16th Century German Woodcuts

Woodcuts featuring a tall, disfigured man with white spheres where his eyes should be can be found dating as far back as 16th century Germany. These depictions refer to "Der Großmann" (the tall man, or the big man), sometimes written as "Der Grosse Mann." It is now believed that this entity was in fact the Slender Man. In the tales, he was a fairy who lived in the Black Forest. Bad children who crept into the woods at night would be chased by him, and he wouldn't leave them alone until he had caught them or the child had told their parents what he or she had done. The following is a chilling account from the journal of an old German farmer, dating around 1702.

"My child, my Lars... He is gone. Taken, from his bed. The only thing that we found was a scrap of black clothing. It feels like cotton, but it is softer...thicker. Lars came into my bedroom yesterday, screaming at the top of his lungs that "The angel is outside!" I asked him what he was talking about, and he told me some nonsense fairy story about Der Großmann. He said he went into the groves by our village and found one of my cows dead, hanging from a tree. I thought nothing of it at first... But now, he is gone. We must find Lars, and my family must leave before we are killed. I am sorry my son...I should have listened. May God forgive me."

The woodcut on the top left (click to enlarge) is from a 16th century German artist by the name of Brandenburg. It was carved sometime around the year 1550.

The woodcut to the right (click to enlarge), called 'Der Ritter', is German woodcut from the 1540s. It has puzzled historians since it was discovered at Halstberg castle in 1883. The woodcut bears the distinct style of a known woodcut artist from that area, Hans Freckenberg. Although known for his realistic depiction of human anatomy, something unusual for the woodcuts in the 16th century, this picture differs radically from the rest of Freckenberg's works. The character to the right bears little resemblance to a human being, with skeletal physique and long limbs at odd angles. Many theories have been dicussed as to what Freckenberg wanted to symbolize with that character. Some say it's a personification of the religious wars that raged in Europe at the time, others say its a personification of the mysterious plague that has been believed to be the reason for the mysterious abandoning of the Halstberg castle and the nearby village in 1543.

The image directly to the left (click to enlarge) is another woodcut dated to around the 1540s. It is known to be the work of Hans Freckenberg, who disappeared in 1543 in Halstedt. The entity on the right is very similar to the odd humanoid from 'Der Ritter', both sharing many of the same features, such as unnatural height and long limbs. One thing to point out is that much work went into the entity on the right, at the cost of the depiction of the other people on the woodcut, which are very crude. This is quite unusual for Freckenberg who, as stated before, was best known for his lifelike depictions of humans. The reason for this sudden change of priorities in Freckenberg's style is still a topic of debate amongst experts.