The Hangman’s Daughter has a large cast of characters.  Because the novel is plot-driven, few of the characters are developed beyond the role they play in the town’s murder mystery.  The book’s main characters; however, are developed vividly and the changing first-person narration helps the reader to identify more closely with each character’s story and point of view.

Jakob Kuisl

Shongau Hangman and healer.  It is Jakob’s destiny to serve as the town’s hangman – he is one in a long line of Kuisl’s who have served as Schongau’s executioner – however, he also has a vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants and many of the townspeople secretly seek his help for their ailments.

Simon Fronwieser

Simon is the son of Schongau’s physician and attended some medical school at the University of Ingolstadt.  Unlike his father, Simon believes that there is more to medicine than the limited knowledge he gained at University and is enthralled with Jakob’s extensive collection of medical texts and deep knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants.  Simon is also in love with Jakob’s daughter, Magdalena, but cannot marry her because Schongau executioners are traditionally shunned by townspeople.

Martha Stechlin

Martha is Schongau’s midwife and the falsely accused witch and child murderer.  Like Jakob, Martha is a talented healer and has brought most of the town’s children into the world.  Because of this, the orphan’s of Schongau are attracted to Martha and think of her as a substitute mother – this is what will ultimately land her in prison and fighting for her life.

Magdalena Kuisl

Magdalena is Jakob’s oldest child and like her father is a talented healer.  She is also very beautiful and because she has always been shunned by the people of Shongau she feels no responsibility to act in a socially acceptable manner.  She openly pursues Simon and often follows the young doctor and her father as they try to solve the mystery.  In the end, it is Magdalena who first discovers the evidence that will free the midwife, but she cannot help in solving the mystery because she is kidnapped by the real criminal.  It is Magdalena’s wit and tenacity that help her to survive both her kidnappers and the townspeople who are quick to accuse her of witchcraft.

Johann Lechner

Lechner is Schongau’s court clerk and the most powerful man in the town.  Although he is not convinced of Martha Stechlin’s guilt he knows that putting her to death will prevent a massive witch hunt and he hopes that the murders will stop on their own.  Lechner walks a fine moral line as he is responsible for ordering the midwife’s torture and covering up what he knows of a real crime all in the name of keeping Schongau safe.

Karl Semer

Semer is the head Burgomaster in Schongau, similar to an alderman, and second in authority to Johann Lechner. Additionally, he owns the Goldener Stern Inn where some witnesses have seen The Devil – a mysterious man who Jakob and Simon believe is the real murderer.

Matthias and Georg Augustin

Matthias Augustin is the oldest Burgomaster and is often looked up to for his guidance and wisdom in important town matters.  He is the only living witness to Schongau’s previous witch hunt and is vocal in preventing it from happening again.  Georg Augustin, Matthias’ son, is of noble birth but not as accomplished as his father.  He is named as one of the witnesses to Martha Stechlin’s torture and is simultaneously convinced of her guilt and enthralled with the act of torturing.

The Orphans

Sophie Dangler, Anton Kratz, Clara Schreevogel, Johannes Strasser, and Peter Grimmer are the orphans who visit Martha Stechlin and are quickly being killed off.  All of the orphans have a mysterious tattoo which everybody in town believes is a “witch’s mark.”  Martha’s life and freedom depend upon solving the mystery of the orphans’ tattoos.

The Soldiers

Christian Braunschweiger, Andre Pirkhofer, Hans Hohenleitner, and Christoph Holzapfel.  The Soldiers are a roaming group who are not associated with Schongau.  Although the war is long since over, these soldiers still roam the countryside and commit a variety of crimes for money.


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