Peasant Fires: The Drummer of Niklashausen is a novel telling the story of Hans Behem, a street musician and illiterate shepherd. Written by Richard Wunderli, this book does a great job of immersing its readers into the historical background of the Middle Ages. The book focuses around Hans Behem and the pilgrims who later become Hans Behem’s cult following. Hans gains said cult following by delivering a set of sermons, each one more radical than the last. These sermons cause problems and eventually the authorities come after Hans.
Hans Behem begins to deliver his sermons after he has a vision of the Virgin Mary, a very important figure during this time. Hans preached about the virtues regarding a life of poverty and how the land and the lands creatures should be shared equally among men, not just available to the rich; social equality. The word of “The Drummer of Niklashausen” soon spread and he gained a mass following. His sermons became more and more radical over time, eventually going as far as to tell his followers to murder the priests and exposing the sins of the clergy.
The church realized how much of a threat Hans Behem was, so they deployed spies to gather evidence against him. The spies sat in on one of his sermons and took notes of everything they heard. However, it is said that the spies waited until the sermon was over to write down what they remembered since it would have been much too dangerous to do it in a crowd full of his followers. That being said, the spies most likely only wrote down what they wanted to remember; the radical, extremist statements. Once the spies organized all the evidence they gathered, it was all they needed in order to make a move.
I respect Hans Behem and agree with the majority of his sermons. Not too keen on the religious aspect of the sermon but I definitely agree with the social equality theme. Even the part about murdering the priests, I am all for it. The respect I have for Hans...