As a father who is always on the lookout for examples of worse parenting than my own, I often think about the day in 1307 when William Tell famously shot an apple off his son’s head at the command of a brutal overlord, Albrecht Gessler.
I know in the story this was all was done under duress and that Tell and the boy had no opportunity to object. But I still think that as the target of a foolish stunt, no 21st century child would stand idly by (literally) while dad lifts a crossbow.
An unquestioned faith in ol’ pops’ ability to do anything is rare these days, at least in terms of modern popular culture. There are very few father figures on TV who are reliable and/or competent in any area.
Doofuses and failures, most of them.
So if the William Tell story unfolded today, I suspect there would be some push back from the offspring. And as long as we’re totally making things up, I am also quite certain the argument, if it happened, would be framed in a lame verse.
My son, stand straight with posture firm.
Don’t slouch or wriggle, lurch or squirm.
I’m widely known as quite the shot
and if you stay upon your spot
I’ll cleave the apple quick and clean
where it is balanced on your bean.
My father dear, though you mean well
this plan of yours, I think, doth smell.
It’s hubris, pure. And pride to boot
that makes you think that you can shoot
a fruit that’s perched upon my gourd.
One flinch by you – I’m with the Lord!
Hold very still, with eyes tight shut,
Before you can say “Hey, dad, what …?”,
I’ll put an arrow to my bow
and aim the missile, then let go
and through the apple it will flit
Before you can say “Holy split!”
I don’t think mom would be too pleased
if, as you let that go, you sneezed.
I know you sometimes scratch an itch.
I’ve seen you sleeping, dad. You twitch!
You blurt, you fart, it’s all abrupt.
Am I to die if you erupt?
Don’t worry, son. I’m cool and calm.
My mind’s at peace. My soul’s a psalm.
I’ll shoot it straight and true, I know.
We shouldn’t over talk it, though.
Just know that I’m not known to fail
When fruit, with arrows, I impale.