The Tale of Kunigunde von Kynast- a Silesian Folk Tale

Love this story I got from Paul Von Stache. It’s a fairy tale or folk story from Silesia (Schelsien). I had never heard it before. It sounds like an original Grimm tale, and definitely not a Disney-Happy-Ending-with-singing-Animals Story.

The tale is about Kunigunde von Kynast. It took place in Kynast Castle (a/k/a Burg Kynast) in Schlesien. Here’s the story-

Chojnik Castle



The tale of Kunigunde von Kynast

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and wealthy young maiden named Kunigunde who lived in Kynast Castle (today it’s Chojnik Castle in Poland). Because she was an only child, her father  Bruno von Scharfeneck gave her unlimited freedom.  This spoiled girl spent most of her time romping in the forest on horses and playing with weapons. Nothing was forbidden to her, and he was never told no. Even her father barely had control over her, and she loved him for it.

Then, tragedy. Her father got drunk one evening and rode his horse along the outside of the castle walls, at the very edge of the cliffs. The horse stumbled… and he plunged down the granite ciff to his death. They buried him there in an almost inaccessible grave.

A devastated Kunigunde found herself alone, and quite wealthy. But, without a guiding hand, her impulses were completely unchecked.

All the knights wanted to marry her. But she thought she was too good for all of them. So, she set out a decree. She announced that her decision on who to marry would be made on St Gertrude’s day (November 17th. She is the patron saint of cats, travelers, and protects from mental illness). When the day arrived, a number of suitors were first asked to join Kunigunde in a meal. Servants insured they were given a lot of wine as well.

Here the story is split- Some say she vowed that any man who wanted to marry her would have to ride his horse around the perimeter wall of the castle. Other versions say that the suitors were to climb up the cliff from her father’s grave.

Many tried. All the while Kunigunde blew trumpets and fired “blunderbusses” to distract them. All fell to their deaths (much to her amusement).

Finally a very handsome knight stepped forward. Kunigunde fell immediately in love and wanted to marry him. She retracted her decree about riding the perimeter walls. But he insisted on doing it. He completed the most dangerous task with his life still intact. Kunigunde was overjoyed, for now she would marry. But the knight refused to marry her and publicly rebuked her. Called her unworthy to be anyone’s wife. He said he only did it to avenge the poor souls who died for her amusement and folly. And he left. Kunigunde was so humiliated and ashamed that she threw herself over the castle wall to her death in the valley below.

And that’s how a Schlesien fairy tale goes. Not a real happy ending. 

The Tale of Kunigunde von Kynast- by Max Tichatzky, Hirschberg
Found on the Goethezeitportal

Auf der Kynastburg der alten,
Lebte einst vor langer Zeit,
Wie die Sage uns vermeldet,
Eine schöne Rittermaid,
Kunigunde heisst die Holde,
War als stolz und spröd’ bekannt
Und kein Freier tat ihr passen
Ringsumher im ganzen Land.Frevelnd liess sie einst verkünden,
Nur der Kühne wird mein Mann,
Der die Kynastburg umreitet
Auf der Zinnen schmaler Bahn,
Viele wollten sich erringen
Des Ritterfräuleins schöne Hand,
Doch sie stürzten taumelnd nieder
An der schroffen Felsenwand.Und im Abgrund mit dem Tode
Büssten sie das Wagestück,
Fanden jammervolles Ende,
Statt erhofftem Liebesglück.
Da erschien ein neuer Ritter
Eines Tages auf dem Plan,
Führt den grausen Ritt zu Ende,
Hielt sein Ross im Burghof an.Kunigunde wollt empfangen
Nun den Ritter als Gemahl;
Ihm beglückt die Hände reichen
Im geschmückten Rittersaal.
Doch der Ritter sprach: “Mit Nichten
Will ich Deine Hand zum Lohn,
Wer ein solches Opfer heischet
Aller Weiblichkeit zum Hohn,
Ist nicht Wert mein Weib zu heissen.”Verzweifelt drauf stürzt Kunigund
Von des Kynast’s steilen Felsen,
Sich jählings in den Höllengrund.

The tale is about Kunigunde von Kynast

On the Kynastburg of the old,
Lived once a long time ago,
As the legend tells us,
A beautiful knight maiden,
Kunigunde is called the fair one ,
Was known as proud and brittle ‘
And no suitor did her fit
around in the whole country.She once let out wickedly proclaim,
Only the bold one will be my husband,
Who rides around the Kynastburg
On the battlements of a narrow path,
Many wanted to win
The knight’s beautiful hand,
But they fell tumbling down
on the rugged rock wall.And in the abyss with death they
busted the daring,
found a pitiful end,
instead of hoped for love happiness.
Then a new knight appeared
one day on the scene,
finished the horrific ride,
stopped his horse in the courtyard.Kunigunde wants to receive
the knight as a husband;
Shake hands with him happily in the
decorated knight’s hall.
But the knight said: “With nieces
I want your hand as a reward,
Whoever calls
for such a sacrifice to scorn all femininity,
Is not worth calling my wife.”Desperate, Kunigund falls
from the Kynast’s steep cliffs,
suddenly plunging into the bottom of hell.

The Kynast Castle

Today the remains of Castle Kynast sit at the top of an over 2000 foot high granite cliff, in the Karkonosze National Park, overlooking the Jelenia Góra valley in Poland, close to the Czech Republic border.  Construction began under Duke Bolko the Strict (bet he was a fun father) in 1292 on the site of his father’s hunting lodge, and was completed in 1302 under Bolko II Mały, the last independent Piast prince in Silesia. The location of this castle made it impenetrable. The fortifications were improved over the years, and it was able to withstand attack by the Hussites, the Silesian castle purges of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary,and even the Thirty Years War. Then in 1675, a lightning strike started a fire that burnt the castle. It was never rebuilt.

The castle is a popular tourist attraction because of the spectacular views. CHOJNIK CASTLE
Map of Kynast Castle

Thanks again Paul Von Stache for sharing this wonderful piece of folklore with us!

Paul is the founder and admin of the Facebook page- Schlesien/Silesia Genealogy and Culture
Paul Von Stache

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The Tale of Kunigunde von Kynast

2 thoughts on “The Tale of Kunigunde von Kynast- a Silesian Folk Tale

  1. I’m so glad to here from you, I have herd of the story’s of the pied piper, and the Kitchen Witch I have 2 of them hangin in my kitchen. I can’t count on my witch, i can’t tell you how menny things, I burnt or milk boiled over.
    I just in just injoy here.(ore them) I don’t have the German computer and my english and my rechtschreiben ist nicht viel besser. But I like to hear from German people and get the German recipes .thank you so much.

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