Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Charcoal Burners Fairy Tale

Grimm's Saga No. 527

The Origin of the Zaehringer People

The Saga reveals that in days of old the Dukes of Zaehringen had been charcoal burners. They lived in the mountains where they erected their dwellings and in the forests they built their castles. These buildings still stand today and it is here they burned charcoal. Now it happened that whilst the charcoal burners were burning their charcoal, they seized an area of ground and established a pile of charcoal with the intent of burning it all down to the very last bit. But as one of the men was removing the charcoal he discovered in the ground a heavy, molten object, and as he examined it he saw it was heavy silver. So in the future he always burned charcoal at the very same spot, covered it with the same ground and earth but always found silver as before. He soon noticed it was the mountain itself that produced the silver, but kept this secret. Each day he burned charcoal there and finally accumulated a large treasure of silver.

Now it happened that a King had been driven from his own kingdom and fled with his wife, children and servants into the mountains of Breisgau to a place called Kaiserstuhl. There he and his clan suffered the greatest poverty. He issued a proclamation that whoever would offer help to regain his kingdom would become a duke and would marry a daughter of the king. When the charcoal burner heard this, he went before the king heavily laden with silver and desired to become his son and marry the king’s daughter, also to acquire the land and region – now where Zaehringen, the castle and the city of Freiburg can be found. In return he would give the king such treasure of silver that he would be able to recover his entire kingdom.

When the king heard this he agreed. He took the enormous load of silver and gave the charcoal burner his daughter in marriage, and he now looked upon him as his own son; also he gave him as much of the land as he desired. The son began his enterprise and allowed the ore to be melted. In return he received a large property and built the town of Zaehringen including the castle. The Roman King therefore made him Duke of Zaehringen. The Duke then went on to build Freiburg and even more towns and castles. And now that he had become powerful, his property, power and honor had grown and so  he became proud and wicked. One day he called to his own cook and ordered that he roast a young child for dinner because he longed to discover the taste of human flesh. The cook followed his master’s orders and will and when the child had been roasted and presented to the king at the table and the king saw what he had done, he was seized with terror and fright and he felt only remorse and sorrow at the sin he had committed. To atone for this sin he had two monasteries built in the Black Forest; the first St. Ruprecht, the second St. Peter. He did this so that God would be merciful and forgive him for his terrible deed.

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