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Truly, he was a despicable man. Now, according to some, William Tell had already become embroiled in a conspiracy to resist the Austrians and Gessler.

William Tell | Swiss hero |

Bold move. Gessler, the fanatical Austrian menace that he was, devised a cunning punishment for Tell. But Gessler noticed that Tell had picked up two crossbow bolts, not just one.

Curious and apparently rather dim-witted he questioned the burly Swiss why he needed two bolts. Well, the other one would have been to kill you with, Tell replied, to the shock of nobody except Gessler.

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Tell was carted off and tossed onto a boat. While being transported across Lake Lucerne , a vicious storm whipped up, rocking the boat savagely from side to side. Seizing the opportunity, Tell drove the boat towards the shore, grabbed his crossbow, skipped off onto land and darted off. We can imagine that his trigger finger itched in anticipation, probably remembering that vile hat sitting on top of the pole in Altdorf, the horror.

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He finally saw Gessler approach, stepped out from behind a tree and shot him dead. This act inspired the rebellion that eventually ended Austrian rule in Switzerland. Some accounts name Tell a leader in that fight.

Tell-Museum Bürglen

William Tell first appeared in legends and songs of the s. By the s, various Swiss histories featured the story. Despite these works, however, there is no historical evidence that William Tell existed, although the stories about him may have been based on a kernel of reality.

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The central question:

William Tell , legendary Swiss patriot. According to legend, Tell was a native of Uri, one of the Swiss forest cantons.

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  5. Gessler, the canton's Austrian bailiff, decreed that Swiss citizens must remove their hats before his hat, which he had posted on a stake in the canton's largest town. Tell refused and as punishment was ordered to shoot an apple off his small son's head.

    Although he succeeded, he was held prisoner by Gessler when he revealed that had he failed, he planned to kill Gessler with an arrow he had hidden on his person. While there is no valid proof of Tell's existence, the legend represents a distorted account of events that resulted in the formation of the Everlasting League between the cantons of Schwyz , Uri , and Unterwalden. Schiller's popular drama Wilhelm Tell is based on the legend; Rossini's opera William Tell is based on Schiller's drama. Tell, William Legendary Swiss hero, leader in the 14th-century war of liberation against Austria.