"Free-shooter." A legendary German marksman who entered into compact with Samiel, the Black Huntsman of the Wolf's Glen. This satanic spirit gave him seven charmed balls, six of which were to hit unerringly whatever the marksman chose as his target. The seventh, however, was to be deceive and hit whatever this spirit wanted.
A variation of the story tells of a fowler who could never hit a single bird. He sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a Freischütz. The Devil was to return in seven years, but must always be able to name the animal at which the fowler was shooting. Failure to do so would nullify the agreement. After that day, the fowler never missed a target.
When the seven years had almost passed, he confided in his wife and they came up with a way to cheat the Devil. She stripped herself naked, daubed her whole body with a thick syrup (molasses), and covered herself with feathers. She then hopped about in a field where her husband was talking to the Devil. The Devil told him to fire at the bird, but the fowler first asked him to name the creature. Obviously, the Devil could not and vanished with a whiff of brimstone.
The legend formed the base for the opera Der Freischütz, by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826). It was first produced in Berlin in 1821.
- Cobham Brewer, E. (2001). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Cassell reference.
- Cooper, J.C., ed. (1997). Brewer's Book of Myth and Legend. Oxford: Helicon Publishing Ltd.