“To assist each other with aid and every counsel and every favor, with persons and goods, with might and main, against one and all, who may inflict on them any violence, molestation or injury, or may plot any evil against their persons or goods.”
William Tell leaps ashore and kicks the boat back into the waves
From that humble beginning in 1307, a successful national war of liberation was fought against the Austrian Habsburg dynasty throughout the cantons of Switzerland. The story is cherished by the Swiss and a crossbow adorns a stamp on every export that crosses Swiss borders.
Altdorf, Canton of Uri, Switzerland (circa 1890-1905)
Many historians today challenge the story and claim it pure myth, the main lineaments of it borrowed from an old Norse tale. The first written account of the William Tell story was printed two hundred fifty years after the event by a historian named Aegidius Tschudi. Prior to about 1570, the tale was derived from oral tradition, which of course, by itself, does not make it untrue. The dates for the story of William Tell do not match the historical context for 1307, but dating precision is often a problem for historians, especially when hundreds or thousands of years are involved. In the mid-eighteenth century, a scholar from Bern—Gottlieb de Haller—read old Viking stories from Denmark, one of which recounted the exact story of William Tell, except the tale involved King Harald Bluetooth and a chieftain named Toko.