Site Map
Swiss Folk Tales and Legends  ❀ 5
Section › 29   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

Pig Music

The people of Delemont in the green, fir-covered Jura mountains, one day found they had some money to spare, so they bought an organ for their church. The little church could hardly hide its pride at all the fine music that poured from the wonderful, new organ.

"Have you seen the new organ?" people said. "Don't miss it. Don't miss it!" So it was, all over the town and the countryside.

When the church bells mingled their voices with the cow bells on Sundays, the church in Delemont almost burst with people and music.

Urbain was the swineherd of Foradray. He too had heard about the organ. One Sunday morning, after seeing that all was well with the pigs, he washed his face in the wooden fountain, took his Sunday suit from the chest by his straw bed, and neat as a townsman, he started for Delemont.

Never had he heard anything as beautiful as the music which flowed out of the organ. Urbain was almost in ecstasy.

"It is wonderful," he said to his neighbour on the church bench. "I think I will go home and create some music myself."

Urbain had been inspired, and was very thoughtful on the way home. "When the pigs squeal together, they make many sounds too. The organ I will make, will be made of pigs. I may build one for Foradray, and a good one too."

For the next few weeks Urbain was very busy with making a big box with many smaller boxes in it. On each little box there was a lid with a round hole in it for a pig tail. When all was complete with a pig in each box, he had an organ with rows of black holes with pink tails curling and twisting through them.

Then, when he started to pull at the curled pig tails, the sound was almost overwhelming. He was very pleased. The music he made by pulling the tails was not exactly like that of the organ at Delemont, but soon the people of Delemont came flocking to Foradray to see and hear Urbain's organ.

And to this day, when an organ is broken, the country people say, "It is the organ of Foradray."




The Monster Bull of Uri

Some centuries ago a young shepherd lived on the large and fertile Suren Alp, which divides the canton of Uri from the Engelberg valley. He was called Urs of the Riedt. The pasture land belonged to the monastery of Engelberg, and the monks had grown rich on its milk, butter, cheese and goat's milk products.

One day after one of his visits to the valley, he was walking back up the mountain with two newly bought wooden milk-containers on his back. Then he met a small company of black-eyed cattle-dealers from over the mountains. They were driving a herd of beautiful white sheep. Urs stopped to look at them. Never in all his life had he seen such lovely sheep. One young lamb took his fancy particularly. He begged the cattle-dealers to let him have it, and in the end they laughed and gave him the little white lamb.

Urs' joy knew no bounds. Back on his own pasture-ground he would not let the lamb out of his sight, either by day or by night. He shared every piece of bread he ate and every glass of milk he drank with it; he made a bed for it beside his own in the sweet-smelling hay; he took it on all his walks and talked to it as though it were a human being. Finally he decided to christen it.

One evening as it began to grow dark, he set out secretly down the mountain into the Uri valley. He walked most of the night until he came to the market town of Attinghausen. At dawn he crept into the church, broke open the font, filled a wooden bowl with the holy water and, without spilling a drop, carried it back to his pasture-ground. There he baptized the white lamb according to Christian rites.

Urs in his terror tried to flee from the terrible creature, but it seized him and tore him to pieces.

From that day onwards the the fearful creature - the Alpine folk called it the monster - did not want neither men nor animals near it. The grass turned brown and withered, the alpine-roses shrivelled and died, the pines rotted away from the inside, the shrubs were eaten by noxious insects. If cattle were left on the pasture they began to grow restless and to sicken. Finally, no herdsman dared to drive his cattle up to the Alp.

The meadows, which had once been so fertile, were now of no value, and the monastery sold the Alp to the people of Uri for a couple of shillings.

But the men of Uri themselves could do nothing with the pasture-ground, which had now become a desert, ruled by the monster. They sent their priests with the Holy Sacrament up to the Alp, to exorcise the evil creature, but in vain. They began to regret the purchase.

One day when the wise councillors of the canton of Uri were holding their meeting in the Lion Inn at Altdorf the discussion turned upon the monster of the Suren Alp and on the unhappy consequences of his rule of terror. At the next table a stranger was sitting, a travelling scholar. He pricked up his ears, stood up, went to the councillors' table and said:

"I will help you to rid the Alp of this monster if you will fill my drinking-cup seven times with the crimson wine of Burgundy, and my purse with silver dollars," he told them.

The men of Uri hesitated, but finally gave him what he asked. Thereupon the stranger told them to find a silvery-white bull-calf and to feed him for nine years on pure milk. The first year the milk was to come from one cow only, the second year from two cows, the third from three, and so on until the ninth year. Then a pure maiden was to lead the white bull up to the Alp where the monster was. The white bull would vanquish it, and their troubles would be over.

For a long time the men of Uri searched in vain for a white bull-calf. At last they found one in the stable of a farmer who lived in the Schkhental, a valley which leads out of the main Uri valley. When the farmer heard what they wanted the calf for, he gave it to them for free.

Everything was now done as the travelling scholar had told them. After six years of this rich and lavish food, the bull grew so strong and wild that hardly anyone dared to go near him. Then they moved him out of the valley on to the lonely Waldnach Alp, halfway between their villages and the Suren Alp, and for the last three years he was prepared there for the great battle.

At the end of the ninth year ,Agnes, the daughter of the lord of Attinghausen offered to take the bull to the monster. One day she walked up to the Waldnach Alp. There she untied one of her silk hair-ribbons, threaded it through the powerful bull's nose-ring and led the animal by it along forsaken paths across to the Suren Alp. The bull followed her willingly and well.

No one was allowed to watch the fight. The people down below waited in great excitement. After a while they heard the bull begin his deep roar. It must have been the moment when he struck the scent of the monster.

Then followed an anxious moment of breathless silence. Suddenly a hurricane of wind swept over the mountain, making a noise like a shrill whistle. There was a sound of crashing and roaring, dark clouds covered the sky and turned the day into night. Lightning flashed. A violent clap of thunder shook the mountains. But then the clouds parted, the sun came out again and shone down upon them quietly and peacefully.

The watchers began to venture nearer. When they came to the scene of the battle they saw the monster lying dead in a pool of black steaming blood;. Not far off lay the victor. He too was dead, but under his body a life-giving stream was gushing forth. It has been called the Bull Stream ever since.

"But where is Agnes?" one of the men of Uri asked. She had disappeared without a trace. They searched the whole Alp for her in vain, but she lives in the memories of the people of Uri for helping in saving their Alp from that monster.




The Three Ravens

Once there was a father that always looked sad. At last his daughter asked him why he looked that way. Then he told her that she had once had three brothers, and that one day he had cast a spell on them in a fit of anger and turned them into ravens.

From that moment on the girl could not rest at home. As soon as she got a chance to slip away unnoticed she set out to look for her brothers. In the evening she came to a forest where there lived a fairy who had felt kindness for the girl for a long time. The fairy kept the girl in her leafy bower for the night, and the next morning, when the girl had told her her heart's desire, she led her to the edge of the forest and said:

Halfway across the field you'll see

Three linden trees as fair as fair can be.

Then she sent her on her way. When the girl had walked on for half a day, she saw a large field, and in the middle of the field there were three old linden trees. On each tree sat a raven. But as she walked towards the trees, the ravens flew down from them, alighted on her shoulders and hand, and began to speak. "Oh, look! Our darling little sister has come to set us free," they said.

"Heavens," said the girl, 'how happy I am that I have found you. Tell me quickly what I have to do to set you free."

"It will be a hard task," answered the ravens. "You must not speak a word for three years. If you speak so much as one word, we will have to remain ravens for the rest of our lives. Besides this, you must not visit us any more."

The girl set out for home at once. Again she came to the forest where the fairy lived, but instead of the leafy bower where she had spent the night, there was a great castle. A procession of huntsmen on horseback came trotting out of it, and one of them blew his hunting-horn till the whole forest echoed. The count that the castle, forest and countryside belonged to, rode at the head of the procession. When he saw the girl walking along, he rode up to her and said: "What country do you come from, and what are you doing here?"

But the girl did not answer; she only bowed gracefully. The count could not take his eyes from her, for she was beautiful. "Well, if you have not been given speech," he said, "you have nevertheless beauty and good breeding. If you will come with me to my castle, you will have no reason to regret it."

With a silent gesture the girl consented, and the count led her straight to his mother in the castle. The girl bowed once more without saying a word.

"Where did you get that girl from?" asked the old countess. "It seems she has something wrong with her tongue. Why have you brought her here?"

"I want her to be my wife," said the count. "Even if she cannot speak, she has no other blemish."

At that the old countess fell silent, but in her heart she kept a secret spite against the girl.

The next day the count married the girl with great joy and festivity, but the wedding ceremony was hardly over when a messenger from the emperor arrived and told the emperor called all able men to take part in a war. The count too had to bid his young wife goodbye, and set off without delay. Before he left he called a servant and charged him to watch over his young wife as if she was the apple of his eye.

But hardly had the count left the castle, when the old countess began to give vent to her secret spite against the girl. She bribed the servant, and about nine months later the young countess gave birth to a boy, the old woman ordered the man to take the child into the forest and leave him there to be eaten by wild animals.

He did as she ordered, and left the child helpless in the forest.

Soon after this the count came home on leave, and his mother greeted him with the words: "Your dumb wife is a witch. She has given birth to a dead child."

And the servant who was called said: "Yes, the baby lies out there in the forest, where I buried it."

Another year passed, and the count came home on leave a second time. In the meanwhile his wife had given birth to another boy, and the servant had again carried it out into the forest.

This time the old countess said to her son: "Your dumb wife is a child of Uffa. Her second child was no child at all, but a hairy animal."

And the servant said: "Yes, a black dog. I buried it in the forest."

Now the count began to be angry with his wife, and since he trusted his mother and servant and did not want the graves to be dug up to check the stories, he ordered that his innocent wife should be set to work alongside the lowest serving-maid in the castle.

By the end of the next year the emperor's war was over, and the victorious count returned to his palace. In the meanwhile his wife had had a third son, and this one also had been carried out into the forest by the servant.

The old woman said to the count: "You or your dumb wife must die. The third child was a horrible monster."

And the servant said: "Yes, it flew out of the window into the forest."

Now the count ordered his young wife to be thrown into the castle dungeon, for he wanted to have her burnt as a witch the next day. When the wood was piled up in the courtyard, ready for the fire, he ordered his servants to fetch her from the dungeon, and he set up his court of judgement in the castle yard. The herald stepped forward and sentenced the young countess to death, and asked the court of judgement whether anyone wanted to defend the accused, young countess. No one spoke. There was a dead silence, broken only by the sighs of the countess.

But suddenly there came the sound of a bugle in the distance, and the next moment three knights on very white horses swept into the courtyard. They wore shining armour, carried shields, each with the picture of a raven etched into it. And each knight held a beautiful boy-child in his arm.

The treacherous servant was standing by the woodpile and holding a torch to set fire to it. But he had no time to understand what was happening before one of the knights pierced him through the heart with his lance. Then all three called out: "Dear sister, we are here! This very day the three years are over. Here are your lost sons. A fairy that you know has secretly tended them for you in the forest."

You can imagine the joy and jubilation there was now! The old countess was driven from the castle, and the young count and countess lived on in true love for the rest of their lives.




How a Robber Band Was Tricked

Once in a Swiss valley there was a band of robbers. They were so fierce and cunning that people became afraid to leave their houses. They would pile furniture behind their doors at night, and never went to bed without placing their swords or halberds near at hand. And when they went out to till their fields they always went in groups, carrying their forks and hoes on one shoulder, and their swords on the other.

Even so the robbers swooped down every day on some farm and carried back sackfuls of loot to their mountain retreat, so things went from bad to worse in the valley.

"If we could find the robbers' den," the peasants said among themselves, "we could trap them like marmots in their hole."

"Anyone who dares to go up to their mountain to spy on them risks getting killed by them."

"Perhaps not," said a rich farmer.

"What do you mean, Jacob? Do you have some plan?"

"Yes," answered Jacob. "Wait and see."

The next morning Jacob put on his hooded blouse, and took with him just a stick freshly cut from an ash. Then he walked away on the deserted road.

Far from the village, near an oak forest, the bandits came and surrounded him. Dozens of bloodthirsty eyes glared at him.

"What are you doing here?" shouted the chieftain.

Jacob put on a stupid air and began to weep, like a child who is being spanked.

"I have done nothing," he cried.

"A simpleton," said one of the robbers; his beard was as dusty as a bunch of grass by the roadside. "Let's hang him."

"Wait," said the chief. "He might be able to give us some useful information."

"I can cook," suggested Jacob, drying his eyes. "I can cook well."

A burst of laughter answered him.

"A chef! That does not sound so silly to me," declared the chief. "We could need someone to cook our dinner while we are away. Why not take him with us?"

So Jacob was taken along. They climbed along a steep mountain trail which led to a deep cave hidden behind a screen of black fir trees. Here he was thrown upon a pile of straw, and as night had falled by then, he went to sleep as soundly as if he had been in his own bed.

"Look how the fool sleeps," said the chief to his lieutenant. "One would think he was in his mother's house. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Maybe so. But I'll watch him anyway, said the lieutenant. He was always suspicious and alert.

In the morning the band made ready to leave on one of its daily raids. The chief showed Jacob where the food was kept.

"See that everything is clean around here, and the soup ready when we return tonight. If not . . ."

Left alone, Jacob studied the cave carefully, noting just where it was in the mountains. He needed to keep chief pleased with his work, so he set to work. When the band returned, hungry and loaded down with loot, the cave was neat and tidy, and a big cauldron of soup was steaming over the fire alongside three roasted sheep.

"Ah! You simpleton," said the chief. "You have not lied. That soup smells good!"

Jacob gave a silly smile, but did not answer.

Everything went well during the next few days. Jacob observed the robbers' habits, and, while they were away, took note of the cave's surroundings. At night the bandits were pleased with his cooking. The more stupid he looked, the more joyous they became. Only the lieutenant kept an ever-suspicious eye on him.

One day while the robber-band was away, Jacob went into the woods to find a place in which his village friends could hide in ambush. Then he saw the lieutenant returning unexpectedly. Jacob had to think fast. Seeing some raspberry bushes nearby, he began to pick the berries.

"What are you doing here, so far away from the cave? Spying?" inquired the lieutenant.

"Huh? Oh, one must pick raspberries when they are ripe," grumbled Jacob and put the raspberries in his handkerchief. "Tonight there will be raspberries for dinner. They are very good."

"Raspberries, raspberries," growled the bandit. The same evening he asked his chief to get rid of the simple-minded cook.

"I think he is a spy. If we don't hang him, he will get all of us hanged."

The chief shook his head and looked sideways at his cook. "Heavens!" he said. "But I do like his soup."

The place was becoming unsafe for Jacob, he decided, so early the next morning, after he had made certain that all the robbers had gone down the mountain, he took a short cut to his village, running almost all the way. Everyone there had thought he was dead, so he was received with shouts of joy. But he had no time to waste. Jacob explained quickly what he had seen and done, and then ordered all the men to take their arms and follow him up the mountain.

He led the peasants to the cave by the same short cut by which he had come down. The bandits were not yet back, so Jacob had time to place all his men in the woods surrounding the den.

No dinner was smoking over the fire when the band returned. No cook greeted them with a silly smile. Surprised and worried, the robbers went out into the wood, calling Jacob, while the chief's lieutenant repeated, "I warned you. I warned you."

This was the moment Jacob had been waiting for. At his signal the peasants fell upon the scattered robbers, and made short work of them.

The next day they hung the robber-band from the highest trees on the mountain. The villagers could go on living as they wanted: "Frisch, fromm, fröhlich, frei," as they said, which meant "bold, pious, cheerful and free."

[Retold from Duvoisin]




A little girl had lost her two parents early. They had left her nothing but a beautiful radiant dress and a testament, but no one knew what had become of their last will. So the girl took the dress in a handkerchief and went in search of a job as a maid-servant. At last she got hired in a place owned by nobles. She did hard work in the stables and in the kitchen and often became sooty, and therefore the others took to calling her Cinderella.

The girl had hid her beautiful dress under a fir tree. After some time there was to be an event of music and dance in the village. The one who was most joyous of all at the thought of the coming event was the noble-born son in the house.

The girl asked for permission to go to the dance.

"Yes," said the mistress of the house, "go and watch, but do not dance."

The girl went at once to the fir tree. On the way she washed her face and hands of dust and soot, and when she put on her beautiful dress, she looked good. After a while she came to the dance-place, every one looked at her, and the son in the house made his way to her ahead of many others. He did not recognise the lowly maid-servant who worked for his parents, and asked her to dance with him. But she could not be moved to it, no matter how he asked.

In time the girl ran from the dance and returned to the fir tree. There she put her lovely dress away and sooted her face and hands again. A tiny man suddenly came out from behind the fir. He greeted her with kind words, and then disappeared.

From that time on the noble son in the house had no more rest. He wanted another occasion of music and dance in the village again, and soon it was arranged. Cinderella asked her mistress to be allowed to go to this dance too.

"Yes," said the mistress, "go and watch, but do not dance!"

When the girl appeared at the dance-place in her lovely dress, the youth once again had eyes only for her and asked even more urgently than the first time to dance with him. She said no thanks. Then he tried to steal a kiss from her, but she escaped from him and ran back to the fir. The tiny man appeared again and greeted her in a much more friendly way than before.

The youth, however, could not get the lovely girl out of his mind. Nothing seemed make him glad or comforted than getting yet another event withmusic and dance in the village, and soon he got what he wanted.

When Cinderella came there for the third time in her beautiful dress, the youth took her by the hand and would not let her go until she promised him to marry him. What to do? She told him that she was just a lowly maid-servant who worked in the kitchen and stable of his parents, but the youth was just as fond of her anyway, and at once set the day when they could marry.

"All right, but do not tell others who it is you want to marry," said Cinderella and left him. She walked straightway to the fir tree. The little man appeared there again, and this time he smiled gently at her when she greeted him.

When the wedding day came, Cinderella came to the fir-tree for the last time to put on her beautiful dress. The little man showed up again. This time his eyes sparkled with joy and kindness, and he said, "There is a dowry for you." With that he gave her a book. She opened it; it was the last will of her parents. It said they had made her the heir to a large territory.

Well pleased, Cinderella hurried to her bridegroom, and the bridegroom led her to his parents, and the wedding was celebrated with merriments.

[Retold from Sutermeister, 1873]



The White Chamois

The white chamois is the pet of the dwarfs. If a white chamois appears to a hunter, it is a warning to stop killing, saying, "Enough is enough."

A hunter did not believe in this. When an old man told him that a white chamois had been seen near their village, instead of hanging up his trusty rifle on its pegs, he sallied out very early one fine morning to shoot the white chamois.

It was still dark in the valley when he started, but it the light was bright by the time he reached the peaks. Up over the rocks and across the flowery meadows the hunter made his way. When he came to the edge of a deep ravine, he slung his rifle over his back, and slid down. Then he climbed up to the top of a high ridge. Balancing himself on the edge of the rocks, he looked across the yawning chasm. At a distance he spotted a white chamois.

"Now for a good shot," he thought.

He unslung the rifle and then wondered for a few seconds how he could get the body of the white chamois if he hit it and it fell down there. He was just about to level his weapon and take aim, when he heard a loud voice behind him:

"You had better pull your cap down over your eyes."

Astonished he turned to see who it was. There stood a dwarf, cap, beard, and all. He had a stern look on his face. Pointing to the white chamois, he added:

"You have been duly warned!"

At that moment the hunter's foot slipped on a fragment of rock, and he fell down to the bottom of the ravine. A few minutes later, Alpine condors were quarreling over his mangled corpse.

After this, the chamois had peace and quiet in the high places for a long time.

[Reworked - Griffis- 235-40



The Raven

Once there was a count of little wealth. He lived in a half-ruined castle with his lovely only daughter. One day he went through a forest while thinking about what would become of his daughter when he was gone. At that moment a croaking voice called to him from an oak tree:

"Good count, wait a little."

The count looked up and saw a raven with shiny feathers. The raven said to the count: "If you give me your little daughter for a wife, you will get much gold."

The count was well satisfied with that, went home and led the daughter to the feathered bridegroom. He said to her:

"Beautiful girl, come with me into my castle chapel and kneel on a cushion before the altar for a whole day as you fill your tears in the jug that is standing there. When I come home in the evening, water my feathers. If you can do it without spilling anything of what is in the jug, the wicked witch who turned me into a raven will no longer have any power over me. Then I may change into the knight I used to be."

After saying this, the raven flapped his wings, took to the air and showed her where to go through many thickets to a distant, great castle. When she came there, she knelt in the castle's chapel and did as she was told. When evening came, she took of the jug filled with tears, and walked into the courtyard to wait for the raven. But then she lost her footing on the uneven stones, almost fell, and spilled a little of what was in the jug.

When the raven came, he asked in a friendly tone:

"Have you lost anything of what was in the jug?"

She had spilled some when taking the jug into the courtyard, she told.

"In that case the rest of the tears will not save me," said the raven. But if she would try again next, day, it would be good.

The raven's fiancée rose early in the morning and filled the jug with tears again until evening. But once again she spilled a few drops in the courtyard. When the raven flew in, he asked:

"Have you spilled any tears this time?"

She had spilled only a few tears this time, she told him.

"Then the rest of what is in the jug will not do," he said again, asking her to pay better attention next day, for otherwise he would have to fly about as a raven through the woods for a long, long time, if only he lasted that long.

The maiden took his words to heart, wept bitterly the third day too, and when evening came she had learnt something: she put a lid over the jug, stepped very carefully and with a trembling heart into the castle courtyard, and found the raven waiting for her there.

Then she poured her tears from the jug onto the shiny feathers of the bird. All of a sudden a splendid knight stood before the girl. He said:

"A raven - nevermore!"

He thanked the blushing girl warmly for saving him and later showed her the treasures of gold and precious stones in the castle, saying:

"A fair share of this belongs to your father. I have promised it to him."

A week later she was riding beside her fiancé and surrounded by servants that carried gold, silver and precious stones to the half-ruined castle of her father. There a splendid wedding was celebrated. In time they all returned to the great castle of the young prince to live happily there for many, many years.

Swiss Folk Tales and Legends, tales of Switzerland



Swiss Folk Tales and Legends, tales of Switzerland, To top    Section     Set    Next

Swiss Folk Tales and Legends, tales of Switzerland. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2014–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]