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Seven Sources

BETWEEN the red-roofed Thale and Dorf Neinstedt, one sees several low, round hills, here and there overgrown with thorns and thickets, sometimes bare of all vegetation save short grass. These mounds are graves of primeval days, in which urns and bones have been found.

At the foot of these hills, in a semicircle, are seven small springs, which unite themselves in one tiny brooklet, over which the train passes. On the summit of one of these hills once stood seven trees called the Seven Brothers. Today no trace of the trees remains.

Seven royal brothers came from England to woo the seven daughters of the king of the Harz mountains, for her fame and beauty had penetrated even to the English court. These princesses were called the Sunbeams of the mountains; and when the English princes arrived in the Felsenburg of their royal father, they found assembled there princes and nobles from Saxony and Thuringia, Franconia and Bohemia, from the banks of the Danube and the amber coasts of the sea.

But the Sunbeams loved the English princes, and promised to go with them to their father's court.

Then the German wooers were enraged, and said, "Not without combat will we permit these strangers to rob us of the glory of our land."

The brothers seized sword and shield, but the princesses rushed into their arms and hindered the combat.

At midnight, when the full moon shone, each brother, with his affianced bride behind him on his fleet steed, fled toward the rocky shores of England.

Suddenly the affrighted maidens saw the glitter of arms in the faint moonlight.

"What is that that glitters below on the plain?" they cried.

"Don't fear," said the youths, "it is the waves of the Bode."

"What is that whistling in the forest?"

"The thrushes sing in the shadows of the foliage."

"Do you hear the rustling in the thicket?"

"It is but the frightened deer."

"What is that murmur?"

"The spring gushing out of the rocks."

"And that whispering?"

"The wind!"

"You deceive us. Your eyes burn like the lightning, you have seized both sword and shield!"

"Fear not! We are with you; our arms will defend you!"

Out of the thicket rushed the hidden rivals; a furious combat followed; the English princes were all slain, their bodies burnt and the ashes buried.

The princesses returned to their father's castle, but hated the murderers of their English lovers. Every day they went with the dawn to the spot where the brothers lay in their deep slumber, and night found them still there in tears.

Each princess planted a tree by her lover's grave, and when seven moons were passed away, one evening, as they sat by the graves, suddenly they felt a great joy spring up within them; they wiped away their tears, but from them seven springs bubbled up sparkling and clear. Smiling, they gave each other the hand, feeling the hour of reunion was come, and in the morning they were found dead, hand in hand.


The Smith from Brandenburg

In the little town of Jüterbogk there once dwelt a smith. Both young and old tell a wonderful story about him. This smith when a youth had a very strict father, but faithfully observed God's commandments. He had travelled much and passed through many adventures, and was, moreover, skilful and active in his art beyond all belief. He had a chalybeate tincture that made every harness or mail coat impenetrable that was washed with it.

He had been with the army of the emperor Frederic II., in which he had borne the office of imperial armourer, and had made the campaign of Milan and Apulia. There he had captured the standard of the city; and, after the death of the emperor, had returned home with a considerable treasure. He had seen good days, and afterwards evil ones, and was more than a hundred years old.

Once, when sitting in his garden under an old pear-tree, there came a little grey man riding on a donkey. The man had previously often proved himself the smith's guardian spirit. The little man took up his quarters with the smith, and had his donkey shod, which the smith willingly did without asking for any remuneration. The little man then said to Peter (for so the smith was named) that he should wish three wishes, but in so doing not forget the best.

So — because his pears had often been stolen by thieves — the smith wished that whoever climbed up into his pear-tree might not be able to come down without his permission; and — because thieves had often stolen valuables from him in his apartment — he wished that no one might enter it without his permission, unless it were through the keyhole.

At each of these foolish wishes the little man reminded him not to forget the best. On this the smith uttered his third wish, saying: "The best is a good schnapps (dram), and therefore I will wish that this flask may never be empty."

"Your wishes are granted," said the old man, then drew his hand over some bars of iron that were lying in the smithy, mounted his donkey and rode away. The iron was found changed to bright silver. The smith, who had been so poor, was now rich again, and lived on and on in considerable comfort; for the never-failing cordial drops in the flask were, unknown to the smith, an elixir of life.

At length, however. Death, who seemed to have forgotten him, knocked at his door. The smith seemed perfectly ready to go with him, and begged Death to allow him a little refreshment, and to be so kind as to get him a few pears from the tree, which he could no longer climb because of the weakness of age.

Death then mounted the tree, but no sooner was he up than the smith cried out, "Stay there! - for wished to live a little longer.

Death now devoured every pear on the tree, and then began to fast. At last he ate himself out of great hunger, even to his skin and hair. From this he came to look like a horrible dry skeleton. In the world no more beings died, neither men nor beasts. This caused alarmingly much trouble. But at length the smith went to Death, who was rattling in the tree, and agreed with him for a further respite. He then let Death loose.

Urged by all the furies. Death now flew away and began to tidy up in the world. Being unable to wreak his vengeance on the smith, he set the devil on him, that he might fetch him. The fiend at once started his journey, but the cunning smith smelt the brimstone at a distance, closed his door, held with his workmen a leather bag to the keyhole, and as the devil passed through — for by no other way could he enter the smithy — they tied up the mouth of the bag, laid it on the anvil, and then with the heaviest hammers began beating so unmercifully on the poor devil that he lost all sense of hearing and seeing, was become quite tender, and swore never to come again.

The smith now lived long in peace till all his friends and acquaintance were dead. Then he became weary of living on earth. He therefore set out on his journey and went to heaven, where he humbly knocked at the gate. St. Peter looked out, and at once Peter the smith recognised his patron and guardian spirit, the one who had often visibly rescued him from danger and difficulty, and also had granted him the three wishes. But now St. Peter said: "Get away from here. Heaven is closed for you, for you forget to wish for the best — for eternal happiness!"

At this answer Peter turned away and resolved on trying his luck in the opposite realm. Returning downwards he soon found himself on a straight, broad and well-frequented road. But when the devil was told that the smith of Jüterbogk was approaching, he slammed the door in his face, and placed his kingdom in a state of defence.

When the smith could not find a place for himself either in heaven or hell, he was not inclined to return to the world. So he went down into the Kyffhaüser, to his old master, the emperor Frederic. The old Kaiser was delighted at seeing his armourer Peter, and immediately asked him whether the ravens still continued to fly about the tower of the ruined castle of Kyffhaüsen. And when Peter answered in the affirmative, old Redbeard heaved a sigh.

But the smith remained in the mountain and shoed the emperor's palfrey and those of the noble damsels of his court, and this he is intent on doing till the emperor is delivered, and he himself too. And that will happen, the tradition tells us, when the ravens no longer fly round the mountain, and on the Rüthsfeld, near the Kyffhaüser, an old withered worn-out pear-tree again sends out shoots, bears foliage and blossoms. Then will the emperor come forth with all his armed followers and fight the great fight of deliverance, and hang his shield on the renovated tree. Then he will go with his companions into everlasting rest.

The Kyffhaüser

The Kyffhäuser is a mountain range on the border of the German state of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. It stands on the southern edge of the Harz. The range is 19 km long and 7 km wide.

The Kyffhäuser in German traditional mythology is the resting place of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who drowned in 1190 in the Göksu River in Anatolia (now in Turkey) near Silifke during the Third Crusade.

The name Kyffhäuser probably stems from cuffese, head or peak. The Reichsburg Kyffhausen (a castle) was completed under Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

According to legend, Barbarossa is not dead, but sleeps in a hidden chamber underneath the Kyffhäuser mountain, sitting at a stone table. His beard has supposedly grown so long over the centuries that it has grown through the table. As in the similar legend of King Arthur, Barbarossa supposedly awaits his country's hour of greatest need, when he will emerge once again from under the mountain. The presence of ravens circling the Kyffhäuser summit is said to be a sign of Barbarossa's continuing presence.

Today, the mountain area is a tourist site featuring a restored medieval castle from the 1000s.

Another legend has it that in the Kyffhaüser emperor Readbeard exists in a state of enchantment. There he sits, with all his knights and squires, at a large table. He sits at a round stone table, supporting his head on his hand and nodding. His beard grows round the table, and has already made the circuit twice. When it shall have grown round a third time, the king will wake.

On issuing from the mountain he will hang his shield on a withered tree, which will then become green, and a better time will follow. Some have, however, seen him awake.

He once asked a shepherd, who had played him a pleasing tune: "Do the ravens still fly round the mountain?" And when the shepherd answered yes, he said: "Then must I sleep a hundred years longer."

Beneath the mountain all is splendid and radiant with gold and precious stones; and although it is a subterranean cavern, it is as light as in the sunniest day. There are the most magnificent trees and shrubs, and through the middle of this paradise there flows a brook. If a handful of mud is taken from it, it will at once become pure gold.

Benjamin Thorpe: "The original sleeper was Odin (Wuotan), as appears from the inquiry about the ravens, which could hardly he objects of interest to the emperor Frederic Barbarossa."


The Pet Raven

The beautiful castle of Stolzenfels, which is now entirely restored, was founded in the middle of the 1200s by Arnold von Isenbourg, the archbishop of Cleves. It was once inhabited by Othmar and Willeswind, a brother and sister. Having lost their parents, the two were devoted to each other and to the care of their numerous retainers, who idolised them both.

The brother and sister were always together, so Willeswind grieved sorely when her brother had to go off to war. He took all the able-bodied men with him, and left none but the old men, women, and children at home. As there were many lawless robber-knights along the Rhine in those days, Willeswind prudently ordered that the castle gates should remain constantly closed, and only sallied forth at midday, to visit a few of her pensioners in the village and carry them the alms she was wont to bestow.

One evening while she was sitting in the hall with all her household servants, keeping the women busily at work spinning and watching the men as they burnished their arms, the warder suddenly came to announce a pilgrim who was begging for shelter. Willeswind at once gave admitted him into the castle. But in spite of his worn garments he inspired her with a vague feeling of fear, for his face was cunning and cruel, and his roving glances seemed to take note of the castle defenses and of the small number of her aged employees.

Her suspicions were shared by the warder, and were only too soon justified. For although the pilgrim left peaceably next morning, he came back three days later in full armour and coolly demanded her hand in marriage, and threatening to take her by force if she did not say yes to his proposal within three days.

Willeswind knew it would be impossible for her aged household employees to hold out against the robber knight's forces till her brother could come to her rescue. Yet she dispatched a message to her brother, before finally deciding to take the warder's advice and withdraw into a neighbouring convent.

On her way there she fell into an ambush laid by the treacherous knight. He soon overcame the brave but feeble resistance of her small escort of servants, took her captive and carried her off with her maid to a lonely tower in the woods. There he locked them both in, declaring he would come in three days' time to get her yes.

As soon as he had departed, Willeswind and her maid began to inspect the premises, but could devise no means to escape: The walls were thick, doors and windows heavily barred, andthey could find neither water nor food. While the captives were peering anxiously through the barred windows, and realised that the tower lay in the wilderness where no passer-by were likely to come to their aid, Willeswind suddenly saw her pet raven, and whistled it to her side.

She and Othmar had trained this bird to bring them berries at a sign, and she now resolved to make good use of the faithful raven. It journeyed busily to and fro, bringing so many luscious berries that Willeswind and her maid did not suffer acutely from either hunger or thirst. Three days later the robber knight appeared. He was much surprised when Willeswind rejected him again, and left, saying he would return in three days. Then she would probably be more willing, he thought.

Time passed very slowly in the gloomy prison. In spite of the faithful raven's incessant visits, the girls were faint and weak. However, on the sixth day, while watching for the bird to return, Willeswind suddenly saw a knight come out from the thicket and ride by. She judged by his horse and armour that it could not be her fiend and called aloud for aid, and wildly waved her handkerchief through the bars.

A moment later the knight had turned, and with a cry of rapture Willeswind recognized Othmar. He was riding through the forest to reach home sooner. Before he could take any measures to deliver her, however, the robber knight came riding up the overgrown path, and seeing him, challenged him to fight. Othmar, furious at the man's insolent behavior, and at the treatment he had made poor Willeswind endure, fought so bravely that he soon stretched his antagonist lifeless on the ground. Then he seized the keys at his belt, and freed the captives who had languished in the tower for six long days.

As he and Willeswind slowly rode away, the raven, returning with a host of its companions, swooped down on the robber knight's corpse and pecked out its eyes. Willeswind, safe home once more in her beloved Stolzenfels, now recounted all her adventures to her brother, who ordered an image of the raven to be placed above the gateway, to commemorate the fidelity of the pet bird that had helped two humans survive by his efforts.


The Stain

The bishop of Cologne, Anno, lay all alone in his bed chamber in the bishop's palace one night. While all his attendants were plunged in slumber, he could not sleep. The thought of his sins kept him awake, and in the wee small hours of the night he winced at the thought of the tyranny he had shown in robbing the people of all their former privileges.

While he was musing thus, the angel of death suddenly came into his room and said some mystical words that separate soul and body. A moment later the bishop saw his own lying body was left behind, and was hurried away from there by the angel. In a few moments he was brought into a vast hall. It was lighted by tall tapers and filled with the ravishing perfume of precious incense.

Anno looked about him in surprise, and saw that he was in a goodly assembly of all noble bishops who had passed away before him. He recognized many bishops of Cologne, including his own predecessor. Beside his predecessor was an empty seat. Figuring that this seat was reserved for him. Anno was about to sit down when one of the bishops hindered him. Pointing to a hideous stain on his breast, that biship said solemnly:

"Only the stainless can sit here. Return to earth and remove the stain, and then we will welcome you."

Reluctantly Anno returned to earth, for he was sorry to leave this peaceful spot. Back in his body, when morning came, he hastened to restore all their former privileges to the inhabitants of Cologne, and doing some good on top of it.

Next night, when all was still, the angel of death again came to visit him, and led him away to the other place. There, seeing the disfiguring stain had vanished, the bishops gladly received him in their middle to live there for a while.




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