Uri as a bailiff of Habsbourg did not exist. There were
Habsbourg bailiffs in the midlands and later also the name
Despite all this there were always attempts to
prove the existence of Tell and Gessler. Do historians
differ about this?
No, they do not differ. There is no historical dispute about
this question, also when it's always maintained again and
again. I don't know any professional historian with the
thesis that Tell had existed as a historical figure. The
attempt to prove mythological figures with genealogy is
abstruse. With genealogy all manipulations are possible
because in any genealogy is a margin of discretion.
Historically this is not justifiable.
Is there a serious dispute in the question if
Tell had existed?
No, this is over and also absolutely not interesting. Tell
is only one part of the liberation tradition. The whole
liberation tradition is a reconstruction as it was
visualized at the end of the 15th century, so that is 200
Do you destroy a myth with this version?
No. It's not an anti-Swiss myth storm if you say Tell would
not have existed in 1300 about. The question of the
historical existance of a person has not much to do with the
question what the meaning of the Tell story and of the
liberation tradition was and how it developped. The Tell
story is a part of this tradition, but in the 19th and in
the 20th century as a visualization. And this myth is at
least as important for the history of Switzerland as Tell
would have been reality in the 13th century.
What's true about the visualization of the oath
There is not much true of the visualization of the picture
itself when you consider it as a historical fact. It's even
not surely known where the "historical" Rütli had been. The
episode of the oath of Rütli is also part of the liberation
tradition and emerges at the end of the 15th century only.
Declerations by oath, agreements by oath to safe peace of
the country emerge already before. But these agreements are
made between the local leaders and shurely cannot be seen as
an anti-Habsbourg conspiracy in the population.
Survey 2006: 58 % say that Tell is a legend
from: Facts, 43/06, 26 October 2006, p.25
Has Wilhelm Tell really lived or is it a legend figure?
-- 36 % say that Tell had really lived
-- 58 % say that Tell is a legend figure
-- 6 % say they don't know, or they don't answer.