The Heathen

The Heathen
Basel's dance of death, The heathen

Todt zum Heyden:
Komm falscher Hund vnd gottloß Mann,
   Dein Abgott dir nicht helffen kan,
Den Teuffel hast für GOtt geehrt,
   Derselb hat dein Gebet erhört.

Death to The Heathen
Come, deceitful dog and godless man.
Your idol cannot help you.
The Devil have you honoured as God,
he has heard your prayer.

Der Heyd
JVpiter, Neptunus vnd Pluton,
   Ihr höchsten Gött wöllt mich nicht lon:
Wann jhr all drey sind vnsterblich,
   Saturnus wöllst erbarmen dich.

The Heathen.
Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto.
You highest gods - please don't leave me,
because you all three are immortal.
Saturn please have mercy.
Frölich: Death with breasts and veil.
Scharffenberg, Heathens
Death in Kleinbasel: "Mohammed cannot protect you".
Büchel, Heathen

Frölich's picture of the heathen is somewhat different from Merian's. The picture is mirror-inversed, and the heathen's wife is included, so Frölich could use the woodcut twice. Death has breasts and veil, but many of Frölich's woodcuts are rather free interpretations, so one should not attach too much importance to this.

It may sound odd there were people living in Basel in the late Middle Ages, who were still praying to Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto and Saturn. If we look at the dance of death in Kleinbasel (to the right), we see that the heathen and his wife used to pray to Mohammed. In Kleinbasel Death says to the heathen: »Machmet mach dich nit bescirmen« (="Mohammed cannot protect you") and the heathen / Turk regrets that he must leave all his wives: »Ich mosz al min frawen lon«.

When Kluber in 1568 added the Turkish emperor Suleiman I, the Magnificent at the end of the dance, there was no longer a need for Turks at this position, so the Turks were transformed into "heathens", who are praying to the old Roman gods.

English translation from Beck, 1852
Death to the Pagan.The Pagan's reply.

Come, godless man and truthless whelp,
Your idol now can give no help;
Satan you did as God revere,
Now to your prayer he gives ear.

Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto,
Ye gods supreme, do'nt leave me so;
If you're immortal, all you three
Saturn, take pity upon me.


Various Artists

Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Heathens
Merian (1621)
Merian 1621: Heathen
Chovin (1744)
Chovin 1744: Heathen
Büchel (1768)
Büchel 1768: Heathen
Büchel (1773)
Büchel 1773: Heathen
Feyerabend (1806)
Feyerabend 1806: Heathen
Beck (1852)
Beck 1852: Heathen
Stuckert (1858)
Stuckert 1858: Heathen