Peasant Fires: The Drummer of Niklashausen, by Richard Wunderli

Essay by jdlarue22University, Master'sA, February 2005

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Jordan LaRue



Dr. Dykema

Peasant Fires

In the book Peasant Fires, the author gives an account of the story of Hans Behem, a peasant shepherd who claimed to have seen a vision of the Holy Mother Mary. Han's then gave passionate sermons and speeches about equality for all peasants, for which, peasants came from all over Europe to witness. Wunderli also uses other sources that relate to Hans to further explain this time period. Wunderli uses various models and examples to explain the social order and religious aspects of Germany in the mid 15th century.

The story revolves around a German peasant who is a shepherd and a musician who had a vision of the Virgin Mary and began to preach for drastic social change. The sermons Hans preached about attracted thousands of supporters. The radical message spoken by the drummer upset the church. For this, the drummer was burned at the stake.

Wunderli has done well in incorporating his approach with this rapidly moving narrative of Hans' rise and fall.

Wunderli starts his historical approach by telling us a story about a Han's Behem. Hans is a German peasant who until seeing the Virgin Mary leads a common peasant life. He works all day as a shepherd and in his spare time plays the drum at local bars for "a few pennies". Since most of the writers of this time were clergy, Hans was looked down upon for being a drummer. Peasants were also viewed as religiously in equal. Hans was called a liar by the religious officials because there was no way the Virgin Mary would visit a peasant (69-70). Before Hans' persecution he was allowed to preach because he was making "the count" and his members rich. This proves what weighed more...