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William Tell is a lie, Gessler is a lie, the oath of Rütli is also a lie:

"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)

Roger Sablonier is professor for middle age history at the university of Zurich and project manager of the forum for Swiss history at Schwyz.

The article (translation)

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 invented figure.

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 "Gessler" existed.

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 years later.

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 of Rütli?

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.


Facts Logo

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.