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Lohengrin and Elsa.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall
Age Rating 8 Plus.

Start of Story

The young Duchess of Brabant, Elsa the Beautiful, had gone into the woods hunting, and becoming separated from her attendants, sat down to rest under a wide-branching linden-tree. She was sorely troubled, for many lords and princes were asking for her hand in marriage. More urgent than all the others was the invincible hero, Count Telramund, her former guardian, who since the death of her father had ruled over the land with masterly hand. Now the duke, her father, on his death-bed had promised Telramund that he might have Elsa for wife, should she be willing; and Telramund was continually reminding her of this. But Elsa blushed with shame at the mere thought of such a union, for Telramund was a rough warrior, as much hated for his cruelty as he was feared for his strength. To make matters worse he was now at the court of the chosen King Henry of Saxony, threatening her with war and even worse calamities. In the shade of the linden Elsa thought of all this, and pitied her own loneliness in that no brother or friend stood at her side to help her. Then the sweet singing of birds seemed to comfort her, and she dropped into a gentle sleep. As she dreamed it seemed to her that a young knight stepped out of the depths of the forest. Holding up a small silver bell, he spoke in friendly tones: "If you should need my help, just ring this." Elsa tried to take the trinket, but she could neither rise nor reach the outstretched hand. Then she awoke.



Thinking over the apparition Elsa noted a falcon circling over her head. It came nearer and finally settled on her shoulder. Around his neck hung a bell exactly like that she had seen in the dream. She loosened it, and as she did so the bird rose and flew away. But she still held the little bell in her hand, and in her soul was fresh hope and peace. When she returned to the castle she found there a message, bidding her appear before the king in Cologne on the Rhine. Filled with confidence in the protection of higher powers, she did not hesitate to obey. In gorgeous costume, with many followers, she set out. King Henry was a man who loved justice and exercised it, but his kingdom was in constant danger from inroads by wild Huns, and for this reason he wished to do whatever would win the favor of the powerful Count Telramund. When, however, he saw Elsa in all her beauty and innocence he hesitated in his purpose. The plaintiff brought forward three men who testified that the duchess had entered into a secret union with one of her vassals. Only two of these men were shown to be perfidious; the testimony of the other seemed valid, though this was not enough to condemn her. Then Telramund seized his sword, crying out that God Himself should be the judge, and that a duel should decide the matter. So a duel was arranged to take place three days later.



Elsa cast her eyes around the circle of nobles, but saw no one grasp his sword in defense of her innocence. Fear of the mighty warrior Telramund filled them all. Remembering the little bell, she drew it forth from her pocket and rang it. The clear tones broke the stillness, grew louder and louder until they reached even the distant mountains. "My champion will appear in the contest," she said; whereupon the count let forth such a mocking laugh that the hearts of all were filled with intense fear. The day of the contest was at hand. The king sat on his high throne and watched the majestic river that sent its mighty waters through the valley. Princes and brave knights were gathered together. Before them stood Telramund, clad in armor, and at his side the accused Elsa, adorned with every grace that Nature can bestow. Three times the mighty hero challenged some one to come forward as a champion for the accused girl, but no one stirred. Then arose from the Rhine the sound of sweet music; something silvery gleamed in the distance, and as it came nearer it was plain that it was a swan with silver feathers. With a silver chain he was pulling a small ship, in which lay sleeping a knight clad in bright armor.

       



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