Grimm’s Saga No. 51: Dance with the Waterman
In the year 1547 on the first Sunday in the month of Julius, the entire village gathered according to an old custom at the old Laibach market near the fountain, under the cheerful shade of a beautiful linden tree. Here they ate their meal in a joyful, communal spirit whilst music played and not a few danced merrily. After a while a finely shaped, well-dressed young swain entered the throng, as if he wanted to join in the dance. He nodded politely to the assembled folk and offered each dancer his hand in a friendly way. But his grip was limp and ice-cold and upon touching his hand, a gray shudder went through the limb of the person he greeted. Soon he selected from the group a splendidly adorned, fresh-faced but impudent maid, who was known as Ursula the shepherdess and began the dance. He was a graceful dancer and commanded all the unusual steps. After they had danced wildly with each other for a time, they veered from the platform, which had marked off the dance space and swirled ever farther and farther away. From the Linden tree across the Sittich square and on down to the Laibach River, where he in the presence of many seamen, grabbed the waist of his partner and jumped into the splashing waters. Both disappeared before their very eyes.
The linden tree stood until 1638, when it had to be chopped down because of age.
Fairy Tale Factum:
According to folk tradition it was believed that a Wasserman (or Nix) held fast to the souls of the drowned in his underwater dwelling. Varying accounts describe him as having either a beautiful form or an ugly and terrible countenance. Like dancing, the church uniformly frowned upon these spirits and equated them with the diabolical and dangerous. Folk tradition, however, preserves a certain amount of awe and reverence for them.
St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers for allegedly his powers included the ability to alleviate Tanzwut or hysterical dancing mania. The symptoms included frenzied leaping and swirling, even uncontrollable gyrations. Folk tradition often frowns on dancing and music, for it seems these two pastimes inevitably led to the unhinging of village youth. Unfortunately in this story the impudent Ursula could not be rescued by St. Vitus. Perhaps his cult had not yet been sufficiently established in Laibach or had already been diminished after the Reformation. Of interest in this saga is the description of a rather romanticized peasant life, with al fresco dancing, eating and celebrating at the height of summer on the village green. Two characteristics described in this tale can still be found today in many towns throughout Europe: the linden (or lime) tree and the fountain on the square.
Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
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