A different sort of “Snow White” – Alsatian folktale

(A twist on Snow White. From Récits historiques et légendaires d’Alsace, compiled by Robert Wolf, 1922. Translation originally posted on Patreon in December 2022.)

On a mountain near the village of Eguisheim, not far from Colmar, stood three old castles of which nothing remains today except three tours, the three Exes. Seven years ago, the powerful count Hugo of Eguisheim resided there. He had a son named Bruno. One evening, an old woman knocked on the door of the castle and demanded to speak to the count. They let her enter. She was a fortuneteller. She said to the count: “You are a rich and powerful lord; but your son Bruno will be still more powerful and more grand than you. You will kneel before him and kiss the dust of his feet.”

So saying, she disappeared, leaving the count alone and fearful. He supposed that his son would later revolt against him. To avoid the prophecy’s fulfillment, he resolved to have his son killed by his huntsman in the nearby forest.  Upon executing the order, the huntsman was ordered to bring him Bruno’s heart. But the huntsman, who loved the child, brought the babe to one of his friends and returned to the count with the heart of a deer. The count, believing his son to be dead, felt himself reassured. But soon after, he was taken by remorse. As each day passed, he became still more distressed, and nothing could bring him relief. He accused himself of being the assassin of his innocent child. Repenting, he called for his confessor, admitted his crime, and asked for the most severe of penitences. But the priest declared to him that his crime was so grave that only the pope himself could absolve him from it. Although it was winter, Hugo consented to go to Rome.

Without companions, he traversed the snowy lands of the Alps on foot, and, after many exhausting hardships, arrived at Rome. Hugo approached Pope Leo IX, went to his knees before him, confessed his offense and asked for pardon. The pope, having heard him, turned away his eyes for several moments. Then he said to the count: “Your son Bruno is not dead, but lives: the hunter did not kill him. Good people adopted him and gave him a little instruction. He became a priest, then bishop, and finally… pope. It is I, your son.”

And he held his father in his arms. This good fortune appeared so immense to the count that he could scarcely believe it.

Returning to Eguisheim, he did much good for the poor and the sick.

It turns out the Pope Leo IX was indeed from Eguisheim, Alsace. Whether or not his father once tried to murder him, that I do not know.

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

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