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The fantastical kingdom of Ludwig II (the 19th century Quixote)


The so-called “fairy tale king” wanted to build and inhabit impossible worlds.

They call him “the fairy tale king” (Mërchenköning) because Ludwig II of Bavaria preferred other worlds to the one he governed. He preferred the oriental dreams of The Thousand and One Nights and the enchanted mythologies of the operas of Wagner. These in particular fascinated him. For many years he was a patron of Wagner and his operas inspired the world that he created for himself.

In Linderhof palace and Neuschwanstein castle (on which it is said that Disney based its famous castle) he recreated many of the sets for the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen and other operas by Wagner. He built, for example, the hut of a hermit who appears in Parsifal, a cabin with anThis element opens an imageBavaria interna enormous tree in the middle from Die Walküre, and one with caves and stalactites through which he sailed on an artificial river (with a wave machine) on a golden boat while listening to Wagner’s music.

The king was no longer viewed as an eccentric romantic and people began to consider him to be crazy. In 1886 he was declared unfit to govern. He was too preoccupied with his fantasy world. Nobody knows how he died except that, while under medical supervision, he and his doctor had gone for a walk and hours later they were found drowned in Stranberg lake.

Verlaine dedicated a poem to Ludwig in which he extols him as a defender of the arts and the lyre above science. It is said that he was a poet, a soldier and the only king in a century when kings were not great, and desired that his soul ascend to heaven while listening to Wagner’s music.

Perhaps he was the spirit of the times. Ludwig II was seized by something similar to that which took hold of Hölderlin (who lived for 30 years in a tower under the care of a carpenter) and Nerval (who, in his insanity, took a lobster for walks). Ludwig wanted to live in the past and in fiction, to build them and inhabit them. He is a quixotic figure, who rebelled against his times, and an avid fantasist. His castles remain as a testament to his greatness, and his madness.

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