The Shepherd Boy met a Tiny Animal

An interesting story which mentions even the year!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the year 1664, a young boy from Dresden took care of the herd of the village. One morning when he was taking his sheep for grazing, he spotted an unusual stone on the roadside. It was of moderate size, but it was jumping on the ground by itself. The curious boy stepped closer and looked at the stone. After sometime, he picked it up from the ground. As soon as he lifted the stone, a young meerkat hopped surprising him; then stood in front of the shepherd boy looking straight at him. Then it said in a human voice, “I was deported deep inside the ground, now you have brought me back to life. I will be happy to serve you now. Give me some work. I have to keep myself engaged. “

The flabbergasted boy somehow replied, “Well, you should help me to look after my sheep then.” Following his order, the tiny manlike animal guarded the flock like an expert shepherd till the evening.

In the evening, the boy was preparing to take the flock to the village. The meerkat said, “I want to go with you wherever you go.”

The boy replied without more ado, “I cannot take you to my house. I have a stepfather and several siblings. My father would beat me badly if I get another mouth to feed with me. Our home is too small to accommodate another person.”

“But you have accepted me once”, protested the ghostly creature, “if you do not want me for yourself, you have to keep me with someone else elsewhere.”

So the boy directed him to his childless neighbour’s house. The meerkat found a proper home there forever thereafter.  

The Den of the Dragon

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

The story comes from Switzerland but it has another version in Austria

In the canton of Bern, a cave near the city of Burgdorf, which is famous for its castle is called Drachenloch, in English – Dragon-cave. They say two giant dragons were found here long back before the castle was built.

According to the local legend, in the year 712, two brothers named Syntram and Beltram, whom others called Guntram and Waltram were the dukes of Lensburg. They came to this area to hunt and discovered the deserted forest on the top of the hills. In a cave there, lied a monstrous dragon which had desolated the entire area till far. It was probably starving as there was no other animal left in the forest. As soon as it noticed the humans, it jumped at them and instantly devoured Bertram, his younger brother, alive. Syntram however was able to defend himself. He charged at the dragon with indomitable courage. After a long fight, he finally defeated the wild creature. The giant’s big stomach was split – Beltram was still alive inside.

The two brothers now had a reason to immortalize their victory. They decided to build a castle here and constructed a chapel dedicated to Holy Margaretha on the spot where the dragon was killed. The story of their encounter with the dragon was inscribed on its wall.

The Village at the Sea-side

A Story from Holstein

A holy man walked to the shore, looked at the sky and went on praying. As it was the Sunday afternoon, all the villagers came to celebrate there well dressed – mostly in shining silks, with their sweethearts in their arms. They began jeering at the saint’s devoutness. He did not pay attention to their words. What’s more – he prayed to God not to attribute that sin of mocking at a saint to them.

But God has his own will. Two oxen entered the village next morning. They walked straight towards the sand-dune close to the village and began rummaging it with their long crooked horns. They continued doing so till the nightfall, till the time they went invisible in the darkness. The night came with a strong stormy wind that blew the entire loose mountain of sand over the village. Whole village including agricultural fields and water bodies were soon buried under the layer of sand. Nothing that could breathe survived.

Again in next morning, people from nearby village gathered to measure the loss and dig up the buried land. They worked all day, but at night came the storm to cover everything again. For many days they toiled hard during daytime to remove the sand while a sandstorm buried everything again at night. Finally people gave up. And the village looks like a desert even today.

German Warden Sea – Schlesswig Holstein : picture from Wikimedia commons

Story of Nickel Brothers

In the island of Rügen a deep lake lies in a dense forest. The lake is abundant in fishes, but its water is muddy, and for the same reason, one cannot fish well in the lake.

However, many years back one group of fishermen planned fishing here. They brought their boats into this lake, caught good amount of fish and at the end of the day, returned home with their fishing nets. But the next day when they came back to the lake, all the boats and barges had disappeared. One of the fishermen tried to find out what had happened. He looked around and found his boat stuck on the top of a tall tree. He screamed: “Who is the devil who took my boat on the tree?”

A voice answered from seemingly a spitting distance: “Not all the devils did that. Only I and my brother Nickel did it together!” None could see the speaker.

Obvious that none of the fishermen came back to the lake again.


Carl Gustav Carus – Mondnacht bei Rügen from Wikimedia Commons.

An apparently absurd story which reveals some historical fact related to early metal mining activities in German speaking regions. Nick derived from Saint Nicholas was considered as another name of devil. But German Nickel has added significance. German miners in 17th-18th century were keen to discover more valuable metals than the traditional gold, silver and iron. In the process of discovery, they found copper and then nickel. Both the metals were difficult to extract from its ore, but nickel was most difficult for its high arsenic content. Miners believed that devil had changed or contaminated the ore to a strange one which is poisonous. Hence copper and nickel became two devil siblings in their stories. Interesting is we don’t know existence of nickel or copper in Rügen area though there are some coal mines.

We have some more stories of the region. The ruin of Hertha castle, especially the outer wall of the castle is seen in Jasmund, which is not far from Stubbenkammer. We don’t know how many centuries old this castle is; presumably it is there from the time of heathenism. Goddess Hertha, the mother earth was once worshipped in this castle. The Goddess used to take bath in a lake there. Accompanied with her consecrated priest, she travelled to the deep, dark lake in the middle of the dense forest by a bullock-cart covered in a mystery-veil. If any unconsecrated person caught sight of the Goddess, he would have to die. That was reason all the slaves who came along to look after the bullocks were drowned in the lake after the bath-ritual was over. Hence none survived to tell us how the ritual was.

Some believe that Goddess Hertha was the form of devil and that is why the lake is still haunted.  Another belief is that the unhappy spirit of an ancient princess who was deported to that forest cause supernatural incidents in that area.  Anyway witnessing those happenings can be life threatening for humans. On the full-moon days the beautiful Goddess Hertha can be seen traveling to the lake along with her lady slaves emerging from the castle. The sound of splash can be heard and all the slaves disappear after that. Any human watching them is dragged to the lake by supernatural power.  The ill-fated person dies drowning in the lake powerlessly.

The stories of Hertha indicate the pagan past of the region seen through the eyes of later Christian inhabitants. The history of the ancient idol-worshipping inhabitants of the region was unknown, and medieval Europe did not favour curiosity. In fact in many stories of medieval period curiosity is described as reason that draws humans to life-threatening situations.  

The Story of Saint Andrew’s Day

We believe that a girl can invite her future sweetheart on Saint Andrew’s Day, Saint Thomas’ Night, Christmas Night, or New Year Night and see him. What’s more, a small trick would help her to gain her lover forever.

She will have to arrange a table for two but should not place forks on the table. Then she should carefully preserve whatever her lover leaves on the table at the time of leaving. Why carefully? Because the man, being the owner of the item may be intensely possessive of the item. He may madly search for it. If not found, he may not be able to forget it for life.

However eager the man is, the girl has to ensure that the item should never be found out by him. Reason is, the discovery may make him recall the torment he had to undergo that night under some supernatural force. He would be aware of the magic which might have brought him bad luck after his favourite item went missing.

One story tales us how the discovery of such an item turned fatal once. A beautiful girl in Austria sought to see her future beloved in the middle of one such night. She followed all the conditions she was supposed to follow. A cobbler showed up there with his dagger, threw the dagger at her and quickly disappeared. She instantly caught the dagger and locked it in a chest. The cobbler came back soon to ask her hand for marriage.

Many years after her marriage – it was a Sunday when the snacks in her kitchen was finished – and she needed to open the chest to get some from there. She wanted to carry that for lunch next day. As soon as she opened the chest, her husband arrived there. He wanted to check the chest himself. She tried to resist, but who can prevent an arrogant man from looking into his wife’s chest? And the accident was bound to happen. While looking for snacks, he saw the dagger.

Grabbing it immediately he asked his wife how she got access to the dagger that he lost years back, at a particular tormenting time of his life.

In sheer confusion and anxiety, she could not reflect on a proper excuse, but narrated honesty that it was the same dagger he left before her on the night when she first desired to see him. Her honest confession infuriated the man. He shouted a terrifying curse, “Bloody hell! So you are the whore who scared me so terribly that night?” and pushed the dagger right through her heart with all his force.

The union with the desired man thus ended in a tragedy. This is a story popular in many regions in Europe. Sometimes characters are different. E.g. in one version a hunter leaves his deer-catcher behind on the first night of meeting the girl. After her first childbirth, the wife sends him to her chest to get some household linen. She did not know that the deer-catcher was a magic device, which would kill him if separated from him for long and later rediscovered. She lost her husband, just due to her carelessness.

Der Liebeszauber (Sorcery for love), Gemälde des Meisters vom Niederrhein, 1470–80