The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friars arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus MaleficarumThe Witchs Hammera guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought Gods anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. Tierkinddorf is filled with hope. Neighbors wonder aloud who has cursed them and how quickly can she be found? They begin sharing secrets with the friar.
Güde Müller, an elderly woman, has stark and frightening visionsrecently she has seen things that defy explanation. None in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wandercertainly she has outlived all but one of her peers in Tierkinddorf. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: She has become an object of scorn and a burden to her sons wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.
Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.
In the second year of no harvest, 1507 Tierkinddorf, Germany
It was a winter to make bitter all souls. So cold the birds froze midcall and our little fire couldnt keep ice from burrowing into bed with us. The fleas froze in the straw beds, bodies swollen with chilled blood.
We were hungry.
It had been a poor year for grain, like the year before, and the blasted field was now covered with snow. What game there was starved too, their ribs plain as kindling. But soon enough we ate all of those and there were no longer claw marks leading us along their little paths.
The lords mill, which Jost ran, hadnt been in use for years. When I looked upon the mill wheel a fortnight ago, a cobweb stretched from the hub to the teeth. No one had any grain to grind and so our barter was based on next harvest. Last year, the lord had released the vassals from obligation and we had all walked the furrows of the tilled earth many times, seeking a scrap ...
Like Gude, the reader is not clear whether what she experiences is real, or not. Is she indeed a witch or just a good woman caught up in bad times? Whether witchcraft is real or not is simply not at issue here because, for the people of Tierkinddorf, it is undisputed fact and Mailman sets her characters' hearts and minds firmly in their milieu, there is no heroic character laboring moral points with an enlightened sensibility centuries ahead of his or her time.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (725 words).
About the Witchhunts
The period of the 'Great European Witch-hunt's' started around 1450. There are many theories as to why the witch-hunts started in the first place (which are neatly outlined at this website - which, should be noted, belongs to a Catholic College); but the flames were certainly fed by Pope Innocent VIII's 1484 papal bull, in which he condemned an alleged outbreak of witchcraft and heresy in the Rhine River valley and deputized the authors of Malleus Maleficarum (a ...
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