We are on the Danish island of Funen (Fyn), near Odense.
Hidden among the dusty rafters beneath Egeskov Castle spire is a curious wooden doll.
No one knows to whom it belonged, how old the doll is, how long it has been there, or how it came to be left in the dark attic of the imposing 16th-century castle. The dust-covered figure is the size of a child and has been left, as if asleep, on a old pillow.
Egeskov Castle is one of 123 manor houses and castles on the island. The Renaissance castle is at the heart of a 20 ha park that is part of a much bigger commercial farm.
Egeskov is Danish for “oak wood” as it is claimed an entire oak forest was felled for its construction.
Built in the middle of a lake that provides a defensive moat, the castle has been home to the same family since 1784.
And, since then or maybe even before, a story has been passed down through the generations about the wooden doll in the castle’s attic.
According to the legend, if the wooden doll is moved from its cushion on the rafters, then the castle will sink into the moat on Christmas Eve.
For obvious reasons, previous generations that lived within the castle refused to spend Christmas at the manor, fearing that the creepy tale would come true.
However, the current occupants, Count Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille and his family have instead taken on a Danish festive tradition that is usually reserved for elves: they leave a bowl of rice pudding for the wooden man and, as a result, they have spent several Christmases at the castle without any major incidents or mishaps.
Either way, be careful when looking at the doll. Nobody wants to be the person who crashed the castle into the moat.
And, weather the legend is true or not, why take the chance?