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The Lady of Kwadenoord

Updated on February 4, 2017
Eva Weggelaar profile image

Eva Weggelaar is a writer and translator, especially interested in poetry and folklore. She also runs her own blog: Paradise is this Way.

illustration for the Edda
illustration for the Edda | Source

A Bad Family

I'll tell you this tale the way I heard it somewhere, and if you can understand it you can pass it on, and if you don't want to pass it on it's all the same to me.

At the Grunsfort1 near Rhenen used to live a noble lord and his wife. He was a nasty man who made people work till they dropped and he never paid no money for it. That was the way things were back then.
From early morning till late at night people ploughed and mowed and harrowed and chopped wood and cut sods and mowed heather and when the farmers had worked all day and got back dead tired they had to be careful at night to ensure the cats didn't meow and the frogs didn't croak, otherwise they couldn't sleep over at the great house.
When there was nothing more to do on the fields, they had to assist as beaters during the hunt.

A Young Lady

Then the nobleman's wife had a little girl, a scraggy lass, and she was another nasty little thing. When she was baptised she bit the dry-nurse in the thumb, just out of spite because she had to be baptised.
All the farmers from far and wide came to the child's party and then they were treated to beer: but the beer was as sour as vinegar. One of the farmers wouldn't touch the beer and then the nobleman asked why he wouldn't drink to the health of the young lady. Well, then the farmer said that the beer was a bit sour. The nobleman had drunk quite a lot of beer himself and it had rather gone to his head and then he turned so nasty that he had the farmer beaten because he wouldn't drink to the health of the young lady.
Then an old woman passed by and she spat three times on the ground in front of the nobleman's feet and he ordered his soldiers to grab and beat her too; but when the soldiers tried to grab her, they held nothing but air in their hands, because she had been Meg Hag the Witch.

When the girl grew up she was a nasty lady who did nothing but stand in front of the mirror to tie ribbons in her hair. And in the evening she made the farmers walk all the way to Arnhem to buy liquorice and candy and beads and ribbons.
On Sundays when she went to church in Renkum the farmers' wives had to place a long linen carpet on the ground, starting at the castle, leading right across the churchyard to the church, because she didn't want to touch the ground with her silk shoes.
When she returned to the castle the farmers' wives had to remove the carpet and wash it so it would be clean and white for next Sunday.

One Sunday, when the lass walked by again, as proud as a peacock with her nose in the air, Meg Hag was standing by the gate to the churchyard and she said, “Miss, miss, I must warn you. You don't want to touch this ground but please consider that one day you'll have to be buried in it. Do not sin, do not sin.”
But the young lady walked past her with her nose in the air and the following morning all the farmers' wives were summoned to the castle and ordered to weave a new, much nicer carpet out of white wool with red edges. They weren't allowed to go home before the carpet was finished.
The Sunday after that, the new carpet was placed on the ground, all the way from the castle to the church.

An Old Spinster

The nobleman had died and so had his wife, they had been buried next to each other and no one felt sad about their death, not even the young lady.
She would've liked to have a husband but there was no one who would want a woman such as her. Earls and barons did visit the castle to see what kind of woman she was, and she was wealthy enough, but they left even more quickly than they'd come and so the young lady became an old spinster.
The farmers' wives were already weaving the thirteenth carpet for her and when that was nearly finished the lady died. It was a relief to everyone to be free of her at last but it all turned out a little different.

A Ghost

Her funeral gave them trouble right from the start. It took as many as six barons and a lot of flowers, it was such a waste. I say, what use are flowers to a dead person?
But the morning after the funeral, very early, a couple of labourers arrived and they saw many crows flying around at the churchyard. “What could that be?” asked the one.
“Yes, I wondered about that myself,” said the other, and they went to have a look, and yes, there was the lady of Grunsfort standing outside the churchyard, coffin and all.

Then they put the coffin back in the ground, much deeper than before, and they placed a heavy tombstone on top of it, but the following morning the coffin was standing outside the churchyard again, leaning against the wall, and many people came to look at it.
No one knew what to do. Things went on like that for quite some time.
Then an old woman came along and said, “That's what you get, she never wanted to touch the churchyard's ground and now she must get out of it, whether she wants to or not. Place her on a cart and put a horse without a bridle before it.”
Yes, and then that was what they did, for you must know that it was Meg Hag the Witch who said it.
When they'd placed the coffin on a dumpcart, the horse ran wild. He went straight through everything, through bushes and over ditches, it was terrible to see. And near Kwadenoord2 the horse kicked away the cart and the coffin with the lady in it tumbled into the brook, and there was no one who would get it out.

But at night, the place is haunted; and in the light of the moon, when the water is as white as a white carpet, you can see the lady walking there, and then you'd better stay away, otherwise something terrible might happen to you!
Yes, it's sad that such a miserable creature as that lady of Kwadenoord can still make things difficult for people even after her death, but that's how it is!’

From Legends of the Veluwe/Veluwsche Sagen by Gust van de Wall Perné, published in 1910-1912 by Scheltens & Giltay and translated by Eva Weggelaar.

Source

Footnotes

1. The Grunsfort was a castle, no longer in existence.
2. The origins of the name 'Kwadenoord', 'evil place' are unclear, though it's possible that the name comes from the swamps the Romans used to throw criminals in, or that it was known as an 'evil place' because the Romans knew tribes which were hostile to them resided in the area. The estate still exists.

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