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The Giant's Toy

Next to a waterfall on a high mountain in Alsace stands Nideck Castle. In early times the knights who inhabited this castle were giants. One day a giant maiden, who decided to see what life was like down in the valley, walked down the mountain almost as far as Haslach.

Hard by the forest she came to a field just being plowed by some farmers. Her eyes filled with wonderment as she stopped to look at the plow, the horses, and the men. The whole tableau was quite new to her.

"Oh," she said as she approached, "I'm going to take it all home with me." She knelt down, spread out her apron, and stroked her arm along the ground, sweeping everything into her apron. She then made her way happily back to the castle, leaping up the steep cliffs. Near the summit, where the face of the mountain is so sheer a man could scale it only with great difficulty, the giant maiden gave a single bound and was at the top.

The giant knight was sitting at the table when she entered the castle. "Ah, my child," he said, "what have you there? You can't hide the joy in your eyes."

She quickly opened her apron and let her father look in.

"What are those wiggly things you have there?"

"Oh, father, it's such a marvelous toy! I have never had anything like it in my whole life."

She then removed each item one by one - the plow, the farmers, the horses - and set them on the table. Then she ran to the other side to look at her display. When the little creatures began moving back and forth she clapped her hands together and laughed with great joy.

However, her father spoke sharply to her, "Child, that is not a toy. Quickly now, carry them back down to the valley."

The maiden began to weep, but to no avail. "For me, child, the farmer is not a toy," said the knight grimly, "and I will have no more of your whimpering! Pack all these things gently into your apron and return them to the exact place from which you took them. If the farmer cannot plow his fields we giants up here in our mountain nest will have nothing to eat." [Legend 17]

Without enough and suitable food even giants succumb. Nobility too depends more on food than glitter.

Mother Holla's Pond

Many landmarks in the Meissen Mountains of Hesse are said to be very old. Of all such places, the strangest is Mother Holla's Pond. It lies in one corner of a swampy meadow and is only about forty or fifty feet across. The entire meadow is encircled by a stone wall that has sunk halfway into the marshy ground. It happens from time to time that a horse ventures beyond the wall and sinks out of sight.

The people tell many things about Mother Holla, the patroness of that pond, both good and bad. Women who visit it the pond climbing into the spring, become healthy and fertile. She has flowers, fruits, and cakes in her underground realm. She distributes these and the produce from her fantastic gardens to those she meets - if she likes them.

Mother Holla is very tidy and keeps a neat household. When it snows in man's world, it is Mother Holla shaking out her feather beds till the flakes drift around in the wind.

She punishes girls who are lazy at the spinning wheel by soiling their linens, tangling their yarn, even setting fire to their flax. However, she rewards hard-working girls by giving them with new spindles and by doing their spinning for them at night. When these girls wake in the morning, they often find their spools full of newly spun yarn. But she also visits the lazy girls at night. She pulls the covers off their beds, carries them out into the night, and places them on cold, hard cobblestones where they wake up freezing.

Mother Holla also rewards hard-working maidens who at dawn fetch water from the wells in finely polished pails, by placing silver coins in their buckets. She likes to lure children into her pond - the good ones she rewards with success and fortune; the evil ones become changelings.

Each year Mother Holla wanders around the countryside bestowing fertility on the fields. However, she can also strike terror into the hearts of the people when she roars through the forests, leading raging hordes.

Sometimes she appears as a beautiful White Woman, floating or hovering above the surface of her pond. At other times, though, she is invisible. Then one hears only the pealing of her bells and other dark rumblings from deep beneath the surface.

Success is through hard work, tidiness and care - that is the message, loud and clear.

Hackelberg, the Wild Huntsman

Many years ago in the lands of Brunswick there lived a master huntsman by the name of Hackelberg. He was said to have been so fond of hunting that when he lay on his deathbed he begged God to allow him to exchange his place in Heaven for permission to hunt in Soiling Forest until Judgment Day, whenever that day would come. He also asked to be buried in the wilderness of Soiling, and all he had asked for was granted.

Four times every night the terrifying echo of his hunting signals a chase - and baying hounds can be heard in the wilderness. One time the threatening sounds ring out from here, another time from there.

I myself, I believe in 1558, was riding through Solling on the way from Einbeck to Uglar when I became lost and chanced upon Hackelberg's grave in a clearing. It was like a meadow, but was covered with a wild growth and with reeds. It measured about an acre and was somewhat longer than it was wide. Though the area was surrounded by trees, no trees grew on this clearing. One end of the field slanted slightly upwards toward sunrise, and at the other end there was a raised, flat red stone about eight or nine feet long, and about five feet wide, I think. One end of the stone pointed south and the other north.

I was told by locals afterwards that one could not find this grave by asking around and searching for it. But if someone should chance upon the site, he would find a pack of frightful black dogs next to it. I saw no such spooky dogs there. If I had, the few hairs I have on my head would surely have stood on end.

[Legend 172, by Hans Kirschhof. Retold]

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