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The sources of the story of William Tell are varied. It appears that there were songs and poems about the hero and his exploits from the medieval period. The earliest known account of William Tell, in written form, was from the 1470s. In the same decade, a popular ballad on Tell was also published. The most important source for the legend is the Chronicon Helvetica (1734–36), written by Gilg Tschudi. This Swiss author has given us the definitive version of the story of William Tell. In Tschudi’s account Tell embarked on a series of heroic adventures beginning in 1307. In the most popular form of the story, William was a renowned herdsman, hunter, climber and had great physical strength <ref> Head, R.C., 1995. William Tell and His Comrades: Association and Fraternity in the Propaganda of Fifteenth-and Sixteenth Century Switzerland. The Journal of Modern History, 67(3), pp.527-557 </ref>. He was famous for his skill with the crossbow. He lived in the canton of Uri, which at the time was governed by the House of Habsburg. The Austrians behaved in a tyrannical fashion and this led some locals, including Tell to form a conspiracy, aimed at driving them from Uri. He and the other conspirators vowed to resist Hapsburg rule and to restore the lost freedoms of the people <ref> Müller-Guggenbühl, Fritz. Swiss-alpine Folktales (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 18</ref>. At this time, a cruel Austrian by the name Gessler was appointed the Hapsburg rulers’ deputy in the town of Altdorf. He placed his hat on a pole, under a tree in Altdorf town square and any person passing it had to bow to it. This was a symbol of Austrian superiority and domination in Switzerland <ref>Head, p 556</ref>. One day William Tell and his son were visiting the town and he passed the hat on the pole and refused to bow to it. This was an act of open defiance and Gessler had him arrested and incarcerated. The Austrian had heard that William Tell was a gifted bowman and was also angered by his defiance. He devised a cruel punishment for Tell and his son. Gessler ordered the summary execution of William and his son <ref>Head, p. 552</ref>. However, he gave William Tell a chance to save himself and his son. If the Swiss could shoot an apple off the head of his young son then he would spare their lives. Tell agreed and the Austrians had his son tied to a post and placed an apple on his head. The Swiss hero then fired his crossbow and split the apple in half without harming the boy. The Austrian then noticed that Tell had two bolts in the bow. The peasant when questioned about the second bolt, told Gessler, boldly, that he wanted to kill him with it. Infuriated, the Austrian, ordered that Tell be taken to a castle and never released. As Gessler and his prisoner were making their way across Lake Lucerne to the prison, a storm blew up. The guards implored Gessler to let Tell be freed so that he could take the helm and save them all. They made this request because of the size and strength of their prisoner. Tell was able to steer the boat to shore and he was able to jump ashore before his guards could restrain him, and he escaped. The spot where he allegedly landed on shore is now the site of a chapel built in his memory. William was able to escape the pursuing Gessler, who pursued him relentlessly. The Swiss hero eventually found refuge and he laid an ambush for Gessler. He lay in wait for the Austrian near a narrow mountain road. When the Austrian appeared, William took aim and he shot Gessler with his bow. In another example of marksmanship,’ he killed the Austrian. The local population was greatly inspired by the feats of the mountaineer and this joined a popular rebellion against the Austrians. Tell vowed to defend his country and its liberties and he was joined by many others, this is known as Rütlischwur, and is considered to be of great historical importance. Because it led to the formation of the Swiss Confederation which is seen as the birth of the Swiss nation. The rebels were able to drive the Austrians from their land in 1308. According to the most widely accepted story, the marksman later fought in several battles against the Austrians, as the Hapsburgs tried to reconquer the Alpine cantons. It is related that Tell lived to a ripe old age and that he drowned during his rescue of a child in 1354 <ref> Müller-Guggenbühl, p 28</ref>.
[[File: William Tell Two.jpg |200px|thumb|left|Woodcarving of the Swiss hero shooting the apple of his son’s head]]
==The mythology of the apple and the arrow==
In the 19th century, many academics began the comparative study of myths. They found that many legends, fables, and folktales were similar, and this was because of cultural exchanges between societies. Many researchers who have studied the story of William Tell, believe that it is only a myth. There are many similar myths throughout Europe. In these stories, there are heroes who display great marksmanship and they shot an apple off the head of a person, typically a relative. There are examples of these stories found in Wales, Denmark, Finland, among others. One theory suggests that the story of William Tell is just the Swiss version of a well-known folktale. It was probably transmitted via trade routes or by migrants and the story of the great bowman became part of local Swiss culture. This folktale became associated with the Swiss struggle to throw off the Austrian yoke and became so popular, that many assumed that it was based on a real man. This is something that has occurred in many societies throughout the world <ref> Dundes, A., 1991. The 1991 archer Taylor memorial lecture. The apple-shot: interpreting the legend of William Tell. Western folklore, 50(4), pp.327-360</ref>.