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.
From the Gesta Romanorum The oldest collection of European fairy tales and legends from the Middle Ages compiled by Hermann Hesse.
The Three Journeymen*
A story of heaven and how to get there.
Three journeymen once went out to seek work and it happened that between the three of them they had no more than one piece of bread and could find no other nourishment. And still they were very hungry, and thus spoke to each other: "If we divide this bread into thirds, it won't satisfy the hunger of any of us. Let us consider this dilemma in a reasonable way and decide how we should deal with this bread."
One of them replied: "Let us all lie down to sleep on the street and each one shall dream. Whoever has the most wonderful dream shall have the entire piece of bread." The other two replied: "Your advice is good," and they began to sleep. But the one who had offered the advice got up while the others slept and ate all of the bread. He didn't leave a single crumb for his fellow travelers. When he had finished he awoke his comarades and said: "Get up quickly, it is time for each to tell his dream."
The first fellow said: "Dear friends, I had a most wonderful dream. A golden ladder descended from heaven to earth on which angels ascended and descended. They guided my soul out of my body into heaven. When I arrived there, I saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So much happiness resided in my soul and never before has an eye bore witness to nor an ear heard what I perceived. And that was my dream."
The second fellow said: "In my dream a devil came with iron and burning tools, tore my soul from my body, abused me and spoke: "As long as God reigns in heaven you shall remain in this place."
The third fellow replied: "But listen to my dream! It was as if an angel came to me and said: "Dearest one, do you want to see where your comarades are?" I replied: "Yes, my lord. We were to divide the bread between us but I fear that they have run off with it." But the angel replied: "No, that is not the case, the bread is lying next to us, follow me."
The angel then led me to heaven's door and I, per his request, poked my head behind the door and saw what seemed to be you being led away into heaven. You sat on a golden throne and had many splendid wines and meals before you. And the angel spoke: "See, your fellow journeyman lives in abundance among many friends, enjoys sumptious meals and shall stay there for an eternity. For whosoever has entered heaven can never leave. Come with me, I want to show you what has happened to your other comrade."
But as I followed him he led me to the door of hell and I saw you, and as you have said, you were suffering the most severe torment. But because large quantities of bread and wine were being brought to you, I asked: "O dear friend, I don't want you to lie in such misery!". But you replied: "As long as God reigns in heaven, I will remain here, because I deserve it. Quickly get up and eat the entire piece of bread, then you will once more see our fellow journeyman." So I, as you have seen, arose and ate the entire piece of bread, as you commanded.
From the German, Translation FairyTaleChannel.com
* A person who has completed an apprenticeship and qualified to work in a trade in return for a daily wage. (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
I would like to thank all of you for your interest in fairy tales and following my blog. While I have translated most of the tales on this blog, as a result of a recent and rather long illness I have not been able to translate as before. Therefore I think it only appropriate to acknowledge and thank my editor, reviser and text consultant for all the support he has provided in continuing this blog. I hope our collaboration will be able to continue and we will be able to publish both well-known and obscure tales. Please feel free to provide your feedback. At this stage in my illness it would be very nice to hear from some of the readers who love fairy and folk tales as much as I do. Take care and God bless!
One time long ago two sorceresses met while residing in a public house. They carried two pails or buckets of water with them, which they placed in a special spot, each discussing with the other whether the contents of these vessels should be made into corn schnaps or wine. The innkeeper, who secretly stood in the corner, listened carefully and in the evening when the two women had gone to bed he took the pails and poured them over the two women sleeping. The water became ice and in that very hour the two both froze to death.
How to Influence the Weather with Hailstones and Winter Gales
Grimm's Saga No. 251: Making Weather and Hail
In Berlin two women with supernatural powers were caught in the year 1553 because they knew the art of ice-making. Through their powers these wives were able to ruin the fruits of trees and had snatched the small child of a neighbor woman, gruesomely dismembering the body and cooking it in small pieces. But it happened that through God's grace, the mother searching for her babe came upon the lost child with its little limbs jutting out of the cooking pot. Now both wives were caught and interrogated under torture during which they admitted that if their cooking had not been halted, a frigid frost with ice and storm would have descended on all and ruined the fruit.
There lived a woman in Hembach whose son of barely sixteen
years was named Johannes. She took this son to the Witch’s gathering. Because
he knew how to whistle, she demanded that he whistle while they danced.And so that he could be heard by the dancers,
he was told to climb the highest tree. The young lad followed these
instructions, and climbed the tree. He sat and whistled down upon the group
that danced with such verve and because everything seemed so wonderfully odd he
called out foolishly: “May dear God protect you, from whence comes such dotty
and absurd riff raff? He had hardly spoken these words when he
fell from the tree, sprained his shoulder and cried out that the assembled
should come to his aid. But there was no one there, only him alone.
In the Detter Mountains, three hours from Muenster,
lived a Wild Man by the name of Grinkenschmidt. He lived deep in a hole beneath
the ground, covered with grass and straw and you can still see today where it
once was. In that hole deep below the soil he made things of iron, rod-like and no one could open these artifacts.
Much has been said about King Ludwig’s hardiness and strength. Also the following story has been told: King Ludwig was on a war campaign when a porch or chamber collapsed under his weight. He fell down and his rib jutted out. But he concealed the injury from everyone, completed his trip and it was said that those who accompanied him heard his rib rattling in the procession. When all was done he moved on toward Ach and lay there in bed two months and had his wounds bound properly.
Fairy Tale of the Little KittenA Tale from the German by Ludwig Bechstein
Once a poor wife went into the forest to fetch wood. As she was returning with her burden, she saw a sickly little cat lying behind the fence and it was meowing woefully. The poor woman took pity and carried the little animal home in her apron. But on the way she encountered her own two children. When they saw what their mother was carrying, they asked: “Mother, what are you carrying?“ And both wanted to hold the kitten. But the woman had sympathy for the little creature and would not give it to her children thinking they might bother or tease it, or torment it in some other way. Instead she went home and placed it on a soft cloth and gave it milk to drink. When the kitten had lapped up the milk and had returned to health, it suddenly vanished. After some time the poor woman returned to the forest and with a bundle of wood on her back, she came to the spot where she had found the sick kitten . Now there stood a beautiful woman. She waved to the poor wife and threw five knitting needles into her apron. The woman didn’t know what to think and expressed her gratitude for the strange gift. In the evening she placed the five knitting needles on the table. But the next morning when the woman was leaving home, a pair of new, freshly knitted stockings lay on the table. The poor wife was filled with wonder and the next evening she placed the knitting needles on the table once again. In the morning new stockings lay on the table. Now she noticed that the reward for her compassion was the gift of these hard-working needles. She allowed them to knit every night until she and her children had enough. Then she sold the stockings and had plenty for all the days of her life.
Loki, the sly one, often brought his comrades into unpleasant predicaments.
Once he stole Frouwa’s feather dress out of boredom and flew through the world as brilliantly-plumed falcon. From the air he saw thick clouds of smoke rising out of an enormous tree. Filled with curiosity he flew closer and saw that the tree was part of the stronghold of the giant Geirröd. “Perhaps I shall find a tasty meal here,” Loki thought and alighted on the windowsill so he could catch a glimpse inside. When the giant discovered the beautiful falcon, he immediately commanded the capture of the rare bird. Before he knew what was happening, Loki was captured by the giant king.
The giant king looked deep into the eyes of the bird and knew immediately that this was no ordinary falcon but a higher being. Because Loki did not say a word about his origins, the giant king locked him in a cage and let him starve. It took three months before Loki admitted where he came from. The king was very happy that he finally had a surety over the gods of Asen and decided not to let this opportunity slip by. When Loki asked to be released, the king replied that he could return to Asgard if he promised to bring Thor back to Gerrödsgard without his hammer or any other weapons.
Loki promised everything so desperate was he to regain his freedom. He was also so crafty that he was able to lure the good-natured Thor back to Gerrödsgard without his weapons. On the way Thor met the giantess Grid, who saw through Gerröd’s intentions and gave Thor three weapons: a belt that bestowed strength on the wearer, a pair of iron gloves and a staff.
Both Thor and Loki soon detected how treacherous Gerröd’s plans were. First they came to the wide and turbulent Wimur River and had to wade through the rushing floods. Thor fastened his strength-giving belt, took the staff of the giantess against the waves and stepped confidently into the stream. When they had both reached the middle of the stream, the water surged up dangerously around them. The god thundered into the crashing waves: “Do not surge, Wimur. I am wading to the giant’s house! If you surge, my godly strength shall surge to the heavens!”
Thor saw how Gerröd’s daughter Gialp stood on the river bank and caused the turbulence of the river. Quickly he seized a granite block from the river bed and drove away the malicious maiden. He grasped the branches of a rowan (bird-berry) tree standing on shore and pulled himself onto land. The old adage reminds us of this feat: “The rowan tree is Thor’s salvation.”
After wandering a short time, Thor and Loki now entered the fortress of the giants. Fatigued, Thor sank onto the only chair in the great hall. He had hardly taken his seat when he noticed that he was being lifted higher and higher. Finally he was only a small distance from the ceiling and would soon be crushed. He didn’t wait long. Pushing against the ceiling he pressed the chair down to the floor again. A loud crashing sound and loud screams revealed that something was caught under the chair. He looked down and found both of the giant’s daughters lying lifelessly underneath with broken necks.
Thor was now summoned by a servant of Gerröd himself. When he entered the hall he saw flames rising up the walls and chambers. Before he could look around, a burning iron wedge came flying at him, catapulted by Gerröd’s own hand. Any other would have been destroyed. Thor caught the burning iron in his iron-gloved hand and threw it back with such force, that the wedge not only bore through the pillar, which the giant quickly fled behind, but also hit the giant in the middle of his heart, continuing on with such force that it penetrated the wall behind the giant and became embedded in the earth beyond.
The giant lay dead on the ground. Thor propped up the giant who now became petrified into stone. The giant stood for centuries in this position and Germanic tribes believed the site was a testament to the violent power of the thunder god.
According to Uhland, Gerröd the giant represents the unbearable heat of high summer that burns like fire. The giant’s two daughters are the flooding of mountain streams after the heavy storms of midsummer. The harmful manifestations of weather are not caused by Thor, but by evil giants. That is why the thunder god fights and neutralizes them.