In this fairy tale for Easter: the blasphemy of harp playing, the incredible power of the first blossoms of spring, and a fairy vision.
From the village of Kesseling you can take the road near Weidenbach and travel toward Kaltenborn. About three hours past the AareRiver you arrive at the Castle of High Regard. This fortress belonged to one of the knights of Kaltenborn. Later in life this knight had to relinquish the fort to the Archbishop of Cologne, only to seize the property back from this powerful cleric when it became a well-fortified and protected fief. In the last century the ruins of the old castle finally vanished when the last of its owners abandoned it once and for all. These owners lived in Cologne but were not of the Hoacht lineage and did not bear the name.
In ancient times a wild and dissipated robber-baron lived at Hoacht. On the Eve before Easter he and his knights profaned the holy feast with vile dancing, harp music and gluttony. Suddenly the heavens blackened and the sound of their raucous boozing was interrupted with a loud roar. From black clouds came bolts of lightning and thunder could be heard louder and louder. All of the revelers whitened in fear and froze in terror. A lightning bolt hit the chamber and soon flames burst through the doors and windows. The walls crackled and caved under the terrible raging storm, finally crushing the assembled and burying them in the debris.
It was said the robber baron had unimaginable treasures of gold, silver and gems, also valuable utensils and objects hidden in the chambers of his castle. But all trace of such things had vanished in the rubble.
Many years after the fall of the castle, a knight appeared on the Eve before Easter. Alighting on the shore of the Rhine River, his oarsman told him the legend of Hoacht Castle. According to the saga, only one without blemish and pure of heart would be granted a vision of the castle’s treasures. This was the Easter Eve of legend and the oarsman urged the young knight not to hesitate but hasten up the path to the fortress before midnight.
Together oarsman and knight hurried up the stony path. It seemed to widen as they went along, until finally at the top of the mountain it opened into a huge chasm. There stood a maiden clothed in snow-white garments. She motioned to the knight with her hand that he should approach while she slowly placed a lily on the ground. If the knight had been thinking properly, he would have immediately seized the flower. But alas, he did not. She motioned a second time and pointed to a hidden spot below the ground.
The knight believed she was pointing to the place the treasure lay buried. That is why he approached the spot but left the lily lying where she had placed it.
At one o’clock there was a terrible noise. The robber baron of yore now stood before the young knight with drinking cup in hand, just as he had stood hundreds of years before. His drinking companions surrounded him, throwing silver and gold coins into the air. But before the knight and oarsman could pick up one of the gold pieces, they all vanished. The lily which the maiden had placed on the ground now became an enormous viper, with thrashing tail and hissing tongue. The knight and oarsman had to retreat from the mountain to safety and were not able to retrieve any of the castle’s treasures.
As they ran down the steep path to the river, scornful laughter followed.
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The days are getting longer as we approach spring! We have set our clocks forward so I encourage you to read the following fairy tale about the moon, the cosmos, and time itself (and follow the link below to read about a 3,600-year-old bronze age clock that told man it was spring). Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 175: The Moon
In ancient times there was a land where night was always dark. It was as if the heavens were covered by a black cloth that hung over it because there was no rising moon and no star to blink through the vault of darkness. When the world was created, evening light had sufficed.
From this land four young men went out traveling. They reached another realm, where the sun vanished behind the mountains at night and where a bright ball stood on an oak tree pouring soft light far and wide. In this light you could still see everything and distinguish objects even if the light wasn’t as bright as the sun. The wanderers stood still and asked a farmer, who was driving by in his wagon what kind of light it was. “That is the moon,” he answered. “Our mayor bought it for three talers and fastened it to the oak tree. Every day he pours oil into it, keeps it clean, and makes sure it always burns brightly. For this work, he receives one taler from us every week.”
When the farmer had driven away, one of the four said “We could use a lamp like that. At home we have an oak tree that is just as big. We could hang the light there. How happy we would be if at night we didn’t have to grope around in the darkness!”
“Do you know what!” the second fellow said, “Let’s get a wagon and a horse and take the moon away with us. They can buy another one here.”
“I’m a good climber,” the third one said. “I will go and bring it down!” The fourth brought the wagon and horse and the third climbed the tree, drilled a hole in the moon, pulled a rope through and lowered it to the ground. When the glimmering sphere lay safely in the wagon, they placed a cloth over it so that no one would notice the theft. They brought it safely to their country and put it high up in an oak tree. Old and young alike rejoiced when the new lamp spread its light over all the fields and illuminated the rooms and chambers. The gnomes came out of their rock caves and the brownies in their red jackets danced their lovely roundelay in the meadows.
The four fellows filled the moon with oil, tended the wick and each week received one taler in exchange. But they became old men and when one took ill and foresaw his death, he arranged that the quarter of the moon that was his own would be buried along with him in his grave. When he died, the mayor climbed up the tree and using a hedge shear, cut a quarter off and placed it in his coffin. The light of the moon diminished, but not noticeably. When the second fellow died, the second quarter was placed in his grave and the light diminished again. It became even weaker with the death of the third fellow, who also took his portion. When the fourth man was laid in his grave, the old darkness returned. If people went out of their homes without lanterns, they bumped their heads against each other.
But when the portions of the moon were reunited in the underworld, the dead became restless where once darkness had ruled. They awoke from their sleep. They were amazed that they could see again: the light of the moon was enough, because their eyes had grown so weak they could not bear the light of the sun. They got up, became happy and resumed their old way of life. One group went out dancing and playing, others went out to taverns, where they demanded wine, got drunk, went wild and argued with each other. Finally, they raised their clubs and beat each other. The noise became louder and meaner and finally reached heaven itself.
Saint Peter, who guarded heaven’s gate, believed that the underworld had fallen into rebellion. He called out to the heavenly host to come together and fight back the evil one, who wanted to storm the domain of the blessed. But when they never arrived, he mounted his horse and rode through heaven’s gate down into the underworld. There he calmed the dead and told them to return to their graves. And he took the moon with him, where he hung it in heaven.
A wonderful and strange fairy tale for the frozen days of March: only iron bands can keep a true heart from breaking.
In times of old when wishing still helped, there lived a king, whose daughters were all extremely beautiful. But the youngest one was so beautiful that the sun, which had seen so much in its day, was amazed whenever it gazed upon her face. Near the king’s castle lay a dark wood and in the wood underneath an old linden tree there was a water well. If the day was very hot, the king’s child went out to the forest and sat at the edge of the cool spring. And if the child was bored, it took a golden ball, threw it in the air and caught it; and that was the child’s favorite plaything.
Now it happened that the golden ball of the king’s daughter did not fall into her little hands, but rather hit the ground and rolled directly into the water. The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but the ball disappeared and the well was so deep that it was impossible to see the bottom. She began to cry and cried louder and louder and was inconsolable. And as she cried, some one called to her “You, daughter of the king, what are you doing? You are crying in a manner that even a stone would take pity.” She looked round to see where the voice was coming from, and there she saw a frog that poked its hideous head out of the water. “Oh it’s you, you old puddle splasher,” she said. “I am crying over my golden ball, which fell into the well.” “Be still and do not cry,” the frog replied. “I can help. But what will you give me if I fetch your plaything?” “Whatever you want, dear frog,” she said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, but also the golden crown that I am wearing.” But the frog replied “I don’t want your clothes, your pearls or jewelry. And your golden crown, that I surely don’t want. But if you will love me and I will be your mate and play fellow, I will sit at the little table next to you, eat from your little golden plate, drink from your little cup and sleep in your little bed. If you promise me that, I will dive down and fetch the golden ball.” “Oh yes,” she answered. “I promise you everything you want as long as you bring me the ball.” But she was really thinking “How that simple frog prattles on. He sits in the water with his own kind and croaks and can never be the mate of a human.”
The frog, when he had received her promise, dipped his head below the surface, sank deep into the water and after a while he swam to the top again. He held the ball in his mouth and threw it on the grass. The king’s daughter was filled with joy when she saw her wonderful plaything. She picked it up and jumped away with it immediately. “Wait, wait,” the frog yelled. “Take me with you, I can’t run like you.” But what good did it do that his loud croaking followed her, cry as he may! She didn’t listen, hurried home and soon forgot about the poor frog, who had to climb back to his water well.
The next day, when she sat down with the king and his entire court to dinner and ate from her little golden plate, something crept up the marble steps, plitsch, platsch, plitsch, platsch. When it reached the top it knocked on the door and cried “King’s daughter, youngest one, open the door for me.” She ran and wanted to see who it was. But when she opened the door, there stood the frog. She shut the door hastily and returned to the table and was very frightened. The king saw that her heart was pounding and said “My child, what do you fear, is a giant standing at the door to snatch you away?” “Oh no,” she answered, “It is no giant but a loathsome frog.” “What does the frog want with you?” “Oh dear father, when I went to the wood yesterday and sat by the well and played, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog fetched it. And because he demanded it, I promised that he would be my mate. I never thought that he would creep out his water. Now he is outside and wants to come in.” And the frog knocked on the door a second time and called
“King’s daughter, youngest one, Open the door for me, Don’t you remember yesterday? What you promised me By the cool water well? King’s daughter, youngest one, Open the door for me.
The king said “What you have promised, you must also keep. Go now and open the door for him.” She went and opened the door and the frog hopped inside, followed right behind her feet and went to her chair. There he sat and called “Lift me up to you.” She shuddered, until finally the king commanded it. When the frog sat on the chair, it wanted to be on the table and when it sat there it said “Now slide your little golden plate over to me, so that we can eat together.” She did it, but one could see she did not do it gladly. The frog ate heartily but almost every bite lodged in the princess’s throat. Finally he said “I’m full now and tired. Carry me into your little chamber and make up your silk bed, where we can lay down.” The king’s daughter began to cry and was scared of the cold frog, which she didn’t even want to touch. And now he wanted to sleep in her beautiful clean bed. But the king became angry and said “Whoever has helped you when you were in need, you should not forget later.” She picked him up with two fingers and carried him up and put him in the corner. But when she lay in bed, he crept over and said “I’m tired, I want to go to bed like you. Lift me up or I will tell your father.” She was seized by such a bitter rage that she snatched him up and threw him against the wall with all her might. “Now you will have the rest you seek, you loathsome frog.”
But when he fell down, he was no frog but rather a prince with beautiful and friendly eyes. It had been her father’s will that he become her dearest mate and husband. He told her he had been hexed by an evil witch and no one but she could save him from the water well. Tomorrow they would go to his kingdom . They fell asleep and the next morning when the sun woke them, a carriage drove up with eight white horses. The horses had white ostrich feathers on their heads and walked in golden chains and behind stood the servant of the young king. It was True Heinrich. True Heinrich was so aggrieved when his master had been turned into a frog, that he had three iron bands placed round his heart so that it would not burst for pain and sadness. The carriage now fetched the young king to take him to his kingdom. True Heinrich lifted up both, stepped behind and was filled with joy over the prince’s redemption. And when they had traveled some distance, the prince heard a loud sound behind him, as if something was breaking. He turned and called
“Heinrich, the carriage is breaking.” No, dear sir, not the carriage, But the band round my heart, In pitiable suffering, Whilst you sat in the spring And were a frog.”
Again and again the sound was heard and the prince thought the wagon was breaking. But it was only the bands around the heart of True Heinrich, as they broke, because his master was redeemed and now was exceedingly happy.