This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wild Tuerst and Straeggele of Christmas


From Switzerland: the Wild Tuerst and Straeggele of Christmas Tide

In ancient times a beautiful daughter of a rich man lived in the Entlibuch in the hill country outside of Luzerne. True, she had both beauty and riches, but the townspeople did not like her. It was because she led a wild, unseemly life. Instead of behaving properly like other girls, the young maid whistled through her fingers, called out to her hunting dog and then blew into her horn. Early in the morning she took off in hot pursuit of all manner of wild animals.  Deer and stag, even the ferocious wolf fled from her when she, raving, shouting and waving her spear, entered the forest.  Then her dog yapped loudly and from every mountain crevice came a terrifying echo.
The years passed in this manner and soon the wild maid no longer went to church. While other people were called to mass when the church bells rang, she took up the spear and ran with her dog into the forest to hunt the wild beasts. The town folk all shook their heads and said things would end badly for her. The demonic Tuerst would come and fetch the wanton maid, they murmured, when it flew through the forest like the storm wind.
One Christmas Eve there was a knock at the door where the rich daughter of Entlibach resided. When the servant opened he saw a young, slim man standing at the gate who asked for a night’s lodging. In the morning he said he would go out with the maid on a friendly hunt. Both man and maid servant recoiled when they heard these words, but they had to allow the late guest to enter the house, even if he did not appear to be a knight.
The beautiful daughter greeted the man with a loud “hello”. He replied that he loved the hunt above everything else. And so it was decided that the next morning the two would set out on Holy Christmas Eve to undertake a wolf hunt in the nearby mountain forest. The girl did indeed notice that the lean knight had not said from where he came, but she did not think long about it. The main thing was that she had found a handsome and agile hunting partner for the following day.
The next morning when the bells in the church tower rang out, villagers came from all around. All but the strange knight. He said to the maiden: “Leave these people, let them go into the church. Come! We shall go out on the hunt!”
So they were of good cheer, laughing and carousing, equipped with their spear and bow, they went out into the night accompanied only by the maid’s hunting dog. On their way to mass, the church folk passed the wild pair and watched how the revelers disappeared in the forest.
It was not long before they were deep within the dark wood. The maid was just about to take her spear and fling it after a deer, when her strange hunting companion gripped her raised arm and said in an icy voice and with eyes that burned through her like fire: “It is true I hunt the beasts of the forest, but you have never once listened to your conscience. You have committed sacrilege against God! Now you are mine and shall be like me! You shall fill people full of terror!”
He stretched upward and grew and grew into a giant. In revulsion the maid recognized that it was the Wild Tuerst. She screamed, she ran, how gladly she would have run into the church! But it was too late. The huntsman grew without stopping. She, too, grew alongside the fearsome hunter, until she was taller than the trees. The barking dog next to her also grew until he had become a monster. At once the wild Tuerst  began to storm across hill and dale, until it finally seemed as if all the wild creatures in the forest were raging.
The villagers, who were still making their way to church, witnessed the procession of these giant figures. They saw in the pale light how a dark abyss opened in the ground, and how it then swallowed the Tuerst and the Straeggele.  
After that Christmas Eve when the wild maid did not return home, word of her fate spread among the villagers. The Tuerst had fetched the Straeggele and the pair would now have to go out hunting until judgment day. For many years on starry winter evenings when the wind whistled around the houses, the villagers often saw two shadowy giants with their dog storming across the bleak sky. And if they heard a bell ring somewhere in the distance, they said it was the Straeggle – maid. But then the Tuerst only blew harder into his horn so that the villagers had to pull the coverlets over their eyes and hide in terror.

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