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By the 18th century, William Tell was a very popular figure in Switzerland, so much so that several antiquarians investigated the story. They did not find any evidence that there was such as figure, nor proof that any person shot an apple off a boy’s head. In the 19th century, the Swiss government ordered an official investigation into the authenticity of the story of William Tell. There was no document found in relation to the late 1200s and early 14th century that mentions anyone by that name <ref>Head, p 551</ref>. There is no mention of a person shooting an apple off a boy’s head in any record. However, it should be noted that record keeping was very poor at the time and many documents would have been lost down the centuries. It was noted that the first mention of the hero was in the 15th century long after the bowman’s supposed heroics and life. Many have believed that the story of William Tell and his marksmanship, was not historically accurate. Many historians have expressed doubt about the authenticity of the story because crossbows were not commonly used at the time, especially by poor mountaineers such as William Tell. Crossbows in the 14th century were typically very expensive and only professional soldiers could afford this technology. Crossbowmen were much sought after as mercenaries in the Middle Ages. Moreover, there is no support for the story that Tell, and others took an oath to free Switzerland. There are some who believe that a linguistic analysis of the legend in order to determine if there was a real-life character <ref>Head, p 555</ref>. Some Swiss scholars have turned to etymology in order to provide proof of the historicity of the hero. At the time many people took their surname from their home village or territory. There are scholars who hold that the name Tell could derive from a district or village. However, these academic exercises do not provide any real evidence for the existence of the Swiss national hero.
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>.
==The politics of myth==
Despite the almost complete lack of evidence for the existence of William Tell, many firmly believe him to be a real historical figure. In Switzerland, he became the national hero in the 19th century. It seems that the Swiss people needed a hero when its country was occupied by the armies of Napoleon. He became an embodiment of the nation and its aspirations and showed the people that they could be free. To put it simply the myth was so popular and useful that people wanted it to be true. Moreover, popular artworks, based on the hero persuaded many people in Switzerland and beyond that Tell was a real person. Moreover, successive Swiss governments, despite investigations showing that there was no real evidence for the heroes’ existence, continued to pursue policies that treated him as a real-life figure. They erected statues to the man who had purportedly shot an apple off his son’s head. The Swiss authorities have used the story of William Tell as a national figure around which people would rally round in times of stress and danger. When Switzerland was threatened in World War One and Two, or during the Cold War, the bowman was a source of inspiration <ref>Ritzer, Nadine. "The Cold War in Swiss Classrooms: History Education as a “Powerful Weapon against Communism “?." Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society 4, no. 1 (2012): 78-94</ref>.