Presented here is a retelling of a German folktale called The Mouse Tower, from Folk-lore and Legends: German by Anonymous. It tells how an Archbishop of Mentz through an evil deed brought down the divine retribution of Heaven upon himself.
The Mouse Tower
The German city of Mentz, now called Mainz is situated on the River Rhine where it is joined by the River Main. This story is set around the year 968 when the Archbishop of Mentz was Hatto Bonosus. Although he was said to be a man of considerable intelligence and very knowledgeable about the scriptures and spiritual matters he was known to be very hard of heart and miserly. He hoarded valuable works of art and treasure which he guarded jealously keeping it hidden away from all eyes except his own. He was never satisfied with what he had accumulated and always strove to acquire more, more, more.
There came a time when the city and all of the local area was hit by a terrible famine. Very soon many people were begging for food and starving to death in the streets. Seeking help, crowds of people began to gather outside the Archbishop’s palace crying out and begging for bread.
Inside his palace the Archbishop was safe and well stocked with food and wine and went without nothing while outside people starved to death. He refused to share his food and refused to give money so people could go to another town to buy and bring back food supplies. Instead he blamed the poor and the starving for their own misfortune for not being thrifty enough to save for hard times such as these. The fact is that most people only ever earned enough money to live on day by day and never had any left over to save. Nevertheless, that is what the Archbishop told them, chastising them for their supposed indulgence.
Day after day, crowds of starving people arrived in ever increasing numbers to beg at his gates. The Archbishop was now becoming annoyed and desperate to be rid of them. On the pretense of providing food he had them all taken to one of his empty barns. His servants had set tables and chairs as if for a magnificent banquet. Once all the poor and beggars were inside and seated he ordered the doors to be locked to prevent their escape. Then he ordered the barn to be set on fire. The flames quickly took hold and through the roaring of the fire the screams of the dying could be heard. Turning towards those miserable servants who aided and abetted his crime he mocked,
“Ha! Listen to how those mice squeak!”
What he did not know was that those who looked down from Heaven witnessed his crime. A strange, unique and fitting punishment for the callous Archbishop of Mentz was prepared. After the flames had consumed the barn leaving nothing but ashes there came creeping from those ashes legion upon legion of mice. They made for the Archbishop and followed him everywhere he went
No matter where he went or what he did they followed him. He ran to his horse and carriage and quickly shut the door, but some got in an began biting and scratching him. With the help of his servant he cleared the carriage of them and ordered the driver to drive home as fast as he could. However, when he arrived home he soon found that the mice had managed to follow him and began attacking him again. He went up to his highest and most secure tower but the mice clambered up the walls or crept through doors and cracks to get at him. They bit and scratched him torturing his flesh and the more the servant beat them off the more appeared to attack him. They gnawed at the portraits of the Archbishop on the walls and his figure in tapestries and gnawed at his name on doors.
The Archbishop realized there was no safe sanctuary on land therefore he ordered a tower to be hastily built in the waters of the fast flowing Rhine. When it was completed he took a boat to it and shut himself in. For a couple of days he saw no mice at all but to his shock he found they were beginning to appear a few at a time inside the tower. Looking out of the window he was aghast to see swimming downstream towards him masses upon masses of mice. Although many drowned many managed to cling to the tower and begin climbing up. Soon they were swarming up the walls and penetrating through tiny cracks and crevices invading the tower like an avenging army of God.
At last they penetrating the highest and most secure room in the tower in which the Archbishop had locked himself. They tore into him in fury, biting, scratching and tearing at his flesh. Finally, the cruel and vicious soul of the tortured Archbishop was forced to vacate his body through the revenge of the mice to face the judgement of Heaven
© 01/05/2019 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright May 1st, 2019 zteve t evans