Freischutz

Freischutz (German) The term freischutz means free shooter. It refers to a German folktale in which a marksman makes a pact with the devil.

In this tale, Satan took the form of Samiel, the black huntsman of Wolf’s Glen. The marksman was given seven magic bullets, six of which would hit whatever the marksman wished. The seventh bullet, though, was controlled by the devil.

In a less dark variation on the folktale, a marksman sold his soul to the devil in order to improve his shooting. In this bargain, the devil was supposed to return seven years later to claim the marksman’s soul. But the marksman could be taken only if the devil could identify the creature at which the man aimed. When the devil returned, he came upon a weirdlooking creature. It was the man’s wife, who had covered herself with molasses and then with a coating of feathers. The devil was unable to identify this strange creature and was forced to vanish without the man’s soul.

Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütztells the story of Max, a forester who lost to a villager at target practice. Unless Max could improve his aim, he would lose both the honor of being a forester and the hand of his beloved Agathe. Another forester, the grim, forbidding Kaspar, told Max about the magic bullets that never miss and promised that if Max met him in the Wolf’s Glen that night, he would make him some of these bullets. Max agreed.

Max was unaware that Kaspar had sold his soul to Samiel (or Zamiel) the Wild Huntsman and planned to hand Max over to the devil in his place. Together, the two men molded seven magic bullets. Six would fly true; the seventh would go where the devil wished.

Sure enough, the next day, six bullets flew true for Max. Only the seventh, the devil’s bullet, remained. Max shot at a dove—but realized too late that he had aimed at Agathe’s white dress. She fell but had merely fainted. The seventh bullet sped past her to the true target, Kaspar. He was instantly slain, and the devil claimed him. Max confessed what he had done, was forgiven, and won Agathe’s hand.

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