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Metzengerstein [short story] by Edgar Allan…

Metzengerstein [short story] (1832)

by Edgar Allan Poe

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The story, told from an unnamed third-person narrator, takes place in Hungary at an unspecified date. The opening passages describe a centuries-long rivalry between two wealthy families: the Metzengersteins and the Berlifitzings. The bitter enmity between the two families is so old that no one knows how far back it dates. The narrator states that its origin appears to rely on an "ancient" prophecy: "A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing."
Young Frederick, Baron of Metzengerstein, was orphaned at a young age and, thus, inherited the family fortune at age 18 (though the age changes throughout its many re-publications[1]). Equipped with enormous wealth and power, he begins to exhibit particularly cruel behavior. "The behavior of the heir out-heroded Herod".[2] Four days after he receives his inheritance, the stables of the rival family Berlifitzing catch fire. The neighborhood "instantaneously" attributed the act of arson to Frederick Metzengerstein (the story, however, does not say expressly if he did it or not).
That day, Metzengerstein, in his home, sits staring intently at an old tapestry depicting "an enormous, and unnaturally colored horse" that belonged to the Berlifitzing clan. Just behind the horse, Frederick sees its rider who has just been killed by "the dagger of a Metzengerstein". Soon, Frederick sees the horse move and assume "an energetic and human expression". Immediately, Frederick opens the door to leave, and the action strikingly causes his shadow to fall exactly on the spot of the murderer in the tapestry.
Outside, he sees his men handling a horse that is "the counterpart" of the horse in the tapestry. The men tell Frederick that this new, remarkable "fiery-colored" horse has been found in his stables with the letters "W.V.B." branded on its forehead. The equerry says, "I supposed them, of course, to be the initials of William Von Berlifitzing, but all at the castle are positive in denying any knowledge of the horse." Frederick takes ownership of the horse. In the next moment, a page appears and tells Frederick that "a small portion of the tapestry" is missing (presumably the part containing the image of the horse). Frederick also hears, some time later, that old Wilhelm Berlifitzing died in the fire as he tried to save one of his horses in the burning stable.
Thenceforth, Frederick and the "ferocious and demonlike" horse, which no one else but Frederick has dared to touch since its arrival, become seemingly inseparable. Day after day, Metzengerstein rides the animal as if addicted, and he becomes less and less interested in the affairs of his house and of society. He eventually begins to live in seclusion to the extent that others in the neighborhood suspect that he is either mad, sick, or overwhelmingly conceited.
"One tempestuous night", Frederick awakes and maniacally mounts the horse to ride into the forest. Some hours later, the Metzengerstein castle catches fire. A crowd gathers to watch the peculiarly "ungovernable" flames and, soon, see the horse, now carrying "an unbonneted and disordered rider" who clearly has no control over the animal. The sight makes everyone present utter the word "horrible". The animal leaps into the flames with its rider and "disappeared amid the whirlwind of chaotic fire", thereby killing the last of the Metzengerstein clan. Immediately, the fire "died away". In the calm, the horrified onlookers observe a cloud of smoke settle above the castle in the shape of "the distinct colossal figure of — a horse". ( )
  rmattos | Jan 23, 2016 |
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This is the short story. Do not combine with anthologies with the same or similar names.
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