There was once a shepherd who fed his flocks at the foot of the Kyffhäuser mountain. He loved a good girl and she him, but none of them had house or money to begin house-keeping with, so they had to make do with being engaged to be married.
In sorrow over that state of affairs he walked up the sloping mountain. As he got higher and higher on that lovely day, he lightened up, and when he reached the top of the mountain, he found a wondrously beautiful flower. He had never seen any flower like it. He gathered it and placed it in his hat, for he wanted to give it to the girl he was too poor to marry.
Now he walked toward one of the two ruined castles on the top. Close to the castle on the eastern side of the mountain he found an open vault. The entrance to it was only partly filled up. He entered and found a number of small glittering stones scattered on the ground and picked up as many of them as his pockets would hold. He was just about to return to the open air again when he heard a hollow voice call out to him, "Don't forget the best."
He did not know what happened next, or how he got out of the vault again. But as soon as he once more saw the sun and his flock, a door closed behind him, a door he had not noticed when he entered the vault.
He seized his hat, and found that the wonderful flower for his girl, was gone. It had fallen out with his stumbling.
All of a sudden a dwarf stood before him. "What have you done with the wonderful flower you found?"
"I have lost it," exclaimed the shepherd sorrowfully.
The dwarf said: "It is worth more than the whole Rotenburg, if you learn what that plant can heal."
With a downcast heart the shepherd returned that evening to his girl. When he related to her the history of the wonderful flower he had lost, both wept. For they thought they had lost their chance of a house and a wedding.
At last the shepherd remembered the shining pebbles and threw them playfully into the lap of his beloved. Behold, they were jewels and nuggets of gold!
It was not long before they bought a house and a piece of land, and in less than a month they were man and wife.
And the wonderful flower - it is sought by mountaineers to this day, not only in the Kyffhäuser castle ruin, but in the Quastenburg ruin too, because people think that the one it is meant for, will find it.
From the Rhine a mighty cave be seen. It is the great crag known as the Dragon Rock. Numeorus legends are connected with it. Some think this cave was the den of a famous monster, who feasted daily on the tender damsels left bound near his lair, duly decked with flowers, offered up in sacrifice.
But one day the maiden chosen by lot to appease the hunger of the dragon did not faint away into a helpless prey, but boldly faced the monster, holding up a burning brand before his gaping jaws. The dragon started back, lost his balance, fell into the river, and was drowned.
The people were awed by this happening.
Another legend relates that the dragon lingered in the cave year after year, opening its jaws to swallow ships and crew whenever an unsuspecting mariner steered his vessel too near that dangerous shore. This went on till far into the Middle Ages, when one day the dragon swallowed a ship loaded with nothing but gunpowder. The effect was instantaneous and disastrous, for no sooner had the black stuff reached the pit of his stomach than it suddenly exploded, scattering the monster's remains far and wide.
A beautiful castle, Drachenburg, was later built on this cliff, and in that stronghold lived the Lord of Drachenfels and his only daughter Hildegarde.
A passing knight entered this castle at nightfall, claiming the hospitality of the inmates. No sooner had he beheld the lovely young Hildegarde than he fell desperately in love with her and resolved to win her for his wife, if possible. To produce a good impression, the knight exerted himself to entertain both father and daughter by telling of exciting adventures by land and sea, and in doing so he came to reveal that he was one of Charlemagne's nephews, called Roland.
The Lord of Drachenfels now cordially pressed him to stay a few days. So it came to pass one warm summer eve that Hildegarde walked with him through the romantic Nightingale Valley at the foot of the castle. She listened blushingly when he passionately declarated he loved her, and gladly promised to become his wife.
But before the lovers could be married, a messenger from Charlemagne came to summon Roland urgently to war. Roland regretfully parted from Hildegarde, and promised to return as soon as possible.
Time passed on, and rumous of Roland's deeds first made Hildegarde's heart swell with pride, then came a long weary time of waiting with no tidings at all, and lastly a messenger tearfully reported that Roland had died, fighting at Roncevaux.
At these tidings Hildegarde's heart was almost broken, so she persuaded her father to let her enter the convent of Nonnenworth on an island in the Rhine, within sight of her home.
There she spent her time praying for the soul of her beloved. However, Roland had not perished at Roncevaux. Sorely wounded he slowly made his way back to the castle of Drachenfels, where he presented himself one summer evening, his heart thrilling with joy. Almost breathlessly he asked for Hildegarde.
A few moments later the light died out of his eyes. She had become an nun, and could not undo it. He had lost her.
That same night Roland rode sadly out of the castle of Drachenfels, and when he had reached an eminence overlooking the island of Nonnenworth, on the opposite side of the Rhine, he slowly climbed down from his steed. Seated on a stone, he spent the night gazing at the convent, and wondering whether the twinkling light he saw was burning in Hildegarde's cell.
Early in the morning he decided to build an hermitage on the very spot where he sat and spend the remainder of his life there, in watching over his beloved. This resolution was soon put into effect. The knight Roland next disposed of all his property, laid aside armor and sword, and put on the garb of a hermit. He now spent his time gazing continually on the convent at his feet and at the river which flowed between him and his beloved.
One winter morning he saw the nuns march slowly into the churchyard, bearing a coffin. His heart was oppressed with fear, for the graceful form which he had identified with Hildegarde was missing in their ranks. At sundown the convent priest, visiting him as usual, informed him that one of the nuns was dead, and revealed that it was Hildegarde. In faltering tones Roland then confessed who he was, and informed the priest that when he died he wished to be buried with his face turned toward the spot where Hildegarde lay.
Troubled by this request, the priest hastened there on the next day, only to find that Roland lay dead with a radiant smile on his face. The priest buried him as he had requested.
The eminence known as the Eckhardtsberg was one of the favorite haunts of the faithful German mentor, Eckhardt. He stayed there to try to prevent rash mortals from listening to the alluring strains of the love goddess of the mountain and to persuade travellers from enjoying all manner of sensual pleasures in her company.
Tannhauser was a master-singer and amorous German knight who was devoted to valorous adventures and beautiful women at the Italian courts. In Mantua he won the affections of lady Lisaura, who loved him to distraction, and the friendship of a learned philosopher, called Hilario.
Lisaura used to open the door of her garden for him and lead him to a bower where wine and love awaited for him. Their love was no secret to the learned thinker, who advised Tannhauser to be greatly cautious. For Lisaura was jealous and likely to revenge herself if she discovered that Tannhauser wanted to kiss the queen of all love, the love goddess herself at her place in Venusberg, where she held her court - that was what Hilario had told Tannhauser:
"There you may dedicate your life to love and beautiful women, without being tied and confined by laws and vows; today you may bestow your smiles on one, tomorrow on another, and change as often as you please, also the goddess of love and delight herself."
"There will I go then, to taste the pleasures and participate in her love," exclaimed Tannhauser, infatuated Tannhauser, left Mantua and came to Venusberg. When he wandered near there, he heard an alluring song. Following it, he soon found himself wending his way into the mountain, where the goddess received him most affectionately, and bade him welcome. Tannhauser now forgot the lovely maiden he had been betrothed to in Mantua, and yielding to the love goddess's caresses, spent some time in her company. After a while, however, the longing for his betrothed returned to him, and so he hastened out of the mountain and into the neighboring valley.
He would happily have returned to his betrothed, but when he recalled how he had behaved in the mountain, he was filled with such deep loathing that he kept putting it off. But finally he hastened to Mantua, only to learn that his gentle Lisaura was dead. He wept over her grave and then hurried off to Rome to confess all to the Pope to get absolution from his sins, which was one of the things the pope was known to do for pay.
However, when Pope Urban had heard Tannhauser's confession, he recoiled and told Tannhauser that since he had visited the love goddess, he could no more wish for forgiveness than he could expect the papal staff to become green again and bear leaves.
Sad at heart the unforgiven Tannhauser left Romeand sought his friend Hilario, but could find him nowhere. Then Tannhauser wended his way home once more. Disowned by all, a moral outcast, he decided to return to the love goddess to taste love to the full. In vain Eckhardt sought to detain him, and so Tannhauser vanished in the hill, and never again came out.
A few moments after he had vanished, a messenger of the Pope came in search of him, for the papal staff had budded and borne leaves, thus proving to Urban that the minstrel's sin was not as unpardonable as he had thought, and that absolution should be granted to him too.
The news had come too late, however, for Tannhauser had returned to the goddess of hurrah and love.
[The story comes from an old popular song.]
Late on an autumn night a stranger came up to the ferryman, who lived on the edge of the bank. The stranger desired to be put across just as the man was about to haul up his boat for the day. The stranger seemed to be a monk, for he was closely cowled, and gowned from head to foot in the long, dark, flowing garb of some monk.
"Hello! ferry," he shouted aloud as he approached the shore of the river, "Hello!"
"Here, ahoy! here, reverend father!" answered the poor ferryman. "What would you have with me?"
"I would that you ferry me across the Rhine to the other shore of the river on a weighty mission," replied the man. "Good friend, run me over."
"Most willingly," said the ferryman. "Most willingly. Step into my boat, and I'll put you across in a twinkling."
The dark-looking monk entered the boat, and the ferryman shoved off from the bank. They soon reached the opposite shore. The ferryman, however, had scarcely said good-evening before the other disappeared from his sight, headed for the Devil's House.
As the ferryman rowed slowly back across the stream to his abode at Andernach, he thought that the dark monk might as well have paid him his fare, or, at least bidden him good-night before he took leave so abruptly,.
"Hello! ferry," once more resounded from the margin of the river as he approached, "Hello!"
"Here, ahoy!" responded the ferryman, but with some strange feeling of fear. "What do you want?"
He rowed to the shore, but he could see no one for a while, for it was dark now. As he neared the landing-place, however, he became aware of two monks standing there in the shadow of some ruins. They were garbed exactly like his late passenger.
"Here! here!" they cried.
"Please ferry us over to the other shore of the river," said one of them. " We are on a weighty errand, and we must onwards tonight. So be up quick, friend, and run us over soon."
"Step in, then," said the ferryman, not over courteously, for he remembered the trick played on him by the other monk.
They entered the boat, and the ferryman put off. Just as the prow of the boat touched the opposite bank of the river, both sprang ashore, and disappeared at once from his view, like the one who had gone before them.
"Ah!" said the ferryman, "if they call that doing good, or acting honestly, to cheat a hardworking poor fellow out of the reward of his labour, I do not know what bad means, or what it is to act knavishly."
He waited a little while to see if they would return to pay him, but they did not. In the end he put across once more to his home at Andernach.
"Hello, ferry!" again hailed a voice from the shore he was making for, "hello!"
The ferryman did not answer, but pushed off his boat from the landing-place, fully resolved in his own mind to have nothing to do with any more such people that night.
"Hello, ferry!" was again repeated in a sterner voice. "Are you dead or asleep?"
"Here, ahoy!" cried the ferryman. "What do you want?" He thought of passing downwards to the other end of the town, and moor his barque there, below the place she usually lay in, so that any other monks would not as easily make him serve them without anything offered for it. He had, however, scarcely entertained the idea, when three black-robed men in long, flowing garments, stood on the edge of the stream, and beckoned him to them.
It was in vain for him to try to evade them, for now the moon broke forth from the thick clouds and lit up the scene all around with a radiance like day.
"Step in, holy fathers! step in! Quick!" he said in a gruff voice, after they had told him the same tale in the very same words as the three others had used previously.
They entered the boat, and again the ferryman pushed off. They had reached the centre of the stream, when he came to think that now was a good time to talk of his fee, before they could escape him.
"What do you mean to give me for my trouble?" he asked. "Nothing for nothing, you know."
"We shall give you all that we have to give," answered one of the monks. "Won't that be enough?"
"What is that? " asked the ferryman.
"Nothing," said the monk who had answered him first.
"But our blessing," interposed the second monk.
"Blessing! bah! That won't do. I can't eat blessings!" responded the grumbling ferryman.
"Heaven will pay you," said the third monk.
"That won't do either," answered the enraged ferryman. "I'll put back again to Andernach!"
"So be it," said the monks.
The ferryman put about the head of his boat, and began to row back towards Andernach, as he had threatened. He had, however, scarcely made three strokes of his oars, when a high wind sprang up and the waters began to rise and rage and foam, like the billows of a storm-vexed sea. Soon a hurricane of the most fearful kind followed, and swept over the chafing face of the stream. In his forty years' experience of the river, the ferryman had never before seen such a tempest - so dreadful and so sudden. He gave himself up for lost, threw down his oars, and flung himself on his knees, praying to Heaven for mercy.
At that moment two of the dark-robed monks seized the oars which he had abandoned, while the third wrenched one of the thwarts of the boat from its place in the centre. All three then began to beat the ferryman with all their might and main, till at last he lay senseless and without motion at the bottom of the boat. The barque, which was now veered about, bore them rapidly towards the brink the monks had wanted him to row to.
The only words that passed on the occasion were an exclamation of the first monk who struck the ferryman down.
"Steer your boat aright, friend," he cried, "if you value your life, and leave off your prating."
When the poor ferryman recovered his senses, day had long dawned, and he was lying alone at the bottom of his boat. He found that he had drifted below Hammerstein, close to the shore of the right bank of the river. He could discover no trace of his companions. With much difficulty he rowed up the river, and reached the shore.
He learned afterwards from a gossiping neighbour, that, as the man returned from Neuwied late that night, or rather early the next morning, he met, just emerging from the Devil's House, a large black chariot running on three huge wheels, drawn by four horses without heads. In that vehicle he saw six monks seated face to face, seemingly enjoying their morning ride. The driver, a curious-looking carl, with a singularly long nose, took, he said, the road along the edge of the river, and continued lashing his three coal-black, headless steeds at a tremendous speed, till a sharp turn hid them from the man's view.
❋ If a thing is to be done for nothing, do it for yourself.
❋ Good deeds bears blessings for their fruits..
The beautiful red sand-stone bridge that spans the Main at Frankfort, was built in 1342. Before that date many architects had tried to build a bridge there, but the winter ice and spring streams always carried away their pillars. This hindered the completion of the work till all would-be builders had given up trying.
But at last an architect fancied that it might be the devil that was at play. So he called on him and asked him to permit that he began the bridge. The devil was pleased at this request, and gave full permission and promised his aid, on condition that the first living creature which crossed it on the day it was opened to the public, would be handed over to his "tender mercies".
Mentally resolving not to cross the bridge first on the opening day, the architect agreed to the deal. At once he began the construction. It progressed favorably and in due time was brought to a successful conclusion.
All the town magistrates then gathered to open the bridge, while the people of Frankfort, in nice clothes, formed a long procession behind them. When he reached the head of the bridge, the master of ceremonies paused and called the architect, who was walking modestly in the rear. With a graceful gesture he then bade him pass first and open the march, as was his due.
Pale and stammering, the architect refused the honour, urging that he could not think of preceding the master of ceremonies, who, curled, perfumed, and as pompous as a drum major, really considered the honour belonged to him.
The master of ceremonies was therefore about to ride forward and be the first on the bridge, when an old market woman who had a live chicken in her basket, suddenly held up her hands in admiration at his fine appearance. The basket lid, no longer held down, opened with a bang, and a distracted rooster flew out with a squawk almost directly under the feet of the prancing steed. The fowl, as chickens will, instead of retreating to either side of the road began zigzagging wildly in front of the horse, and then fluttered on the bridge, still uttering a frightened cackle.
Suddenly, however, it disappeared, and the people standing near said they saw a claw-like hand clutch it, heard some angry swear-words, and caught the fumes of a sulphuric stench.
When the architect heard this report, he frankly confessed the bargain he had made with the fiend, and the people were beside themselves with joy when they heard how nicely an old rooster had cheated the devil. As a memento of this happening they placed a golden image of a rooster on the bridge.