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Juliet Linley gets a different spin on the tale of William Tell

William Tell replaces a pirate (pictured) in the maize maze


According to Adrian Fisher, designer of a maize maze near Thun in the Bernese Oberland, William Tell actually had twin sons, "and when the wicked ogre told him to shoot a lemon off his first son's head, he had terrible hayfever and missed... ."

Standing in the middle of a cornfield in Steffisburg, Fisher is giving me the rest of his version of the Swiss legend:

"After missing the lemon, William told the ogre he had no more of them... upon which his other son said 'here, Daddy, I've got an apple' and William muttered to himself 'stupid son I've got' ! Nevertheless, he had another sneeze, squeezed his eyes shut, and as luck would have it... he actually hit the apple with his crossbow. The rest, of course, is history."

Fisher is not a historian. But he is the world's leading maze designer. It was he who invented labyrinths created in cornfields - or maize mazes - creating the first in Pennsylvania in 1993.

He has since had his name in the Guinness Book of Records four times, and this year he's launching 24 giant new Millennium mazes, covering 90 acres of cornfields in seven time zones. Two of these mazes will be in Switzerland. One in a field in Steffisburg, from which you can see the turrets of the town's castle, the other in Rümlang, just a stone's throw away from the rather less picturesque airport of Zurich-Kloten.

When the mazes open in mid-July, the cornstalks will be more than two metres high, providing visitors with a labyrinth of paths and dead ends in the form of a man with a crossbow standing before a smaller figure with a lemon on its head.

Every family who comes along is given a team flag, and as they twist and turn their way towards what Fisher calls the Holy Grail (actually the prize is a flight in a small plane over the Lake of Thun) there are hidden maps and cryptic notes containing instructions aimed at increasing the challenge of the puzzle.

Last year was the first time Switzerland hosted a Fisher maize maze. Also created in Steffisburg, the maze theme then was pirates. This year, the organisers wanted more of a Swiss theme, and they got it...even if with a zesty citrus twist to it.

by Juliet Linley

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