Newly Swissed Online Magazine

The Chronicles of William Tell: From Folklore to Musical

(Copyright 2012 Sarnen, Staatsarchiv Obwalden/e-codices)

Blast to William Tell's Past

William Tell is the world famous Swiss hero from the 13th century, whose legend has been retold thousands of times in many languages since 1475. Hans Schriber from Obwalden near Tell’s footsteps was actually the first one to record Tell's name and the apple shot.

About 300 years later, Antoine-Marin Lemierre from Paris wrote a play, which was revived in 1786 mantling Tell’s rebellious spirit into French revolutionaries’ minds.

Around the same time in Weimar, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe also felt inspired but pitched the idea to his friend, Friedrich Schiller, who actually wrote a play in 1804! (Schiller’s play was then adapted to an opera by Gioachino Rossini in 1829.) And by 1912, Schiller’s version had made it to Interlaken, where an outdoor Tell drama is still presented every summer.

Yet, this summer of 2012 will add a Swiss made musical to the chronicles of Tell!


TELL - DAS MUSICALInterestingly, it was not Uncle Tell who made it into a Swiss made musical first, but little Heidi in 2007. Five years later, TELL - DAS MUSICAL will bring the testosterone back with medieval armor and horses, a cold blooded Vogt, a series of narrow escapes, and a victorious revenge!

Despite its iconic design, the musical’s poster seemed a bit odd to my eyes at first: "Did Tell wear a hoodie? Didn’t he wear a hat with long feathers, like Peter Pan's? Could it be a millennium version where Tell will do a rap or a break dance?"

My outrageous idea was quickly shot down by Dimitri: "Back then, those hats with feathers belonged to the rich and authorities. They were status symbols, not for peasants or a hunter like Tell."

Aha! No wonder Tell refused to bow at Gessler's hat on the pole! Tell actually reminds me of Mark Zuckerberg who consistently chooses not to wear a business suit and tie, but rather his all time favorite hoodie (against the rules of Wall Street)...

Meet Modern Day Tell

To my Newly Swissed surprise, Mr. Fabian Egli (31), the baritone who plays Tell, was once Dimitri’s kindergarten-mate! Hoi! Did they share an apple or play knights?

TELL - DAS MUSICAL - Fabian-Egli(Copyright

I wondered whether Fabian would be a bit young for a full-bearded huntsman... But then, nobody really knows how old the Swiss hero was when he aimed his crossbow at his son’s head! The life expectancy for men in medieval times was below 40...

I assume that - considering his Rambo-ish resistance and stamina - Tell might have been in his early 30s at the time of the apple incident, so Mr. Egli will be a perfect cast!

While my thoughts were still fixed on men with beards, the musical's promoters came up with a brilliant idea: On opening night of the musical (July 18), guys with one month old beards will get free admission (with a date)! Solidarity for freedom!

Also, the old good neighborhood connection resulted in a Newly Swissed opportunity to interview with Mr. Egli a.k.a. Tell! To make sure that the interview will not get too nostalgic, we would like to collect some questions from you, dear Newly Swissed readers! Please dig deep and add your questions for Tell below.


Mamiko truly loves to discover Switzerland through the Newly Swissed "frame" with her Japanese eyes for details and a spark of American curiosity. She wants to connect Newly Swissed with businesses and organizations in Switzerland and expand the network.

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