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.

Men of the Mountain

Numerous Swiss folktales tell the tale of mountain ghosts. The stories are popular not only among the folks in the mountain region but also in the valleys till Gelterfingen and Rümlingen in Bern midland.

The mountain–ghosts are actually dwarfish mountain-men. They were shepherd by profession but their livestock does not include goats, sheep and cows. As a matter of fact they reared chamois. From chamois-milk they made cheese which grow again to make a block whole again once a piece is cut or bitten from it. Anyway the eater should not be too careless to consume the entire block without leaving leftover.  

Chamois -photo from Wikimedia commons

These mountain people lived peacefully in the quiet and innermost cliffs of the mountains. They were diligent and introvert; seldom appeared before our kind of humans. In fact their appearing indicated suffering and misfortune for other humans; however seeing them dancing on the mats was considered the forecast of a blessed year ahead.

Their lost lambs at times led them to human’s houses; also poor kids who went to forest to collect woods, at times found milk bowls or small baskets with berries left by those dwarves.

Once a herdsman was plowing his field accompanied with his servant when they saw steam and smoke on a stone wall. The servant said, “The dwarf-men are cooking! They are boiling stew I see. Also we are very hungry. Only if we had a bowlful of that!”

As soon as they turned their plough, they saw a white sheet spread before them on which a plate with freshly baked cookies was placed. The thankful men ate to their heart’s content. By the time they returned home in the evening, the plate and knives disappeared, but the white tablecloth was still there. The peasant took it to home as a memento.

The Weighing Scale of Bamberg

Curving the image of justice on the tomb of a king is an ancient practice. Also on the tomb of the Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg, the idol of justice is carved with a weighing scale in hand. But the tongue of the scale is not on the middle; instead it leans a little in one side. The reason hides in an old belief – it was told that having both tips of a weighing scale at same level would bring the world to destruction.

Tomb of Kaiser Heinrich in Bamberg

Who wants to destroy the world only by maintaining balance in justice’ scale?

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