As I was researching Krampus last week, I found that the terrifying goat-like creature wasn’t St. Nick’s only mischievous companion. While the Krampus is the most widely known companion, Knecht Ruprecht is another figure highly feared by children in Germany.
What’s the story?
There are two beginnings to Knecht Ruprecht’s story. The first story says that he was a wild child (possibly a changeling) that St. Nicholas found and raised into adulthood. Another story claims that the figure was a farmhand before becoming Santa’s assistant.
Knecht Ruprecht is most commonly spotted carrying a staff and a bag of ashes and wearing a brown or black robe with a pointed hood. Sometimes he is depicted riding a white horse or while other times being accompanied by faeries.
The Brothers’ Grimm associated him with Robin Goodfellow from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While not evil, per se, he is mischievous like the famous faerie. Ruprecht was also associated with the Devil.
In older stories, Knecht Ruprecht would ask children if they could pray. If they could, he gave them treats. If they could not, he beat them with his bag of ashes. More modern stories, however, depict him as the one who gives naughty children coal or sticks while Santa gives out all the presents.
How’s it used today?
Knecht Ruprecht is not seen much today, as far as I can tell. In the Alpine Region, the Krampus is the one most celebrated. In Germany, while he does not get a festival or big event, many still dress up like Knecht Ruprecht and accompany those dressed as St. Nicholas. Also, in the German version of The Simpsons, the dog, Santa’s Little Helper, is called Knecht Ruprecht.
Knecht Ruprecht is a little overlooked in the holiday season, if you ask me. I want to see more of him. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a horror movie based on an evil faerie who attacks naughty people and non-believers? That’s just good entertainment right there.
Let us know that you think in the comments!