This Is A PSA, Don't Perform Necromancy: A Look at "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.
We’re going on a trip down memory lane today. You see, I was feeling nostalgic and went back to read some posts from 2020 when I came across the following: Meet the Zombie, Vampire Bride of Your Dreams: A Review of “Wake Not the Dead” by Johann Ludwig Tieck. Ah yes, “Wake Not the Dead,” I remember this one. Twas a good short story, I enjoyed it greatly, and I remember this post too. Honestly, one of my favorites. I had no clue what I was doing back then, and it shows, but I did say something pretty interesting.
Not long after returning Brunhilda to her grave, a woman who looks an awful lot like our zombie/vampire, seeks shelter in Walter’s home. My best guess is that this woman is Brunhilda’s true spirit reincarnated to bring Walter a punishment for what he did to her.
In my mind, when Brunhilda was brought back from the dead it wasn’t fully her spirit inhabiting her body. There had to be some black magic that brought her back, but I think it only brought part of her back and some other spirit also took up residence in her body. This other spirit is what made her feast on the blood of the young. This woman at the end, like I said, is Brunhilda’s spirit come back once more for revenge on Walter for what he had done to her.
Is that a Hot Take I smell? It is! It’s one of the first Hannah Hot Takes I wrote. And I didn’t really know that yet. I think I had written one or two other posts that could count as a Hannah Hot Takes post and the name definitely hadn’t been decided upon yet. Which, by the way, I'm still not a fan of the name.
I think y’all have an idea where this is going. Today, we shall be re-examining this Hot Take I simply dropped at the end of a review. I’m intrigued with the idea old me presented. I want to delve deeper into it. So let’s dive in.
Synopsis time now. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. I shall spoil less of the story in this post than I did in the original but I shall still spoil a lot.
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. Obviously something does. That something being death. Brunhilda tragically passes thus leaving Walter all alone. He mourns for her, but he eventually remarries.
This is where our trouble starts. Walter becomes a fuckboy.
Whatever charming qualities this man may have once had have evaporated. 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.
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 to bring Brunhilda back because his wife and kids don’t matter. So through some black 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. No children are safe! Not even Walter's. Walter seriously pays no attention to his children until they 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 black 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, not Brunhilda as I mistakenly stated earlier and in my previous posts, and this woman 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.
The important take away from this synopsis is the mysterious lady at the end. As I said at the start of this post, this woman is Brunhilda’s spirit back for revenge. The magic that was used to bring Brunhilda back from the grave didn’t actually bring Brunhilda back, it brought some spirit to life, but not Brunhilda. Now Brunhilda wants to give Walter a taste of his own medicine.
Alas, this is just conjecture. At this point at least. First I must prove that the spirit of the woman who originally returns from the grave is not Brunhilda; or at least not fully her. Take what our Strange Mysterious Man says when Walter asks him to bring Brunhilda back:
“Consider too, how deep the abyss between life and death; across this, my power can build a bridge, but it can never fill up the frightful chasm.”
Translation: life and death are separate. One must have power to bring another back from the grave, but everything will not be as it once was. Strange Mysterious Man literally says Brunhilda will not be the same should he bring her back. He then goes on to tell Walter to think this deal over carefully and warns him to “wake not the dead.” Strange Mysterious Man tells Walter this three times!
Conclusion: Brunhilda can be brought back to life but she will not be the same. And as my synopsis states, Brunhilda does come back except she’s a vampire! She wasn’t evil or mean or anything of the sort when she was alive so something of that nature hopped aboard when Strange Mysterious Man performed his ritual.
If you need any other evidence that Brunhilda was not brought back to life or something/someone came with her then allow me to direct you to the following quote:
“Never till now had her voice sounded with such tones of sweetness; never before did her language possess such eloquence as it now did, when she conversed with him on the subject of the past.”
Yeah, that ain’t Brunhilda, Walter. Whatever is in her body is tricking you!
Enough about this not being Brunhilda. She’s clearly not the woman she was in life. A demon or entity of some sort took up residence when the ritual was performed. Let’s now turn to the woman who appears in the end. The woman I wholeheartedly believe to be Brunhilda out to seek revenge upon Walter.
I must reiterate how horrible Walter is. By the end of the story, he has sent Swanhilda away without a care in the world. He has risen his first wife from the grave and paid no mind that every young person in his town leaves or dies. Even when his own children die at Brunhilda’s hand he doesn’t care. He only pays attention when his life is in the balance. This man is trash. He only cares about himself, I dare say he never even cared for Brunhilda, he probably only liked her cause she was pretty.
He's done a lot of people wrong in his life. Something the real Brunhilda wouldn’t stand for; especially after all the shit he put her through. I truly believe that her spirit was watching everything that happened; either from watching over Walter in the afterlife or because part of her spirit was in her reanimated corpse. Which is why I believe she does return to the land of the living at the end of “Wake Not the Dead.”
At the end of “Wake Not the Dead” a woman appears at Walter’s home. The text states that this woman looks a lot like Swanhilda except she has brown hair instead of blonde. Obviously this is someone in disguise. But it’s not Swanhilda, I don’t think that woman has it in her. This is not shade at Swanhilda, that poor woman is grieving the loss of her two children she didn’t even know were dead until recently. I believe the mysterious woman to be Brunhilda’s true spirit in disguise. It’s fitting that this mysterious woman is disguised to look like Swanhilda as Walter does her dirty as well. Honestly, Brunhilda is getting revenge for herself and Swanhilda.
Anyway, I find it fitting this woman is disguised as Swanhilda. Walter would not trust anyone who looks like Brunhilda despite the fact he still carries a torch for her after everything that happened. Walter also tried to get back together with Swanhilda before this new mysterious woman arrived, but Swanhilda smartly rejected him. He’s looking for familiarity, and this mysterious woman fits the bill. She looks like Swanhilda and is fierce like Brunhilda.
Another important fact about this woman is that she arrives with a very large entourage. An entourage big enough to distract Walter from important matters; like getting revenge on him. Basically everyone parties for a month straight, distracting Walter from any important matter or any shady plots going on, while the mysterious woman gets Walter to fall in love with her and ultimately propose to her. The plan works, and she’s able to end his life.
Up until this point everything points to this woman being flesh and blood. Then she turns into a massive snake, spoiler alert, and strangles Walter. That’s a little supernatural sounding if you ask me.
At this point in the post, I now turn into this:
The pieces of the puzzle don’t easily fall into place. So stay with me here. Brunhilda is dead. She’s been dead for a while and she wasn’t the one who returned when Walter rose her body from the grave. Walter is trash. No one likes him. People have beef with him. No one will mourn him or miss him if he dies or disappears. So Brunhilda makes her own deal: come back in disguise for revenge.
Walter has made the one he held closest into his greatest enemy. And he doesn’t even realize it. Brunhilda is said to be this fiery, strong willed woman in life. There is no way that in death she would let Walter do what he does with her corpse. Brunhilda needs to step in and right these wrongs. Or get revenge. Take your pick. The latter, to me at least, seems to be what occurs.
At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Brunhilda is not the spirit that comes back. I think we can also agree that Walter sucks and deserved to be strangled by a giant snake. I don’t know if we can all agree that Brunhilda is the one who unalives Walter, but I certainly believe it.
And with that, I shall bid you all adieu. I hope you enjoyed your time here today. Maybe you had a laugh. Maybe you have discovered an argument for your English class. Any reason why you’re here, thank you for joining me. I shall see you next week with another post on "Wake Not the Dead." Yes, that's right, we're having a two-part "Wake Not the Dead" extravaganza!
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.