Wednesday 23 December 2015


German  lore gives St Nicholas a companion in the form of Knecht Rupert.  His function is to punish bad children.  He initially seems to have been there as a bogeyman.  It has been suggested that Knecht Ruprecht has his origin in the Wildman of European folklore and cryptozoological interest. Mythologists have argued that the figure of Woden/Wotan/Odin lies behind him.  Jacob Grimm thought he was in origin a homesprite, one who looked after a family in their home.  However, the first direct information we have about him is his appearance in a German play of 1668.

Ruprecht dresses in black or brown and has a face blackened with soot. Sometimes he wears goatskin. In Catholic areas, he may carry a Rosary. He may sometimes be portrayed as limping.  The term knecht means a farm laborer and another argument is that he is simply meant to represent a member of the laboring class.

Ruprecht really attained fame in a poem called Knecht Ruprecht
(1862) by Theodor Storm.  These days, instead of meting out punishment, he instead gives apples, nuts and gingerbread to children.  He is sometimes shown riding a white horse.  He may have attendants of the elf and fairy kind.

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