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The Story of the Frisian Pidder Lüng and the Kale Revenge

The following story is based on the ballad “Pidder Lüng” by the German poet Detlev von Liliencron (1844–1909), but the content is not entirely identical. The story probably is to be situated in the 15th century when Schleswig-Holstein and therefore also the isle of Sylt were under Danish rulership.

Meanwhile, years passed by and nothing changed. One day, however, Pidder Lüng, who was now around 26 years old, had brought up a large basket of kale from good friends in Westerland. That was for his old mother, who, like his father, particularly liked eating kale, although this plant on Hörnum did not want to grow. He had carried it on his back all the way home.
The mother had cooked the cabbage the next day. All three were eagerly looking forward to this dish and just sat around the table to enjoy the wonderful kale. Then the door of her house opened and a young man in precious clothes came into the room. In his wake were the old false priest Georg, the island’s bailiff, and Rantum’s strand-bailiff.
The young gentleman did not greet, but said: “Does here lives the rabble that defies God and the high authorities?”
Frightened, Peter’s mother dropped the spoon. Peter broke his own in anger and gritted his teeth. After the slow, old Jakob Lüng had recollected himself, he replied: “We are not a godless rabble, we are honest fishermen and do not owe anything to anyone! But who are you who dares to enter the house of a free Friesian – apparently not with good intentions?”
“Who I am, old stubborn fool, I want to explain you right away. I have been sent here by the authorities and come on behalf of my father, the governor Henning Pogwisch of Tondern, to punish you for your disobedience and to tame all other defiant and arrogant scum on Sylt. You do not seem to have any idea what power the authorities have or how you as subjects have to behave against them. I want to teach you that, you free Frisian cabbage cormorants, who dare to pay your taxes with the prickles of stingrays!
With these words the young Pogwisch felt a strong urge to cough and at the same time an irresistible proneness to give vent to his mockery and his haughty mood. In this outburst he spat into the cabbage bowl of the Frisians. The patience of the young Pidder Lüng, who had so far remained silent, came to an end.
He rose up, glowing with anger. He trembled on all limbs. “Whoever spits in the cabbage should devour it!” He cried, grabbing the neck of the young Pogwisch with enormous force and pressing his face into the hot kale until the young tyrant had smothered.
“For God, what are you doing?” cried Mr. Georg. Jakob Lüng and his wife became pale. The two bailiffs cowardly fled.
Meanwhile, while the just narrated haeppend in Jakob Lüng’s house, it was becoming lively outside. The foot soldiers, executioners and servants who had come with the governer’s son, made fun of the wooden, gallows-like scaffolding of the fishermen, from which the rays and other fish were hung to dry. They said mockingly: “Look, the gallows for the beach robbers are ready!” They had already torn down the deformed, foul-smelling rays to make room for the fishermen. But these were not yet caught and were unwilling to get arrested by a handful of foot-soldiers and to be hanged without resistance. One of the fishermen shouted: “They want taxes again. Just wait, we pay with barbed stingrays!” The fishermen hurriedly cut off the prickly tails from their stingrays, and with these dangerous weapons they attacked the bailiff’s servants, slapping their heads and backs, and chasing them away. Now the two men and the priest came running out of Jakob Lüng’s house in great fear.
“Are you blind or can you see?” The fishermen shouted to the two men.
“We are blind and beaten; we see nothing! “answered these cowardly.
“I curse you into hell, you heathens!” the priest cried. “Aha,” cried the fishermen, “there is also Father Greedy; we have to blind him. But no, we want to tithe him with the stingrays tails. Listen, don’t be barren against him. Give it him abundant! “So the angry fishermen shouted at each other and smacked the false priest with their skate’s tails, so that the poisonous spines tore the skin off his bones, partly got stuck in the flesh and he in great need only came back to Rantum where he died of his wounds soon after. That was the way how things were going in the village of Hörnum!

The slogan of the Frisians: Lewwer duad üs Slaav! (Better dead than slave!) also comes from Liliencron’s ballad.

Translated from C.P. Hansen, Friesische Sagen und Erzählungen,, Altona, 1858, Taken from Harry Trommer, Deutsche Heimatsagen, Leipzig, 1954.

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