The Women of Weinsberg

and other legends of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 875*
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2009-2011


  1. The Women of Weinsberg (Germany).

  2. Weibertreue Castle (Germany).

  3. A City Is Captured, from Which the Women Carry Their Husbands and Children (Germany)

  4. The Siege of Gelsterburg Castle (Germany).

  5. The Siege of Weidelburg Castle (Germany).

  6. The Most Precious Thing in the World (Jewish).

  7. Links to related sites.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Women of Weinsberg


When King Conrad III defeated the Duke of Welf (in the year 1140) and placed Weinsberg under siege, the wives of the besieged castle negotiated a surrender which granted them the right to leave with whatever they could carry on their shoulders. The king allowed them that much. Leaving everything else aside, each woman took her own husband on her shoulders and carried him out. When the king's people saw what was happening, many of them said that that was not what had been meant and wanted to put a stop to it. But the king laughed and accepted the women's clever trick. "A king" he said, "should always stand by his word."

Weibertreue Castle


At Weinsberg, in Würtemberg, are still shown on the summit of a hill the ruins of a castle, which is also known by the name of "Weibertreue," or "Woman's Faith." During the Guelph and Ghibelline wars the castle was in 1140 besieged by the Emperor Conrad III., who, in his exasperation at the protracted resistance made by the garrison, vowed to put all the men to the sword, but promised to spare the lives of the women, with the engagement, moreover, that each should be permitted to carry out along with her her choicest treasure.

The offer was accepted, and each woman marched out with her husband on her shoulders.

The tale is probably not much more authentic than that of Lady Godiva's self-abnegation, and is related of other places in Germany besides Weinsberg. A picture in the principal church, painted in the seventeenth century, represents the circumstances recorded in the legend; and about fifty years ago a society was instituted in the place with the double object of commemorating the heroic astuteness of the Weinsberg ladies in the olden time, and affording relief to poor women who had distinguished themselves by fidelity and self-denial.

A City Is Captured, from Which the Women Carry Their Husbands and Children


We read in a chronicle that there was once a city, whose name I have forgotten, that was captured after a long seige. Now the lord who had captured the city was so angry that he gave only the women freedom to leave, carrying whatever they wanted, after which he intended to burn the city with everything in it. The good women were beside themselves with sorrow that their husbands and children were to be burned alive. Therefore they took counsel with one another and decided that each woman would take her husband and children onto her back and carry them outside the city.

They did just that; each woman took her husband onto her back and her children under her arms and carried them outside the city.

Now the chronicle tells us that when the conquering lord saw this tears came to his eyes, and he spared the lives of everyone and set the city free as well.

This is a wonderful example of women showing great virtue and practicing friendship toward their husbands. What did they achieve with this? This is what they achieved: All lives were spared, and not only were their lives spared, but all their possessions were restored to them undamaged. This is a good example of the faithfulness that all women owe their husbands.

The Siege of Gelsterburg Castle


Gelsterburg Castle once stood on a steep hill not far from the village of Trubenhausen above the Gelster River, which flows into the Werra River near Witzenhausen. Now only its moat and embankment remain. Once this castle was besieged, and neither weapons nor blockade could defeat it.

A secret passageway led from the castle to the outside, and the lord of the castle rode out through it whenever he wanted to, but always taking care to reverse the horseshoes on his horse. Nonetheless, the passageway was finally discovered, and now the besieged occupants were faced with starvation or surrender. Then the knight's beautiful wife dared to present herself to besieging soldiers and ask them for mercy for herself. The woman's tears touched the enemy's heart, and she was granted mercy. Then she asked for permission to remove from the castle whatever she could carry in her apron. This too was granted to her.

She rushed back into the castle and sewed for herself a large apron, in which she carried her husband to safety, thus rescuing his freedom and saving his life. To this day the boundary stone can be seen where she stopped to rest with her heavy burden.

The Siege of Weidelburg Castle


Reinhard von Dalwigk the Unborn, was a brave and proud knight. He lived like a small prince. His violence and eternal feuds, as well as the robbery and plundering that he was accused of, brought him the enmity of his prince, Count Ludwig the Peaceful, who then had his vassals besiege the knight in his Castle Weidelburg. After a long siege the knight finally recognized that there was no chance for a good outcome.

Then his wife, the beautiful Agnes went down to the enemy camp and had herself brought before the landgrave. Crying, she fell to his feet and begged for mercy.

The angry count insisted that the knight surrender, but he was touched by the woman's tears, and said that although he had at first intended to not even allow a dog to escape death in the castle, he would now permit her and her maidservants, each carrying what was dear to her, to go free. But the men would have to remain in the castle, awaiting further decisions. The count gave his noble pledge to honor this promise.

She hurried back to the castle. Her maidservants loaded themselves with her best clothes and jewelry. She then took her husband onto her back, and thus they departed.

When the count saw them, he stated that the knight's departure had not been a part of his promise.

Agnes replied, "But what else would be of value to me, if I were leaving my husband behind in mortal danger? You promised that I could take my most precious belongings with me; therefore I choose my most valuable treasure."

This loyalty and love broke the count's anger, and he let them go.

Links to related sites

German literary treatments of the legend "The Women of Weinsberg" include:

  1. Gottfried August Bürger, Die Weiber von Weinsberg.

    English translation: The Wives of Weinsberg.

  2. Adalbert von Chamisso, Die Weiber von Winsperg.

    English translation: The Wives of Weinsberg.

  3. Bertolt Brecht, "Die Weiber von Weinsperg" (Kalendergeschichte).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised March 19, 2013.