Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Legend of Charlemagne and the Strong Bonds that Bind Us

June is the month of brides and rings and the ties that bind us.

Grimm’s Saga No. 458: A Legend of Charlemagne

The Ring in the Lake near Aachen

Petrarch, on his trip through Germany, heard a story told by priests in Aachen. The holy men purported it was true, for the story had been circulated by word of mouth for many years. In ancient times Charlemagne fell in love with a woman of lowly birth. The Kaiser’s love raged so violently for this woman, that he forgot all his worldly affairs and dropped all earthly pursuits. He even neglected his own body and appearance. His entire court was soon in disarray and many of his subjects became embarrassed by his passion, which showed no signs of diminishing. The beloved woman soon fell ill and died. The people now hoped that the Kaiser would abandon his love for the woman, but these hopes were all in vain. Instead he sat for hours with her corpse, kissed and caressed it and talked to it as if it were still alive. The dead body began to smell and decay but the Kaiser would not take leave from it. Finally Turpin, the archbishop, realized that some sort of magic must lie behind it all. When Charlemagne left the room the archbishop therefore carefully ran his hands over the corpse of the dead woman to see if he could not discover the source of the enchantment. Finally he found a ring in her mouth concealed under her tongue and he secretly removed it. When the Kaiser returned to the room he acted surprised, like someone who had just awakened from a deep sleep. He asked:

“Who carried this stinking corpse in here?” and in that very hour he ordered its burial. This was also carried out immediately. But instead of alleviating the problem the king’s strong affection was now re-directed to the archbishop, whom the Kaiser now followed incessantly. When this wise and pious man noticed the change, he recognized the power of the ring and feared it might fall into the wrong hands. That is why he threw it into the lake near the city. After that, the Kaiser loved the place so dearly, he could no longer find it in his heart to leave Aachen. He had a royal castle and cathedral built and spent the remainder of his days there. It was also in Aachen that he desired to be buried. He decreed that all royal successors would be anointed and inaugurated in that city.

To read a tale about Charlemagne and the Snake:

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