“You prefer to bleed patients, look at piss, and believe in your stinking humors.  Blood, phlegm, and bile, that’s all that constitutes the human body in your eyes.  If only I got to take a medical exam at one of your universities,” (295).


The Hangman’s Daughter is as much about medicine and midwifery as it is about witchcraft – in fact in this novel, the two subjects go hand-in-hand.  One of the novels main characters, Simon Fronwieser is a University educated physician, but it is his private belief that what he has been taught is at best out of date and at worst barbaric.  Jakob Kuisl on the other hand is a natural healer using local plants and herbs to cure the townspeople of their ailments and to lessen Martha Stechlin’s pain as he is forced to torture her.  Kuisl is of the belief that he is a more qualified healer than any University educated physician.

Simon and Jakob bond over their love of healing and it might be argued that Jakob Kuisl is much more of a healer than an executioner – however, his violent background serves both men well while trying to find the real murderers.

In this novel Martha Stechlin is the epitome of a natural healer.  She is responsible for all the births that happen in the village and uses the town’s natural resources to keep her patients healthy, yet because of her gender and vast medicinal knowledge townsfolk are quick to label her a witch.  It is lucky for her that Jakob and Simon are two men who can both sympathize with her and save her.

Interested in 17th Century Medicine?

17th and 18th Century Medicine.

Surgery: 16th and 17th Century AD.

Early Midwifery.

Some Books about Medicine & Midwifery

Heal thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the seventeenth-century struggle to bring medicine to the people by Benjamin Woolley.  This non-fiction book details the story of Nicholas Culpeper who promoted herbal medicine and challenged traditional 17th century medical practitioners. Readers who enjoyed Simon Fronwieser’s character may enjoy this book.

The Pied Piper’s Poison by Christopher Wallace.  This work of historical fiction combines a four century account of European history and evil demons that roam the continent and spread violence. For readers who enjoyed the medicine, mystery, and history of The Hangman’s Daughterthis may be an enjoyable read.

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  This non-fiction book gives an historical account of what life was really like for a midwife.  Taken from the pages of Martha Ballard’s diary, the reader will begin to understand a midwife’s place in society, the complexity of sexual relationships in the 18th century, and the broad scope of a midwife’s medical knowledge.  Although this book is based on 18th rather than 17th century practices it was chosen for its first hand account of the practice.


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