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The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter by…

The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter (1892)

by Ambrose Bierce, Adolphe Danziger De Castro (Joint Author.)

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1890s (9)

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Showing 4 of 4
The monk and the hangman's daughter is a short novella by Ambrose Bierce, written in 1892. It is a fairly simple story of impending doom, which is quite easy to predict. Nonetheless, the story takes some interesting turns, which keep the reader interested to go on reading.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the story is its peculiar, somewhat simplistic style. In the "Preface", by Bierce it is suggested that the story has German origins. This "Preface" is a playful artifice, a parody on the introductions in other nineteenth century novels, suggesting obscure origins of the story, long ago, 1680, and in a faraway place such as the Bavarian Alps. I do not know whether Bierce is the first to set this ploy up in a separate Preface, as opposed to the first pages of the novel.

While the story has its interesting moments, it is particularly the style that should draw the readers' attention. The story has something unreal to it. It is obviously very contrived, as it imitates and incorporates many style elements of German Fairy Tales: an innocent maiden / disgraceful wench, the doomed aspect of the gallows, the dark forest, a blond giant, an old, weak father, and many smaller emblems, such the way the characters behave.

At the same time, there are style characteristics of a much more modern type of story-telling. It is obvious, that the main character, Brother Ambrosius is an unreliable narrator: he views the world in a delusion, his delusion being love. As a priest, Brother Ambrosius must remain celibate, but from the time he first saw Benedicta, he has been in love, and makes it the mission of his life to rescue her. However, in his eagerness to do good, he misinterprets many things going on around him, and misunderstands the advice of his Superior. This leads to his inevitable doom.

The novella is very easy to read, with mostly short sentences, and short chapters, to emulate the style of the Fairy tales. The mixture of simplicity and irony make the story feel unreal, something not all readers may appreciate. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 17, 2013 |
**Warning: this review contains plot spoilers.**

Franciscan monk Ambrosius is sent to the monastery in Passau deep in the Bavarian Alps with two of his brothers. In a clearing they encounter the hangman's daughter, and Ambrosius immediately is struck with her. Over the next few weeks, his brothers fear he may have formed an improper attachment to her, and send him to a hermitage in the mountains to purify his souls and make him contemplate whether this is indeed the right path for him before he is ordaineded priest. When he discovers that she has fallen victim to the charms of a local rogue, he believes it is his duty to cleanse her from her sin before it can corrupt her soul.

Allegedly a rewriting of a lost German original story (which is itself supposedly based on a manuscript from a German monastery), this novella commends itself by some very atmospheric descriptions of the dark German forests and bleak mountains, as well as a detailed and insightful psychological profile of a man in turmoil, battling with his inner demons. I was initially put off by the overt religiosity and piety in the narration, but it quickly becomes obvious that the teachings of, and pious intonations by, the Church are in stark contrast to how the clergy and villagers conduct themselves, revealing the innate hypocrisy. Ambrosius' initial encounter with the hangman's daughter chillingly foreshadows the conclusion of the tale, where the reader witnesses Ambrosius commit a terrible deed in a misguided moment of religious fervour. ( )
  passion4reading | May 20, 2013 |
In the title story, a young monk is sent with some of his brothers to an isolated village in the Alps. He soon encounters a beautiful young girl who is shunned by the villagers because her father is the hangman. The monk thinks this injustice is ungodly, and tries to comfort and protect the young girl but is reprimanded by his superiors. The monk is sent up a mountain to a lonely cottage to search his soul and rethink his attraction to the doomed girl, but his life is set on a tragic course and things don't end up turning out very well for anyone up on that mountain.

Bierce has an amusing cynicism, beautifully written prose, and a sense for the perfect twist that make his stories very readable 120 years after they were written.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2011/10/monk-and-hangmans-daughter-by-ambrose.html ] ( )
  kristykay22 | Oct 1, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ambrose Bierceprimary authorall editionscalculated
De Castro, Adolphe DanzigerJoint Author.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Many years ago - probably in 1890 - Dr Gustav Adolf Danziger brought to me in San Francisco what he said he was a translation by himself of a German story by that brilliant writer, Herr Richar Voss, of Heidelberg. (Preface)
On the first day of May in the year of our Blessed Lord 1680, the Franciscan monks Ægidius, Romanus and Ambrosius were sent by their Superior from the Christian city of Passau to the Monastery of Berchtesgaden, near Salzburg.
On the first day of May in the year of our Blessed Lord 1680, the Fransiscan monks Aegidius, Romanus and Ambrosius were sent by their Superior from the Christian city of Passau to the Monastery of Berchtesgaden, near Salzburg.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Monk Ambrosius
Leaves the righteous path to save
Benedicta's soul.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0548034559, Hardcover)

1926. Ambrose Bierce, poet, satirist, adventurer, journalist and supreme storyteller, writes his version of a German story by Herr Richard Voss as given to him in translation by one Dr. Danziger. It is the story of a monk and how he fell in love with the hangman's daughter and how the daughter fell in love with someone else. See other titles by this author available from Kessinger Publishing.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Detective and mystery stories. On arriving at a rural monastery, the monk Ambrosius meets a young girl, Benedicta. She is shunned by the local community for being the daughter of the local hangman, but Ambrosius is drawn into a dangerous sympathy with her, and in defiance of the community and his superiors, he starts spending time alone with her. But when her virtue is corrupted by an impetuous young man, the stage is set for a battle between heart, mind, body, spirit, the sins of the past and redemption.Allegedly a rewriting from a lost German original, Ambrose Bierce's 1892 novel reads as a seamless, almost folktale like masterpiece.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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