The old castle Hudemuehle is on the Lueneburg Heath not far from the Aller River. You can still see the remnants of its stone walls embedded in the soft earth. A long time ago a mysterious house spirit haunted the castle. The spirit called himself Hinzelmann and he appeared in the year 1584 at the lord’s Christmas feast. It was said that the spirit revealed himself to the gathered revelers with banging, screeching and clanging sounds. The lord was soon annoyed, his guests frightened and all left the party early. But soon Hinzelmann appeared frequently to the castle inhabitants until he no longer frightened anyone. Many castle dwellers heard his voice or discovered the fruits of his labour: freshly baked bread, a cleanly swept room, chopped wood and fire on the hearth. By day he could be seen walking casually through the corridors. At night his snoring could be heard in the attic bedroom and the maid could discern a small indentation in the pillow where he slept. It was only a matter of time before he started to engage in conversation with the servants and soon with the lord himself. He was happy to perform a variety of kitchen tasks, and especially liked to help the servants prepare feasts. While he worked he usually sang or laughed loudly. He especially liked to appear at dinners and parties dressed in colorful garb wearing a mask. Often he would perform tricks, recite poetry and play the harp. He loved to reveal secrets people thought lay deeply hidden within their hearts. He would often blurt out some indiscretion and then laugh uncontrollably.
Once at the Andreas Night Feast he announced to the celebrants that the lord of the castle thought his wife was a bit too thin and dour. He added that the lord himself had had a difficult time recently mounting his horse after a visit to the tavern. After this announcement, all guests turned to look at the lord, who did not laugh. But the spirit continued, giving his master no time to reply. He announced that he would soon wed his lovely bride Hille Bingels. He planned to celebrate his marriage at the upcoming Christmas Pageant and asked all to attend. The lord of the castle, now quivering with rage blurted out “You with your bulbous nose! No one would marry you!. The bells on your boots are much too loud and annoying. If only you would go away!” With that the entire assembly fell silent. Some thought a single tear slid down Hinzelmann’s cheek before he vanished.
There was much hustle and bustle around the castle as the Christmas feast approached. Rooms had to be opened and beds made for the coming guests. Food had to be prepared. The musicians had to practice their music, the singers their song. In short, life at the castle hummed like a beehive. During this time the corridors were monitored, the bedrooms checked, the kitchen watched to see if Hinzelmann would return. But he did not frequent the kitchen as was his habit nor did he appear in the corridors whistling merrily. It seemed to all that he had abandoned the castle. It was rumoured that he had taken offense and the cook said ’twas a pity, for he had been a good worker.
As Christmas day approached, the servants ran to and fro, the mistress of the house oversaw the decorating of the great hall and the lord sampled and selected the wines and stout. The day before the feast, the lord announced an even larger guest list than originally anticipated. This sent the cook and the servants scurrying. It was not surprising that everyone had forgotten poor Hinzelmann.
At last it was Christmas. The pageant began cheerfully and peacefully enough. The entire hall was decked with fragrant greenery, the tables were all set, the hall was filled with merry-makers and singers. The most delicious food was served to the guests and wine flowed. As the hour approached midnight, the lord’s entertainers now brought forth their musical instruments. But soon a faint tinkling of bells could be heard above the cheerful melody. At first it seemed as if bells were ringing far away but then the sound grew into violent metallic clanging. When the noise erupted into a loud roar, Hinzelmann burst into the center of the hall. He wore bright clothing, a cap with bells and a mask covered his eyes. “I shall perform a magic trick for your enjoyment!” he cried. With that he conjured up a little pony, which danced and pranced in a circle. “Me, my, mo, Up you now go!” he cried. He held up a rope, which now extended to the ceiling and up the rope the pony did go until it finally disappeared. “Now I shall introduce my lovely bride, Hille Bingels, applause please!” With that a diminutive form was seen illuminated next to him. She appeared as a dainty speck of light, likewise wore a mask and a costume of many colors. There was wild applause as Hille, too, made her ascent and vanished into the ceiling along with the pony. Gasps of amazement could be heard from all present as Hinzelman swirled around and around. “Look, my dear friends,” he cried out “His bulbous nose!” and he gripped his sides in laughter and pointed to the lord at the head table. The laughter faded into gasps as each person in the audience first gazed upon the lord and then touched his own nose. Each guest’s nose had grown into a round, potato-sized appendage but the lord of the castle, his nose was the size of a ripe pumpkin. Amid cries of terror, shrieks of alarm the chimes of bells could be heard once more. “Me, my, mo, Up the rope I now go!” and with that the Hinzelmann flew up the rope and vanished.
The guests were left gripping their noses. Some rushed to the windows and saw Hinzelmann and his bride in a sled, racing from the castle laughing merrily. Soon the sound of sleigh bells became faint and vanished altogether. Some thought it was a dream. But one of the ladies who had attended found a bell from Hinzelman’s hat lying on the floor. She kept it and treasured it forever. And to this day the people who live near the Aller River all have rather bulbous noses.
My story is now told, the light grown old.
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