The "Forest Devil" of Salzburg


Fresh Blood
Dec 1, 2019
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I grew up near Klessheim Palace in Salzburg, Austria. In a more remote area of the palace grounds, there used to be a smallish statue of a wild man-beast creature, the "Maunzteufel" (mewling devil), a companion piece to the "Forstteufel" (forest devil) statue of Hellbrunn Palace. I was always quite fascinated by it, but this was the time long before the internet so I never found out much about its background until several decades later.

According to historical sources, this Forest Devil was first described in 1531 in a pamphlet of some sorts after a sighting occured in a forest near Salzburg, and the creature was consequently added to various zoological texts. Around the year 1700, Archbishop Johann Ernst commissioned two sculptures that were based on an illustration from one of these zoological books. One of the statues was placed in the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace, the other one went to Klessheim Palace (it has since been moved to a different location).

Both statues have an inscription stating that this monstrous creature was caught during a hunt in 1531. It acted wild and tried to hide in a corner when people wanted to look at it. It is described as being of a yellowish colour, with a cockscomb on its head, a human face with a beard, feet like an eagle's, lion's paws and a dog's tail. Neither kindness nor violence could move the creature to eat or drink, and it eventually starved to death.

I have a very vague memory of reading a book once where it said that like many other stories of "wild men", this was quite likely based on a mentally and/or physically disabled person living a semi-feral life in the forests.

Maunzteufel statue, originally located in the Klessheim Palace gardens (now located in Anthering)
Forstteufel statue, its companion from the Hellbrunn Palace gardens

The image in the attachment shows the original Illustration from Gessner's Historia Animalium, which these two statues were directly based on.


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