Hatto

The archbishop of Mainz. During a dreadful famine in Germany in the tenth century, Hatto decided that there might be better store for the rich and proceeded to assemble to poor in a barn. He burned them alive, saying They are like mice, only good to devour the corn. Soon after an army of mice appeared and threatened the archbishop. He fled to a tower on the Rhine, near the town of Bingen, but the rodents, numbering in the thousands, followed him and ate him alive. The tower in question is still called Mouse Tower.1 See also Freiherr von G├╝ttingen.

In Robert Southey's ballad Bishop Hatto, the invaders are an army of rats.

And in at the windows, and in at the door,
And through the walls by thousands they pour,
And down through the ceiling, and up through the floor,
From the right and the left, from behind and before,
From within and without, from above and below
And all at once to the bishop they go.
They have wetted their teeth against the stones,
And now they are picking the bishop's bones;
They gnawed the flesh from every limb,
For they were sent to do judgment on him.

References

Notes

  1. The tower in question was built by Bishop Siegfried some two hundred years after the purported event to serve as a toll-house for collecting the duties upon all goods which passed by. The word mauth or maus means "toll" as well as "mouse" and the duties levied on corn were very unpopular, hence the connection.

Sources

  • Bonnerjea, Biren. (1920). A Dictionary of Superstitions and Mythology. Thomson Gale.
  • Cobham Brewer, E. (1891). Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama, Vol. 2, p. 151.
  • Cobham Brewer, E. (2001). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Cassell reference.