Hans Trapp, better known as one of Santa’s wicked sidekicks, is based on the real 15th-century German knight Hans von Trotha.
After waging war against an abbey, he was excommunicated by the Pope. Legends of Hans von Trotha spread until he became known as Hans Trapp, a folkloric figure in France.
According to the legend of Hans Trapp, he was a greedy, violent man who made a deal with the devil to gain fortune. The church found out about Hans’s blasphemous deal and excommunicated him, seizing his land and profits. Driven away by society, Hans found refuge in the woods, where he once again dabbled in the dark arts. The isolation drove him mad, and he began to crave human flesh.
When Hans could stand it no longer, he disguised himself as a scarecrow and waited by a nearby road. When a boy passed, Hans stabbed the boy with a splinter, killing him, and then dragged the corpse back to his cabin in the woods. Hans roasted the boy’s flesh. But just as he was about to take a bite, Hans was struck by a lightning bolt from God and died.
Legends of Hans Trapp arose around the same time as legends of Saint Nicholas. The two mythologies mingled so that Hans became one of Santa’s helpers. Hans punished naughty children in his scarecrow guise.
Once assumed to be mostly fiction – historical records discovered recently in German show the truth of Hans Trapp scarecrow is closer to the legend then previously thought.