Where the Legend Originated: Altdorf, Burglen and Brunnen in Switzerland
The legend of William Tell dates back to 14th-century Switzerland in the town of Altdorf. Albrecht Gessler, a brutal bailiff representing the Hapsburg Empire, placed his hat on top of a pole in the town square and demanded that all passersby bow before it. But William Tell, an expert arbalist, refused. For punishment, Gessler ordered Tell to shoot an apple, with his crossbow from the top of his own son's head. If Tell succeeded, their lives would be spared.
After acing the task, Tell pulled out a second arrow and threatened to kill Gessler, who then ordered his henchman to lock Tell away in a dungeon located in the castle of Küssnacht. En route to the castle on Lake Lucerne, Tell's boat was rocked by a vicious storm, and amid the chaos, he was able to escape his captors. Enraged, Gessler set out to find Tell. And when the two met, Tell shot Gessler dead with his trusty crossbow. From there, Tell, along with other freedom-loving locals, vowed to fight back against the Hapsburg Empire, which, thanks to Tell, marked Switzerland's first step towards independence.