The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff (1826 and 1869)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror November 26, 2013
A man in a scarlet cloak … in Florence, Italy … on the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the Arno River … exactly at midnight.
In Wilhelm Hauff’s The Severed Hand, our narrator Zaleukos, a young surgeon agrees to meet this red-cloaked stranger in the shadowy cold night. With a sabre in his gird, Zaleukos walks the bridge and within a few minutes he sees the cloaked man approach. ‘In three bounds I had reached him, seized him by his cloak, and cried still louder, whilst laying hold of my sabre with my other hand. His cloak, however, remained in my hand, and the stranger had disappeared.’
Zaleukos brings the cloak home and discovers it is made of the finest Genovese velvet, fur trimmed, and with embroidered gold. Might it be haunted? Or cursed? Once more, he is invited to meet the stranger on the Ponte Vecchio at the last stroke of midnight. And he is to bring the red cloak with him and receive 400 glittering sequins for payment. Naturally, he can’t resist the offer. But this time, Zaleukos finds the stranger wearing a mask. And the man has need of Zaleukos’ surgical skills … but not on the living.
If any story can make you shudder, this one will, for our young and quite innocent Zaleukos succumbs to a most gruesome adventure with his masked stranger.
I thought it appropriate to feature Wilhelm Hauff this month since his birth date is November 29th and his death date is November 18th. Today Wilhelm is a forgotten author who was appreciated as highly talented among 19th century German prose writers. You’ll not find folks these days posting tweets or Facebook comments about this author on his anniversary date. He wrote a good number of fairy tales and short fiction, his most popular novel Lichtenstein, a historical romance. Also The Wine-Ghosts of Bremen. Some of his short story titles are The Memoirs of Satan, The Little Glass Man.
The Severed Hand is truly an inventive little gem, most deserving of resurrection this month.
Read The Severed Hand at Gutenberg.org
Listen to the narration at Librivox Recordings
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed
Image of the “Red Man” from ScaryforKids.com