1500s Hassan Germania

the warmth of the fire

The sparks quickly rose and snapped above the head of the last night watchman as he stirred the fire while the dawn announced a new day. The flame lighting up the morning alarmed some of the people who were sleeping on the ground nearby, but the guard quickly assured them that he was still there on watch. The man had stood alone against the dark all night, protecting not only his family but his tribe and his community as well, armed with only the fire.

Timeline 1501 – 1588

His tribe had given him the name of Knauss (ka-now-ss), which means “the haughty person.” (Birth – Dudelsheim, Germany to Death – Hessen, Germany unknown dates, 9th great-grandfather.)

“the haughty person”

His people were known as the Chatti, which means anger or hate, so they became known as the haters or the angry. During the early years of the 16th century, the tribe became part of an anti-Roman and anti-Papal movement that eventually led to the “Lutheran Revolt.” Resistance to the Church erupted in the German lands of the Holy Roman Empire. All the people were involved, both the upper and lower classes, including all the Chatti tribes. The followers came to be known as Protestants because of their “protest against the Church.” This movement was the beginning of the religious movement known as the “Reformation.” The Chatti had revolted against their oppressors and thus earned their name.

Martin Luther preaching while a boy nails the Ninety-Five Theses

Centuries later, after having first met them, the English bestowed an Old English (Anglo-Saxon) expression on these people. They called them the Hatar, meaning “people of destruction.” The Chatti men, or the Hessi, lived on the edges of the forest. Later, they became known as the Hessians.

people of peace and quiet

Despite their tribal reputation, they were a people of peace, unassuming, but conscientious in their line of toil. Nearly all of them tilled the soil, but some followed other manual pursuits, for instance, most of the younger men did the hunting and fishing.

nearly all of them tilled the soil

They cared little about social advancement but were content with clearing land to farm. However, to survive in these times, every man, woman, and child had to be a jack-of-all-trades. Everyone worked in the fields and gathered wild foods like nuts, berries, edible root plants, and this took up most of their time during the daylight hours. Still, many activities also took place around a fire at night, like mending clothes and fixing tools, while they told each other stories.

Knauss had demonstrated to the tribe that he was very skilled in self-preservation. He always was upfront, leading the community when it was time to make a move. Either for safety from the weather and the elements. Or to seek protection from the local lords and their influence over their enemies. So many different men of power tried to express control over the common man that it was next to impossible for anyone to know who you could trust or count on. Knauss displayed an instinct about survival, and especially a high awareness of his surroundings.

But Knauss is mostly remembered for his stories at the evening campfire. There, his true talents blossomed in the light of the late-night flames. Night after night, he held the tribe captive by the warmth of the fire as he breathed life into his heroic stories of their past. He created a sense of security, a feeling of fellowship, and a connection with their history.

the Chatti men

There were many stories about bravery and courage. The poems and songs told how they promoted their heroic men to power, and how they obeyed those whom they had promoted. The men kept in their ranks but always took advantage of their opportunities.

The Chatti tribe was strengthened through the stories Knauss told that linked the present with their past and future. It was a nurturing act, connecting both the listener and storyteller. The tribe bestowed great veneration upon Knauss for his ability to tell a good tale. Knauss knew all the current tales, and he was able to compose verses at a moment’s notice.

the castanets, dulcimer, harp and lute

It was easy for Knauss’ young son, Peter Lee Knauss (1546 to 1602, 8th great grand-father), to remember the stories that his father had told by the campfire about the Chatti men and their tribe. Knauss also played many instruments, including the Dulcimer, Harp, Lute, and he always had in his pocket a handmade flute that he performed while walking. Peter also had one, and they often played together.

Peter Lee Knauss was born here 1546

The stories taught the younger men how to be leaders and always check their impulses. Fortune was regarded as doubtful, but courage as unfailing. They were encouraged to push out during the day gradually and entrench themselves by night.

story time around the fire

Knauss told the story about Krampus, the “half-goat, half-demon,” who, during the Christmas season, punished children who had misbehaved. This story was the opposite character of Saint Nicholas, who rewarded the well-behaved children with gifts.


Peter had a favourite story he liked to hear, and he often requested it. It was one of the earliest German folktales, the story of Hildebrand and Hadubrand, two warriors that met and prepared for combat. Knauss always began “The Song of Hildebrand,” like this as he sang:

             “I heard tell

             That two warriors, Hildebrand and Hadubrand,

            Met in single combat, between two armies.

             The warriors, father, and son,

            Prepared their armor,

             Made ready their battle garments, 

            Girded on their swords over their ring mail

            When they rode to battle.”

song of Hildebrand

Knauss went on to tell a tragic story. It was about a father and son that failed to recognize each other on the battlefield.

           “The two warriors met on a battlefield, 

            And they were the champions of their two     armies.” 

He stood tall and walked slowly, around the backs of his listeners around the fire-circle as he kept on speaking.

            “Now the older man, Hildebrand, 

            Asked for the identity of his opponent 

            And where did he come from.”

Knauss revealed that Hadubrand did not know his father. Because Hildebrand had fled eastward, leaving behind a wife and small child, Hadubrand believed his father to be dead.

Knauss acted out each character’s part and continued,

acting out a story

           “Hildebrand told him that he would never fight 

            Such a close kinsman and offered him gold arm-      rings

            That he had received as a gift from the Lord of the   Huns.”

Everyone in the tribe recognized this as a reference to Attila the Hun. Knauss whispered when he told the listeners,

Attila the Hun

           “This was Hildebrand’s way of trying to show

            That he was his father.”

Knauss became quite angry as he said,

           “Hadubrand rejected the arm-ring

            Then he accused Hildebrand of trying to trick           him. 

            He told him once again that his father was dead.”

Knauss took a little pause before he continued,

          “Hildebrand told Hadubrand that his good armor

            Showed he had never been in combat,

            But Hadubrand accepted his fate, 

            Feeling that it would be cowardly to refuse   battle. 

            Hadubrand challenged Hildebrand to win his           armor.”

Knauss said,

          “Hildebrand’s shield bore paintings 

            Of the warriors, he had killed in battle.”

Jumping around, Knauss fought an imaginary war with himself, playing both sides.

           “The two warriors threw spears at each other.

            Then they closed in for combat 

            And fought until their shields were destroyed.” 

the battle

Now at this point, Knauss would take the storyline in different directions. The listeners were always ready to hear which way he would take it this time. Each time Peter listened to his father tell this story, the ending was different.

Sometimes, he would not finish the story at all and leave the listener hanging on until the next night for his ending to the tale. The flexibility of oral storytelling allowed Knauss to mold the story according to the needs of the audience, and he took full advantage of this each time he told it.

Sometimes Knauss would end the story abruptly by saying,

          “Then Hildebrand had no choice

            But to kill his son after the dishonourable act

            Of standing against him in battle. 

            This was an act of treachery.”

the dishonorable act

Or he might have a different ending like,

          “Hildebrand spared his son’s life

            And took him in his arms.”

Knauss made the point,

          “How could a father and son 

            Fail to know each other when they meet?”

He took a long look at everyone right in the eye and told them,

          “Families have to stay close-knit, 

            Like a fine woollen blanket that holds together, 

            Even when treated roughly.”

Knauss was a huge man of the tribe, but he became a little child, full of laughter around the children. His personality added to the characters in the story. He enhanced each tale with the addition of anything he could pick up and use as a visual tool for a specific action.

His listeners were physically close together, often seated in a circle, while he was telling the story. The people became not only psychically close, but they developed a connection to each other through this communal tradition.

His listeners experienced the creative process taking place in their presence. They felt like part of that creative process, and Knauss held a personal bond with all of them. Each time Knauss told these stories, he was passing on the oral history that reminded the tribe who they were. He knew some young person listening to him would pick up the torch when he was ready to pass it on and become the next generation’s voice from the past.

Games children played – Middle Ages

Oral storytelling has been around as long as human language. It originated from simple chants that people sang as they worked at daily tasks like grinding corn or sharpening tools. Storytellers combined stories, poetry, music, and dance to entertain their listeners.

working at daily tasks

Traveling storytellers were called troubadours or minstrels, and they would learn various regions’ stories, while also gathering news to bring back to their villages. Their stories told the history of a culture that was handed down from generation to generation. They became historians for their communities, and the exchanging of stories was the way that news spread across the land.


The storytellers created myths to explain what they saw happening in nature, and they assigned superhuman qualities to ordinary people, creating the first superheroes.

Early one morning, as fog covered the valley floor, Knauss stepped out of the lush green hills of Hassan, Germania, with Peter, and cautiously surveyed the countryside below. The mist began to disperse with the hint of a light breeze. And the birds were announcing their presence in the treetops. They could hear the scampering of small animals all around them, as the forest came alive.

early morning European sunrise

He paused for a moment, then went down on one knee and put his arm around his young son saying to him, “every day brings us new and unknown opportunities and dangers. You have to be able to recognize which one you are dealing with at any moment, my son.”

Knauss leaned his ear toward the birds above their heads and listened, “they are announcing to the rest of the forest that it is safe for them to start their day.” He said, “all the life in the forest live and die for the betterment of all. And that is the same foundation for the success of our tribe.”

He was very uneasy about entering this valley, which he had intentionally avoided many times before. This luscious green valley held a dark truth known to everyone who travelled through there. This valley was a mass Roman cemetery: all that was left of three legions of Roman soldiers that were destroyed by the Germanic tribes several years earlier.

battle of the Teutoburg Forest, 9 AD

The disaster was a tremendous blow to Rome’s plans for expansion into Germania: something from which they never entirely recovered. The Roman’s stay was short-lived. General Germanicus massacred them at the start of his invasion of northern Germany, and an area of 50 miles of Roman territory was laid waste. Much of this land became occupied by the Chatti and their Hessian descendants like Knauss and Peter.

Map – battle of the Teutoburg forest

The gravesite was so massive that people were continuously digging through the ruins to find bits of metal they used for making tools. Doing so, they would uncover the gruesome ways that the men had died. Some of the bodies were well preserved. Even the leather sandals that they wore were admired as a more advanced form of footwear than the Germans were currently wearing on their feet.

three legions of Roman soldiers that were destroyed by the Germania tribes

It was not only the massive Roman ruins in stone that were left as a reminder that a more magnificent civilization had come before them, but the graves of their past were very present in the fields from which they cultivated a meagre living. They used the land that was already cleared. These early farmers were the first untrained archaeologists to document and pass on what had happened in their homeland.

old world German map

To the tribe, Knauss’s son was known as Peter Lee, because of the lesions left on his face after having survived the smallpox epidemic that had passed through his village. Peter Lee’s mother had died in childbirth. She was infected with smallpox, which she had passed on to Peter Lee. So, unfortunately, Peter Lee carried on his face the reminder of his mother’s infection and what had probably helped contribute to her death.

smallpox disease

The history of toys – part 1

Peter Lee admired and took after his father, who was the best fisherman in the tribe. He knew where all the deep dark water was in all the local streams. He knew the secret of only fishing upstream to catch the German Brown trout from the cold water. Peter Lee’s father had instilled in him the love of fishing, and the satisfaction of providing for his family.

Brown trout

Peter Lee’s father also told him the stories of Jesus and the fisherman. Knauss had seen the inside of the great local cathedrals and admired the frescoes on the walls. He understood the story of Jesus dividing the fishes and the loaves between the people. The idea of a free meal was almost beyond people’s concept at that time.

feeding the five thousand

Peter Lee’s father was very concerned with being able to earn money to give to the Church for the “Jubilee Indulgence,” to help get Peter Lee’s mother out of purgatory. The Church had taught Peter Lee’s family that his mother was a sinner, and that was why she had contracted smallpox. She could only be saved from going to hell if someone paid her way out.

The sale of indulgences was abuse that had crept into the Catholic Church during the late 15th century and was a spark of the Lutheran Revolt. At first, the intent was to defray the cost of the Crusades. But later, the sale of indulgences was used to replenish the Papal treasury. This practice popularly epitomized Church corruption. The notion of paying money to receive Church forgiveness did not strike the average person as wrong. This “Jubilee Indulgence,” to redeem a dead loved one, had the Pope’s authorization and financed the construction of St. Peter Lee’s Cathedral in Rome, known as the Vatican.

the German text reads, “In the authority of all the saints, and in compassion towards you,

I absolve you from all sins and misdeeds, and remit all punishment for ten days.”

Because the Archbishop of Mainz (a town in Germany not far from where Peter Lee and Knauss resided) had massive debts, the Church decided to sell the Jubilee Indulgence in his area. The proceeds were split between the Archbishop and the bank to whom he owed money, and the Pope himself. To make matters worse, the Dominican Friar launched an advertising campaign that included the slogan, “As soon as a coin in coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs.” This little rhyme is what Knauss had heard all his life.

16th century Indulgence chest

There was a road that led down the hill winding through the valley, but it was not always safe to travel on this path. It was well-known that travellers could be waylaid by someone jumping out at them from behind a tree as their backs were turned to them, providing little defence. It was not uncommon to see an old corpse from one of these attacks, left behind alongside the road, as one travelled through this land.

Knauss now figured that it was late enough in the day that it may be a little safer venturing down the path that led into the valley below. But it wasn’t long before he and Peter Lee could hear the clatter of approaching hooves and the rattle and squeak of wagon wheels. They knew who was coming. There was only one group of people that had this form of transportation, the wealthy elite. Maybe somebody from the clergy, or even royalty, about to pass by. Quickly, he encouraged Peter Lee to step back into the brush until the travellers had passed.

three in a wagon

As the coach bounded down the trail, the peace and quiet of the forest were interrupted. It was as if all present were attentive to the new arrivals in the woods. The coach became visible coming through the brush.

A mighty and magnificent steed was doing his best, keeping up with the crack of the whip by the driver. Dust rolled out from underneath the spinning wheels and trailed behind the carriage like puffs of smoke. The coach was open at the top, and you could see that behind the driver were seated three passengers, all of whom seemed to be enjoying the very bumpy and dusty ride. It was the passengers who were encouraging the driver to go faster.

As they approached, both Peter Lee and Knauss could identify that one of the passengers was a Friar, dressed in a long robe that tied at the waist with a cord. He was a traveling preacher who worked for the Church. They were very poor and lived a simple and humble life. Friars were sent on critical religious missions. He wore beads around his neck, with a small cross. It bounced up and down with the rhythm of the bumps in the road. He was laughing with great excitement, and his jolliness was contagious. The two men watching from the bushes shared a giggle between them. A man and a lady sat in the carriage with their back towards the driver. Their faces only came into view after they had passed.

Medieval Priest, Friar, or Monk

They both could tell by the passengers’ clean faces and clothing that they were successful in life. The lady was humbly dressed, but her clothing was all clean. Peter Lee and Knauss could see that her hair had been combed and styled: pinned-up in some way. She was not dressed like the women in Peter Lee’s tribe, yet it was not the clothing that brought her to his attention: it was how clean the two of them were.

a medieval woman

As the coach passed, the man by happenstance looked directly into the bushes and saw Peter Lee’s eyes gazing back at him. Immediately he cried to the driver, “Whoa! Stop here, my good man.” The driver pulled back on the reins, and the coach slid to a stop just before crossing the Roman stone bridge that arched over the stream.

old Roman bridge

The man calmly stepped out of the coach and tried to encourage the two men to come forth unto him. By this time, the lady and the Friar had also exited the coach. They were equally encouraging them to join their company. The healthy and safe thing to do would be to avoid any contact with strangers, but found in the company of a Friar, Peter Lee and Knauss felt safe enough to approach them.

The man took a blanket from the carriage, spread it on the ground, and invited the two of them to join them in “table fellowship.” The lady opened the basket and took out a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and a glass cup. Peter Lee’s eyes were fascinated with the cup; he had only seen cups and bowls made of wood or clay. You could see the lady’s hand and fingers right through this cup, and he was amazed. The lady took the bottle of wine and filled the cup, then set it beside the bread on the blanket.

their first communion

The man introduced himself, “Good day to you brothers, my name is Johann (yo-han): feel free to call me Hans, and this is my wife, Elisabeth. I am the eldest of six children born to my father, Martin, and my mother, Katharina. We travel in the company of this good Friar.” He spoke how his father had died nine years earlier in 1546, the same year Peter Lee was born. And now he was carrying on his father’s work by traveling preaching to the people.

Martin Luther and family

Johann motioned once again for the men to join them. He encouraged them to feel safe, “We mean you no harm, come join us in a communal meal.”

As Elisabeth set the table, Johann said, “I was twenty years old when father died in 1546.” Johann told the two men he had a letter from him that he would like to share with them.

Neither Knauss nor Peter Lee could read. There were only a few signs or letters they could recognize, but they were always eager and ready to listen to anyone that could. Johann had their complete attention, and he knew it, so he took advantage of this time to witness to them.

Johann pulled a letter from a pouch he kept in his shirt. It was a well-worn document that had obviously been removed from that pouch and read many times before. Knauss and Peter Lee recognized that this letter received special care as Johann unfolded it. Everyone became still and reverent waiting for Johann to read, he began, “Grace and peace in Christ”!

Johann skipped over the personal stuff in the letter and got right to a story that his father Martin had written. Johann said that his father wrote him this, “I know a pretty, lovely, pleasant garden, where many children go. They wear golden coats and gather sweet apples, pears, cherries, and plums from under the trees. They sing, jump, and are merry. They also have pretty little horses with golden bridles and silver saddles. I asked the owner of the garden: ‘Whose children are these?’ He said: ‘These are the children who like to pray, study, and be pious.'”

medieval story of a garden

Then Martin said: “My dear sir, I also have a son, his name is Johann. Might he not come into the garden, too, so that he might also eat such lovely apples and pears, ride such fine horses, and play with these children?”

Then the owner of the garden answered him: “If he likes to pray, study, and be pious, then he, too, may enter the garden.”

Martin went on to tell his son in the letter that, “All who come will also get whistles and drums, lutes, and all kinds of stringed instruments. They will also dance and shoot with small crossbows.”

Then the owner showed Martin a lovely lawn, all ready for dancing, where golden whistles and drums and fine silver crossbows hung. But it was still early, so the children hadn’t eaten yet.

Martin said to the owner, “Ah, dear sir, I must hurry off and write all this to my dear son Johann so that he will be sure to study diligently, pray well, and be pious, so that he too may come into this garden.”

The owner said to him, “Yes, he may also enter this garden. Now, go and write to him thus.”

a view into heaven

Johann did not have to look at the letter any longer. He knew from memory what words were written in the text. His voice was soft and gentle as he spoke his father’s words, “My dear son, make sure to study God’s word and pray. Witness to all that cross your path, so that they may study and pray, too. That way, all will get into the garden together. May you be herewith commended to God. Your dear father, Martin Luther.”

Johann respectfully re-folded and gently put the document back into the pouch and safely tucked it into his shirt.

Then Johann took the bread and broke it into pieces and shared it with all of them, including the driver of the coach. He said a small prayer, “Our precious heavenly Father, we know to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. I know whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really, your God. Now bless us this day. Amen.”

the Lord’s supper

Johann told them that the bread represented the breaking of Jesus’ body at the cross, and His blood was shed on our behalf. “He bore our sins, and through His sacrifice, we have complete redemption and total deliverance from the works of Satan.”

Then again, after a small prayer, he took the cup and shared it amongst them, saying, “This is my blood, do this in remembrance of me.”

Peter Lee was not too sure about any meal that didn’t make him full, but he did understand the special meaning of what the man and lady had shared with them. He felt the holiness of the moment.

Johann finished saying, “As new creations in Christ Jesus, we realize our freedom had been bought and paid for. We are forgiven of our sins. We are redeemed, and we give thanks for it all in the name of Jesus.”

Knauss asked the question, “How can you have such faith in someone you cannot see.”

Johann answered him, saying, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my guide.” He went on further to answer him, “The Bible is alive: it speaks to me. It has feet, and it runs after me. It has hands, and it lays hold of me. For, He is the man to whom it all applies, every bit of it. If you want to interpret it well and confidently, set Christ before you. Ask Him to open your eyes to see His will for you.”

medieval Bible

Then the Friar began to speak, “To find Christ in such poverty, and what his swaddling clothes and manger signify, are explained this way: His poverty teaches how we should find him in our neighbors, the lowliest and the most needy; His swaddling clothes are the holy scriptures. Christ alone may stand before us.”

He told them that Martin Luther, Johann’s father, was the leader of the Protestant Reformation. He taught that “Salvation and, subsequently, eternal life is not earned by good deeds. But, he said, we received it only as a free, gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as Redeemer from sin.”

the first Christmas

All this time, Peter Lee was thinking to himself, “When you don’t know what to say just listen, and let somebody else do the talking,” so he listened to these two men of God.

The message they spoke about was a deep well of inspiration to Peter Lee. He was receiving the living water of the Gospel, his thirst was great, and his satisfaction was full. He now had personal knowledge of the truth in Christ.

The Friar stood up and proclaimed, “Luther’s theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God.” Then the Friar let them know he was not happy, “The Church is not only responsible for what they say, but also for what they do not say. The truth has been kept from the common man. And I consider all the baptized Christians to be of a holy priesthood.”

The Protestant Reformation

Joining the Friar, Johann rose to his feet and looked upward toward the sky. Watching the clouds roll by, he described the Christian irony: “A Christian man is the freest Lord of all, and subject to none. A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”

The Friar went on to say, “Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, call themselves Lutherans. Luther humbly insisted on using the terms Christian or evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who profess Christ.” He continued, “We are the body of Christ. The Church is not the building, but the people who built it.”

This was the first time that Peter Lee or Knauss had ever heard the word “Christian.”

The Friar re-explained to them and tried to reassure Knauss that indulgences are not necessary. “He has already paid the full price of salvation for all,” he told him.

Even so, Peter Lee’s father was far more zealous for the tradition of his ancestors. That’s why Knauss continued to cling to his belief in indulgences.

Some of what the Friar told them was above his head, and only much later in life did Peter Lee understand the spiritual significance of that moment. Peter Lee was aware that these holy people were not as arrogant as some of the other clergy that he saw in the past. The man and woman were not afraid to give Peter Lee and his father a hug as they departed.

Timeline Native American 900 – 1598


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