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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Bring Out Your Dead Again: A Review of "Wake Not the Dead" by Johann Ludwig Tieck

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Bears waving.
How's everyone doin today?

I’m back with another review today. A review I want to redo. As you’ve seen by the title, we’re talking about “Wake Not the Dead” again today. Last week we delved into the dark corners of my mind and I gave you a lovely little hot take. Today, I want to rewrite my old review.

I truly had no clue what I was doing back in the day when I first discussed “Wake Not the Dead.” And it shows. I spent more time with the synopsis than I did with the actually review; if you can even call it that. So I’m getting redemption today. I will finally give “Wake Not the Dead” the review it deserves. So enjoy this little two-part series I’ve got going on.

Girl throwing punch bowl on the floor in excitement.
Wooooo, party time!

Let’s get to that synopsis then. As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned.

Our story begins with a man and a woman deeply in love. Walter and Brunhilda are the names of our star-crossed lovers, they are married, and nothing could possibly go wrong because they are so in love. Obviously something bad happens. That something being death. Brunhilda tragically passes away thus leaving Walter all alone. He mourns for her, but he eventually remarries.

Whatever charming qualities this man may have once had have evaporated at this point. He marries a wonderful woman named Swanhilda and he does not give a damn about her. Seriously, he uses her to have children who he also can’t give a damn about. He spends his life being a dick and longing after his deceased love.

Fuckboy spray gif
You knew this was coming.

At this point of the story we must meet a new very important player. Meet Strange Mysterious Man who tells Walter he can bring back Brunhilda. Walter jumps at the chance because his wife and kids don’t matter. So through some dark magic, Brunhilda comes back to life despite every red flag being held up high.

Long story short, Walter dumps Swanhilda after like 20-years of marriage for a corpse bride. Our lovely corpse bride can only come out at night, and everyone who lives in the same area as Walter slowly disappears. By disappear I do mean die. The younger a person is, the quicker they disappear. Walter pays no attention to this until his children are the ones to perish. Turns out Brunhilda needs the blood of the young to survive. Now Walter needs to re-unalive his lady love before she unalives him. Through more magic he achieves this.

The story does not end here cause one dark and stormy night a mysterious woman arrives at Walter’s door. She looks a lot like Swanhilda and is seeking shelter. Walter decides to marry her cause that’s the normal thing to do when a stranger arrives on your doorstep. This woman is a total girlboss though. She sends Walter to his grave. Thus our story ends.

I’m going to skip over the part where I badmouth Walter. I’ve done enough of that in both my original review and last week’s post. We all hate him and agree he sucks as was the author’s intention. I will simply include my favorite gif and move on.

Fuckboy spray gif.
Yes, Walter sucks on purpose but I'm still going to bitch about him.

Honestly, I don’t want to talk much about the characters. I feel they all serve their purpose and are quite lively. While I don’t think the characters are the highlight of “Wake Not the Dead,” I do believe Johann Ludwig Tieck created strong characters. Each new character presented has a distinct personality and all are easily identifiable. No one is mistaken for anyone else. They all just work.

I will say this though, justice for Swanhilda! This poor woman was put through far too much and deserves the world! She put up with all of Walter’s shit and gets nothing in the end. She loses everything and I want to build her a castle. Better idea, put her in the city Christine de Pizan built in Book of the City of Ladies cause Swanhilda deserves it. I’m going to write the sequel to “Wake Not the Dead” and it’s all about Swanhilda getting the life she deserves.

Woman saying, "this is a queen."

Let’s move on from characters now cause I need to talk about the beautiful, luscious, gothic prose that walks the fine line between chewing the scenery and being just the right amount of gothic glamour. Every page is steeped in darkness. Fog laden fields, graveyards, dark stone castles, and slowly dwindling hope; one of these things is not like the others. That thing is perhaps my favorite part of this short story.

The dwindling hope isn’t something that I noticed during my first read a few years ago, but it’s something I noticed this time around. I was too focused on Walter’s disgusting personality. “Wake Not the Dead” begins on such a positive note, yet that positivity quickly diminishes. Death occurs, lovers are separated, time makes our main character jaded among other things, then the supernatural occurs and things take a turn for the worse.


As a reader, you can feel Walter’s hope for a happy ending on the page. But as a reader you also know whatever will happen is destined to fail. Once Brunhilda returns to the land of the living, there is a small increase of hope, but that too quickly vanishes as Brunhilda’s villainous nature is shown. At that point, any hope left for any sort of positive experience and/or happy ending is on a quick, steep decline. It’s a beautiful aspect to this beautiful gothic story.

“Wake Not the Dead” is one of my favorite gothic short stories. I’m so glad I discovered it a few years ago because I’m obsessed. I need more stories like this one. And with that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you for joining me today, I hope you all enjoyed this actual review of “Wake Not the Dead.” I’ll see ya again next week with another new review.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all next week, bye!


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