Thursday, December 22, 2016

Belsnickle and Hans Trapp

Next up in our series of Christmas time monsters are Belsnickle and Hans Trapp. Last time we covered the horned entity of Krampus. Like Krampus both Belsnickle and Hans Trapp has their roots in Europe. However, both entities have several difference from Krampus and from each other.

Belsnickle is interesting because he isn't really something to be entirely feared. He's sort of a combination between Santa and Krampus. He will punish the bad children, he carries a switch that he uses to beat bad children, but he will also reward good children. He often leaves cakes, candies, and nuts for the good kids.

While Belsnickle isn't to be feared if you're a good child, his appearance does make him terrifying. The traditional description of Belsnickle describes  him as having a mask with a long tongue. He wears heavy furs and is usually described as disheveled and crotchety. Basically, Belsnickle is a grumpy grandpa.

Like Krampus, Belsnickle has crossed the pond and America has its own tradition featuring him. He originally came across to America with the Pensylvania Dutch. There are pockets across the country in which Belsnickle plays part of the holiday tradition and this includes the state of Indiana. In Indiana, Palatinate immigrants brought Belsnickle to life, often having a "Belsnickling" which was a special Belscnickle night in which young men dressed as Belsnickle would run through town causing mostly good-natured mischief.

So, unlike Krampus, if you see Belsnickle this holiday season, you  might be in for a reward. Or, if you've been bad, you are probably in for a beating.

From this image, Belsnickle doesn't look too terrifying -- except for that whip.

Next, we move on from the pure mythological creatures of Krampus and Belsnickle and discuss Hans Trapp, a Christmas time creature that has origins in a real person. According to Wikipedia,  the Hans Trapp myth is based upon the real person Hans von Trotha. Van Trotha was a knight and marshal of the prince-elector of the Palatinate. He was an aristocrat born in the mid 15th century.

Van Trotha became known to the local populace as a robber baron. He engaged in open war against the local abbot of the time, and eventually history came to mythologize Van Trotha. Part of his tale turned him into a Black Knight that wondered as a listless spirit. Eventually he became known as Hans Trapp. Hans Trapp was a companion to Saint Nicholas and basically took care of the dirty work, much the same way that Belsnickle and Krampus did, punishing those evil kids.

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