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A Witch Hill

Staffelberg Hill lies between Furstenfeld and Schöngeising. The hill is also called Witch Hill. One evening three men who walked home late at night, came to the hill. To their great surprise they saw a beautiful, lit up inn there. The three looked at each other as if they feared they fooled themselves, but soon they were convinced that there really was a merry inn by the hill. They decided to go in, get something to eat and see what was happening there.

When the men came in, they found that those inside were dancing, playing and drinking as if it was a wedding. Two of the arriving men joined the others - danced and played and drank and won a lot of money. But the third man suspected it might all be magic at work at did not want to keep up with the others. Drinks were forced on him, but he secretly poured everything he got into his wide boots.

The revelry went on until early morning. At that time sounded an English greeting, and the tavern, dance, play and partying company were gone. The two men who had played and drunk so briskly, found themselves in a marsh. When they reached for their money, they found nothing but horse manure in their pockets. But the third, who had remained on guard all along, sat quite dry on a pine floor and laughed at his companions who were rolling and wallowing in the mire.

[Schöppner No. 1360. "Der Wiegen - oder Staffelberg".]

The Magic Feather

On a meadow there was a horse, and on the horse sat a rider who was fast asleep. A crow came flying and picked the horse so that it kicked and the rider woke.

"Why do you pick my horse?" cried the rider annoyed.

"In order to wake you up at last," said the crow, "for you have been sleeping for three years here!"

The rider then noticed that his beard was a yard long, and that the crow could be very close to telling the truth if was not the exact truth.

"Tell me, how can I thank you?"

"By giving me one of your three sisters for a wife. Here you have my picture." The crow gave the riders a little crow picture and flew away.

The rider came home, told his sisters the whole story and what the crow had asked in return for the favour and showed them the picture. The older sister turned up her nose, the second screamed "No!" But the youngest blushed, took the picture and went to her room.

The next day a splendid four-horse chariot came. The sisters thought it was a prince coming and ran curious up to he chariot. But when only a black crow came out of it, the two oldest sisters turned again. The youngest sister remained to greet the crow. The crow still invited all three sisters to come with him to his castle.

They drove away together through a gloomy, dark wood and soon feared danger. But after some time they came to a brighter tract. There they drove through a lemon forest to a castle. There the crow said to the two eldest sisters, "Whatever you do, don't be curious!"

He went with the youngest into another room. But the two sisters stole up to the door and peeked through the keyhole. They saw a handsome young man sitting close beside their sister at a table, and they were obviously on good terms.

At just that moment everything changed: The castle and the carriage disappeared, and the three girls found themselves under a pine tree, and the crow scolded from the branches: "Only the youngest of you can be of help now, but only if she will go to town as a maid in rags, and accepts to serve whoever offers her work."

So the youngest went in rags to town and was rejected by the bailiff. But a tailor asked if she would work for a prince and if she could cook and clean too. Hesitantly, she assured the tailor that she had learned all this, and then he led her to the prince, who hired her at once.

It soon showed up that she understood nothing of it all. She burnt the food, the silverware was dirtier than before, and the gardeners, hunters and other servants sneered and scorned her. She wept bitterly. At that moment the crow came flying and landed on her windowsill. The window was open. He stretched one of his wings toward her and said, "Tear out a feather from my wing and make a pen from it. When you use it, anything you write will happen, will happen also."

Even though she did not like to harm the crow, she did as he told and plucked a feather. Before lunch-time she dipped the stalk in ink and wrote: "The best food this spring." And then the food appeared with clean and sparkling tableware to it. She only had to carry the dishes and tablewere to the dining room.

All this pleased the prince and princess well, and the servant now got the most beautiful dresses. She looked so lovely that the gardener fell in love with her, sneaked to her room and peeped in. When she did not ask him to leave, he ran up to her. She said, however, "Close the door also!"

When he turned round, she hastily wrote with her magic feather. "I want him to open and close the door to my room all night." And so it happened. When the morning got bright, a shameful gardener could at last slink away.

Another evening came the hunter when she was already in her bed. He bent down and started to pull off his boots. Just then she wrote, "I want him to pull his boots on and off the whole night through." And that is what the hunter had to do. He was full of anger when he left when the early morning came.

On the third night came one of the servants and looked at her with love in his eyes. When he asked to lie down in the bed beside her, he suddenly remembered that the door in the dovecote had not been closed for the night. Since it was one of his tasks to se to it, he excused himself and said what he had to do first. While he was away she wrote with her pen, "I want him to open and close the dovecote all night long."

In this way she got rid of the suitors, but they came up with an idea to revenge themselves. They cut three rods and three sturdy perennials to lash her with. But as soon as she saw them coming with rods behind their backs, she understood that they had in mind, and wrote: "Let them do to themselves what they have in mind to do to me."

And so the three started to lash one another. In the end the prince and princess hurried to. Now the crow came flying also. The moment he landed he was changed into a man and soon took with him his beautiful girl to his own castle.

The Red Silk Ribbon

In German folklore, water women are higher female beings that dwell in water but are not confined to living there only. They can take on a human form above the waist and look wonderful as sirens, or they take on a human form completely. They look for handsome men to drag with them into the water depths, or they go on land to stay with the men there. For by being loved by men, mermaids win youth, beauty and can live for a long, long time.

A fisherman worked for a count and was well liked in that household because he always managed to get rich hauls of delicious fish. But all at once he could catch no fish, fell out of favour and was dismissed. He lived for a time from his savings until he had nothing left. Again and again he tried his luck, but in vain. At last he wept bitterly, sitting in his boat.

All at once he noticed a beautiful young mermaid swimming in the water next to the boat.

"Why are you crying?" she asked, and he told her.

"I will help you if you promise to give me what you do not know is in your house. And know I am the one who gave you much fish before, and the one who has kept them away from you for a while."

He promised, and right away got a large catch of fish. He took it home joyfully. However, when he told his wife how he had got it and what he had promised, she got very sad: She was carrying a child, and she had not told him about it yet. But they found comfort in the thought of having the child baptised as soon as he was born. Meanwhile the fishermen got fine catches of fish as before, brought them to the count, and was received graciously again.

In time a son was born to the fisherman and his wife. The boy thrived, and his parents wanted him to become a clergyman. But once he had finished with the learning and training for it, he could not hold his first Mass, because he belonged to the mermaid. And so he gave up his studies to become a cooper instead. After some time, when he had learnt almost everything of his craft, he was to wander for some time as a journeyman, to learn from other master coopers than his own, as part of the training.

One day he was ready and walked away into the unknown. On his way he came across a bear, a fox, a hawk and an ant. They were fighting over the carcass of a horse, for they could not find out of how to divide it fairly between them. Now they begged him to divide the carcass between them. The young man threw the hindquarters and front legs to the bear so that he could be satisfied. The fox got the back, the hawk got the offal and the ant got the head. Then he went on his way.

But the bear said it was not right to let him go without being thanked, and asked the fox to call him back. The grateful animals gave him the power to turn into their shapes whenever he wanted. The young man laughed and went on his way.

While he walked along he noticed many partridges in a corn field. To test one of his gift he wanted to be a fox. At once he was a fox and caught some partridges. When he thought he had caught enough of them, he wanted to be a man again. Soon he carried the partridges with him to the nearest town, where he had them roasted at an inn.

After he had eaten, four men came in, sat down at the table and began playing cards and betting and shouting. The journeyman was lying on the straw behind the stove and watched them. He did not like. The journeyman changed into an ant and crawled under the table. Then he turned into a bear, stood up and threw the table away from them. The scared players ran away very quickly. Then the bear became a man again, lay down on the straw and slept all the night long. In the morning he paid his bill and walked on.

In time he came to a big city. Everything was draped in black, and from the tower black draped, and from the tower a black flag with a skull painted on it was waving. He looked for a place to stay, and asked the innkeeper what was about.

The innkeeper soon told him. The king had three daughters that were old enough to get married. They were beautiful, all the three of them, and looked so alike that people could not tell them apart. But the king had decided that the middle should inherit him. 'Whoever wants to get my kingdom, will have to guess who she is of them.' That is his demand," the innkeeper said, "and those who do not pass the test, will be executed. Many have died already. That is why there is so much mourning in this country today," explained the innkeeper.

The fisherman's son soon went to the castle. The royal garden was surrounded by a deep moat, and the king's daughters were strolling in the garden. The young man turned himself into a hawk, flew over the moat and from bush to bush in the garden. He made sure that the girls saw him, and let one of them catch him. He landed on her arm and remained there while she carried him to her bedroom. There he was given a golden perch.

After the girl had gone to sleep, the young man changed into his own shape again. He took the princess's hand and she woke up. He told her that he was the bird and that he loved her. First the princess was scared, but he was courteous and happy. Soon she took a liking to him, and it showed up that she was the middle sister. She also gave him the ring she wore, and showed him a red silk ribbon that she would wrap around the middle finger on the right hand the next day, when he came to choose among the sisters. Then she opened the window, and he flew away in the form of a hawk.

Next morning he appeared in the castle, ready to win the hand of the middle princess. The king and his courtiers tried to talk him out of risking his life, but he insisted. He was summoned to step into the hall where the three sisters were sitting. One of them was wearing a red thread on her finger. The young man declared that she was the middle sister, and was right.

The king, the court and the city rejoiced. The king had regretted this guessing arrangement for a long time and was sorry for all the innocent suitors that had been killed. Now he was glad to arrange the wedding and gladly gave the daughter to the lucky suitor.

For some years the two lived happily together. Then one day he went out to hunt. His wife tried to keep him from going; she felt it was a bad idea. But he paid no attention.

The day was hot. He had tried to hunt down a deer for a long time, and was thirsty. He did not remember to beware of the water, as his mother and father often had told him to, but rode ahead of the others, found a source and bent down to drink water from his cupped hand. At that moment a mermaid rose from the water and caught hold of him, before she carried him with her into deeper water.

"I have paid for you," she said.

The king's daughter learnt the sad news, and rushed to the source at once to try to find her husband. After a while she sat down on the bank and wept. The mermaid came up from the water and said her husband did well with her. The princess said she would feel better if she could see him, and offered her golden comb in exchange for it. The mermaid agreed, and lifted the husband's head out of the water, just high enough to let the princess see his eyes above the water.

Now the princess offered her ring to see more of her husband, and the mermaid lifted him so high that his hips were above the water.

To see still more of her husband, the princess offered the mermaid the golden slipper on her foot. The mermaid let him stand on her hand and lifted him completely above the water. In an instant the husband flapped and flew away from her in the form of a hawk and landed beside his wife on dry land.

At this the mermaid dove deep into the water. After a few seconds the water began to hiss and boil and she came up again and threw a handful of blue sand in the face of the princess, and the princess turned at once into a dragon.

And so the kingdom was in distress again. The king offered half his kingdom to anyone who could help. At last a very old magician promised to help if the princess could bear the process he would put her through. He built three ovens and heated them up so that each was hotter than the next. Then he put the dragon into the first oven. When the dragon skin seemed soft, he pulled the dragon out again and cooled her in the water. In the second oven the dragon skin burst burst. Then he put her in the hottest oven. She screamed and whined so pitifully that those who where there, had to cover her husband's ears and take him away from there for a little while.

At last the princess came out of the third oven, completely naked. He ran to and covered her with his coat and took her home in triumph. After the old magician had got one half of the kingdom, they settled happily in the other half, greatly relieved that the mermaid did not have any right to any of them any more.

[A Schönwerth tale retold]

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