William Tell: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Who Was William Tell?
  • 0:31 A Harsh Ruler
  • 0:50 William Tell Refuses
  • 1:25 Off to the Dungeon
  • 1:46 The Second Arrow
  • 2:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

William Tell is the hero of a famous Swiss legend about how the country of Switzerland started. Come learn about the story of William Tell, why he is important to the Swiss, and find out if he was a real person or not.

Who Was William Tell?

Imagine a playground bully who makes everyone bow down when they see him, though you and your friend decide to ignore him. He catches up with you and says he's going to tie your friend's shoelaces to the swings unless you can do one thing: you have to shoot a basketball into a hoop from the opposite side of the court.

William Tell, a famous Swiss hero, is described as a farmer who was good with a bow and arrow. He found himself in a similar, but dangerous, situation when he met up with his own bully in a famous folktale.

A Harsh Ruler

This story happened hundreds of years ago, when what is now Switzerland was controlled by Austria. Gessler was the mean Austrian ruler of a town called Altdorf.

Gessler thought people should take off their own hat and bow to him to show respect for his power. He even expected people to bow to just a hat that was like his, even when he wasn't around.

William Tell Refuses

So, he stuck a pole in the town square and put an Austrian style hat on it. One day, William Tell and his son walked through the square, but Tell didn't bow or take off his hat. He was taken to Gessler, who said he and his son would be killed for being disrespectful unless he could do one thing. He had to shoot an apple off his son's head from a long distance, using his bow and only one arrow.

He took two arrows, aimed one, and shot the apple off his son's head. Gessler said their lives were saved, but asked why Tell took two arrows. Tell said he was planning to shoot Gessler if the first arrow hurt his son.

Off to the Dungeon

This made Gessler really mad, so he tossed Tell on a boat and took him across a lake to a castle, where he would be thrown in the dark, musty dungeon forever.

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