A Very Grimm Fairytale, Indeed: The Anti-Semitic Blood Libel Folk Story of Anderl von Rinn (also Known as “Andreas Oxner”) Appeared in One of the Earliest Editions of the Grimm Brothers’ “Fairytales” (Early 19th Century)

The first Christian “blood libel” story directed toward Jews is in the Gospel of Matthew (where the gospel writer claims that the Jewish crowd at Jesus’ trial, crying for his crucifixion, collectively called out to Pontius Pilate: “His blood be upon us and upon our children!”).

Subsequent blood libel stories have European Jews, living near or among Christian communities (or travelling through them), abducting Christian children, and draining their blood for admixture into the Passover meal.

Here’s an image of precisely such a ritual of fantasized blood draining of a Christian child by Jews, depicted at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Sandomierz, Poland:

Antisemitic-church-fresco.jpg

A blood libel tale (from Austria) made it into one of the earliest published editions of the Grimm brothers’ fairytales.

The name of the Austrian three year old, Anderl von Rinn (also known as “Andreas Oxner”), is not mentioned in the below Grimm’s fairy tale. But it is, in fact, Rinn’s story that the Grimm brothers are preserving and recounting.

A Catholic cult in Austria grew up around the story of Rinn, in which it was claimed that, in 1462, Jewish merchants visited the town of Rinn, bought the boy from his greedy father, drained his blood on a particular stone, and hung him from a tree.

By the 1600s, pilgrims were visiting the parish church in Rinn to see the boy’s alleged skeleton.

In 1755, the Pope actually canonized the boy, treating the story as true. Catholic priests serving in the parish of Rinn, until very recently (the 1980s), used to bring the supposed skeleton of the boy, in standing position, out for worshipers to gawk at. The skeleton is now buried in the church’s yard. 

Local far-right extremist Catholic groups still visit and venerate the place where the skeleton is buried, even though the contemporary Catholic Church has officially discouraged the practice. The annual pilgrimage date is the Sunday following July 12th.

In the larger editions of Grimm’s fairytales (published in the early part of the 19th century), it was folktale number 353. Obviously, you won’t find the tale in contemporary translations of Grimm’s fairy tales.

The story was titled, “Der Judenstein” (“The Jewry Stone”).

Professor Paul Halsall of Fordham University translates the story from German into English thus:

In 1462 it so happened that in the Tyrol, in the village of Rinn, several Jews persuaded a poor farmer give up his little child, by paying him a lot of money. They took the child out into the forest and in the most horrible manner, martyred him there on a big stone, which is ever since called the “Judenstein” ["the Jewry-stone"]. The dead corpse they hung on a birch tree standing near a bridge. Now, the mother of the child was working in a field as the murderhappened, and at once her thoughts turned to her child and without knowing why she became very afraid, and then, one after another, three fresh drops of blood fell on her hand. Full of anxiousness she hurried home and sought after her child. Her husband led her into the room and confessed what he had done. He wanted to show her the money which had released them from poverty, but it had all transformed into leaves. Then the father lost his mind and died of grief, but the mother went out to look for their little-child, and when she foundit hanged on a tree, took it down with hot tears and carried it into the church in Rinn. And still the child lies there and is viewed by the people as a sacred child. The Judenstein was also brought there. It is said that a shepherd chopped down the tree on which the child had hanged, but when he wanted to take it to his home, he broke a leg and had to die.

The original German of the story is this:

Im Jahre 1462 ist es zu Tirol im Dorfe Rinn geschehen, daß etliche Juden einen armen Bauer durch eine große Menge Geld dahin brachten, ihnen sein kleines Kind hinzugeben. Sie nahmen es mit hinaus in den Wald und marterten es dort auf einem großen Stein, seitdem der Judenstein genannt, auf die entsetzlichste Weise zu Tod. Den zerstochenen Leichnam hingen sie darnach an einen unfern einer Brücke stehenden Birkenbaum. Die Mutter des Kindes arbeitete gerade im Feld, als der Mord geschah; auf einmal kamen ihr Gedanken an ihr Kind, und ihr wurde, ohne daß sie wußte warum, so angst; indem fielen auch drei frische Blutstropfen nacheinander auf ihre Hand. Voll Herzensbangigkeit eilte sie heim und begehrte nach ihrem Kind. Der Mann zog sie in die Kammer, gestand, was er getan, und wollte ihr nun das schöne Geld zeigen, das sie aus aller Armut befreie, aber es war all in Laub verwandelt. Da ward der Vater wahnsinnig und grämte sich tot, aber die Mutter ging aus und suchte ihr Kindlein, und als sie es an dem Baum hängend gefunden, nahm sie es unter heißen Tränen herab und trug es in die Kirche nach Rinn. Noch jetzt liegt es dort und wird vom Volk als ein heiliges Kind betrachtet. Auch der Judenstein ist dorthin gebracht. Der Sage nach hieb ein Hirt den Baum ab, an dem das Kindlein gehangen, aber als er ihn nach Haus tragen wollte, brach er ein Bein und mußte daran sterben.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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