Six Wolves Attacking Three Children at Klagenfurt: A Translation

In the broadsheet by Wolfgang Strauch, large wolves have entered a small fenced village to kill and eat children and their father who attempted to save them. The broadsheet does not suggest that the wolves were werewolves for their size or their boldness for entering the village. It does, however, stipulate that it must have been God’s punishment, although no reason for the punishment was known. This reasoning was likely derived from Leviticus 26.22 that states: ‘I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children.’ The broadsheet poses as a warning to maintain righteousness. It is not known whether this news report was real, based on rumour, or was constructed as a moral device at a time of moral reform, even though it states that there were multiple eyewitness accounts. What can be deduced from the broadsheet is that the printer believed that such a tale would sell well, particularly evident from the extra time undertaken in hand-colouring the print. Whether these wolves were believed to be werewolves or not, it draws on the fear of being eaten – a common theme during the sixteenth century with the focus on acts of cannibalism. It also drew upon the mass fear of violence against children which was also a common theme in sixteenth-century German broadsheets.

Wolfgang Strauch, Wolfsüberfall auf Kinder in Klagenfurt (Six Wolves Attacking Three Children at Klagenfurt), 28 November 1556,
Printer: Wolfgang Bush,
Woodcut, 33.0 x 28.0 cm, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

Broadsheet Translation

One town is called Klagenfurt, is located in Carinthia (Kaernten), three miles away from Villach, there it happened on the 28th day of November this year 1 5 5 6. Right at the very edge of the suburb of Klagenfurt, that two obedient/very poor people had three beautiful children, two little boys and a little girl. Then it happened that the children had to relieve themselves. So two hours into the night, together they ran out into the yard and did their business. Then six large wolves came running towards the children and immediately attacked them and bit them to death and tore them up and ate from them. And the children screamed. Then the father came running out with a spear and wanted to save his children, but it was already the end of his children. So he wanted to stab the wolves, but they also attacked the father and bit through his throat, and after that, the mother also ran out, and when she came out of the door and saw the children, she fell backward in a faint, and on the third day she also died. And many manly people have been there who saw this, that it is the complete truth. But what God wants to show with this miserable punishment with these children, only God, the almighty father alone, knows. But one has to worry about God the almighty, who sends us a dearth or a famine into the world. Thus, let us at all times ask the Lord, then he will help us out of all hardship, if we let go of our sinful way of living and repent and avow ourselves to him; but we are all too stubborn, we never care about the Lord’s works of wonder, and as we disregard them all, then God, the almighty father will one day afflict us gruesomely with a great punishment. But if we remain constant and observe his Godly word (thus he says in many sayings), then he will help us give to us his daily bread in eternity. Amen.

Printed at Nuremberg by Wolffgang Strauch Formschneider.   

Translation by Gerda Dinwiddie

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