“He struck her right between the third and fourth vertebrae, and the groaning stopped at once.  But her head wouldn’t come off – it was still connected by tendons and flesh, and it took a fourth blow to sever it from the body,” (11).

Readers of The Hangman’s Daughter will get a grim look into the life of an executioner.  Jakob Kuisl descends from a long line of Schongau hangmen and although his job is killing, the Kuisls were actually prolific healers.  “The figure of Johann Jakob Kuisl is historical.  Many Kuisls were considered to be well-read, and their reputation as healers extended beyond the borders of the town,” (postscript).  It has since been discovered that the Kuisls were known to slip pain killing mixtures to those prisoners they believed were innocent.

The Hangman’s Daughter goes into gory detail about the process of torturing prisoners and while there is not a lot written about the actual execution most prisoners would probably be relieved that the torture was over.  If you’re interested in 17th century torture practices check out the links below.

Want to Learn More About Executioners?

Richard Brandon: A 17th Century Hangman.

A Brief History of Punishments.  See “Breaking on the Wheel” and “Drowning” for popular punishments in 17th century Germany.

Books About Executions.

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper.  Written from a first person narrative and full of rich historical detail, this novel follows Anne Green who is sentenced to die for the murder of her child, but in fact survives the execution.  For readers also interested in the medical aspect of executions, this novel also offers the point of view of a young physician charged with dissecting the young Anne Green.  Readers who enjoyed the gory details of The Hangman’s  Daughter may also enjoy this novel.

The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Village by Thomas Willard Robisheaux.  This non-fiction account of the execution of an accused witch and her family gives a vivid look into beliefs in God and the Devil in a 17th century German village.  Readers who sympathized with Martha Stechlin in The Hangman’s Daughter may enjoy this read for its similar and historically accurate storyline.


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