A fisherman had caught nothing for many days. Once more he went to the lake to cast his nets. Little hope had he, but he was bound to make the trial, for wife and children were crying for bread.
The fisherman threw the net into the water, and when he pulled it up a stone lay in it. The second time the fisherman drew out a drowned pig. Casting his net a third time, he drew out of the net a small casket
The fisherman opened the casket, but to his horror a giant came out it and said to the fisherman, "For bringing me to the light of day receive your reward. I command you to get yourself into the casket; if not, you are a dead man."
The fisherman whimpered, and said, "But how shall I find room in this little casket?"
The giant was going to show the fisherman that there was room enough inside, and got again into the casket. No sooner was he inside than the fisherman quickly shut the casket, and was going to cast it into the lake. The giant begged him not to do this before he had entrusted to him a secret. The fisherman granted his request, and the giant said,
"I am the spirit of the son of your king. My father cast me into this lake because I had been a great sinner. I had always done evil to men, and had even murdered many honest men. I can only hope to find rest, said my father, if I show myself kindly disposed to the one who finds me, and this will I do. Listen: not far from this place you will find a pond. Cast your net there, and every day you will catch a fish. Take it to the royal court, and you will get a ducat for every such fish."
All came to pass as the spirit said. The fisherman found the pond, cast his net into the water, and took a splendid fish. This he carried to the king's castle. When the king's cook looked at the splendid fish, it pleased her greatly, and she gave the fisherman the ducat he asked for it, and thought that today she should have something quite out of the ordinary to set before the king.
The cook put the fish in the pan and was going to fry it, but scarce was it on the fire than it spoke, and said, "As long as you do good, so long you will fare well, but as soon as you do evil, it will go ill with you." Next he flew up the chimney.
When on the second day the fisherman came with an equally fine fish, the cook bought it, but the same thing happened as with the first fish. The matter came to the ears of the king, and on the third day he himself was present at the cooking, and the same thing happened. The king had the fisherman brought before him, and when he came there, he told all from beginning to end.
The king greatly rejoiced that his son had become a changed character, and he took the fisherman into his castle with his whole family, and let them want for nothing.
At Terenten, in the Pusterthal, lies a farm which is called the Oberleitner Hof. Its owner, who lived two hundred years ago, was known in all the surrounding mountains as the Old Oberleitner.
This old man was keen at hunting. He delighted in going over the mountains to the wild rocky valley of the Stillupp and Floiten in pursuit of stone bucks, and he killed so many that there is not one now to be seen in the whole neighbourhood.
One day he was out with a fellow huntsman, quite on the top of the mountain, and all at once he said to him, "Look there, my wife is just preparing the dinner. As she is not in a good temper today we must try and be home in time, or else we shall catch a scolding."
"But how can that be," answered the other," since we have more than a day and a half's journey before we can reach home?"
"Never mind that," replied the Oberleitner, and as the housewife served the dinner, the two huntsmen entered the room at the same moment as all the farm people. Well, everybody of the district believes firmly that it was an example of Oberleitner's strange abilities.
On one of the farm-buildings of the Oberleitner Hof is still to be seen, up to the present day, an old roughly-painted picture, which represents an incident in the life of the former proprietor of the farm. Oberleitner was working in an adjoining field, when he caught sight of several fine stags on the distant Alp, called the Eidechsspitze. He ordered his servant to run home and fetch his rifle, but the man laughingly replied, "They will have time to run away a hundred times before you can reach them."
"Oh! "said the Oberleitner, "They will stay on that Alp long enough."
And there they remained on the same spot till he arrived on the top of the mountain.
Once there was a peasant, and he had three sons. One of them was called stupid Hansl by everybody, for all that he undertook turned out amiss, and everything he laid hold of fell to the ground. His father thought he could make him clever by severe treatment, but it was of no use.
One day, all at once there grew up on the place a strange tree, even though nobody had sown any seed. It grew so quickly that after a few days it reached the height of a tower, and in a few weeks its top could not be seen up in the clouds. The villagers were curious to know where one would get to if one were to climb up the tree, but no one would undertake it.
The news of the tree spread far and wide, till it came to the ears of the king's daughter, who asked for a fruit from it. A good reward was promised to anybody who would undertake the journey. Many came forward, but none succeeded, for each fell down again after the second or third day. Each took several pairs of wooden shoes with him, of which he was to throw one down from time to time as a sign that he was all right.
Some were never seen again, and threw no shoes down, so that something must have happened to them. Every one lost heart at this. The two brothers of Hansl undertook the venture among others, but they fared like all the rest. Wearied to death they soon came down empty-handed and met with embarrassing laughs.
As the very last one Hansl came forward and furnished himself with twelve pairs of wooden shoes, victuals, and a crude leaden hatchet that his father gave him, and so went on his tree-journey. All laughed at him, but that did not trouble him much. They waited for a day, and thought Hansl would come down. But they were no little astonished when they merely saw his shoe fall down, and the shoes were all in holes.
The same thing happened on the following days, and as the shoes kept falling down in greater force than ever, they came to the conclusion that Hansl was getting higher and higher.
And how was Hansl really getting on? After having climbed some days, one evening he found no suitable place to rest in, but as he was looking about, he disc a hollow in the tree. Inside a light was glimmering. Hansl went in, and saw a hideous old woman. However, she received him kindly, got a good supper ready for him, and pointed out a sleeping-place. As Hansl asked her how far it was to the top, she answered, "Oh, dear boy, you have yet far to go. I am only Monday. You must come to Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on to Saturday; and when you are once there, you are close to the goal and you will see what will pass."
The next day Hansl resumed his journey, and after he had climbed on a few days more, he saw another hollow in the tree trunk on Wednesday evening. Inside there was another witch. She was older and more hideous than Monday. Hansl was afraid of her at first, but when she promised him a good supper, his fear passed away. Next day, when he wanted to resume his journey, the witch warned him not to turn in at Wednesday's hollow, for he was a hideous man, she said, who could see no human flesh. Hans followed this counsel, and passed by Wednesday safely.
In the next hollows lived Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, all old wives, and each more hideous than the last. Each had a humped form, a bald head, and a great red nose.
When Hansl had passed Saturday, he had not a shoe left; his hatchet, with which he always kept himself steady, was already blunted, and he had no more pleasure in climbing. Go back he would not, for he was already very high, so there was nothing for it but to go on with his journey. As he climbed upwards, everything became lighter and freer. But soon he came to a stone wall. The stem of the tree had grown into it. Hansl noticed a little door, where the lock and key glittered in pure gold. He opened it and passed into a great meadow. The shine and scents made him reel and almost swoon, and he laid down a little. As he recovered, he saw a city lying before him, all of gold, and over it played a strong light. It was so bright that the eyes of Hansl could not stand it. Beside him lay his hatchet, but now with a golden handle instead of the wooden one. On the top of the tree he had climbed he observed real golden fruits. Golden creatures leaped in the pasture around. In a word, all was of gold.
Hansl believed he was in heaven, and he stopped there. Others say he came down again to earth and told the whole story of what he had seen and heard up there.
In Sistrans, a village close to Innsbruck, there lived some sixty years ago a man who was noted in all the surrounding districts for his evil and quarrelsome disposition. He attended every Kermesse and village meeting where it was the custom of the blackguards of the surrounding country to go and fight, but he never found one who could master him.
This superhuman strength was not his only quality, for he was well up in other more doubtful arts, and was able to do rather more than "boil pears without wetting the stalk." Should a fine fox or a fat hare be running in the forest close by, he set his traps just behind his stove, and in the morning the game was sure to be caught.
Should anything have been stolen, people came to him, for he had means of compelling the stolen goods to be restored. For this purpose, he merely took a little book bound in pigskin out of his box, and began to read; and wherever the thief might be, he was forced by some irresistible power to take the stolen goods on his back and bring them before the sorcerer. The owner must always be present at the time.
This little book had such, a power that, at each word read by the sorcerer from it, the thief had to make a step; and three times woe to him who had stolen something which was heavy, or had to bring his burden from a long distance or over steep mountains while the man was reading: From far off his pantings could be heard, and he was drenched in sweat when he arrived at the spot.
One day the sorcerer made himself a footstool of nine different sorts of wood. He knelt down on it close to the organ in the church, and looked down on the people, and saw all the old hags and witches there.
After the service was over, these old hags set on him in herds, and would have torn him to pieces had not the priest come in time to his rescue, for the hags now discovered that he had found them out.
Once on Christmas Eve this man had stolen the consecrated bread while the priest held it up after the consecration, and from then on carried it with him, wrapped in a little piece of cloth always hidden on his left arm. From this came all his tricks and strength. But at last he fell seriously ill, and in spite of all his strength and cleverness he was bound to die. That was a very hard thing for him. Three long days and nights he lay awake without being able to die. Several times the priest came to him, and at last, after long exhortations and prayers, the dying man made a confession.
The bread, which had already grown into the arm, was cut out, and all the books and writings belonging to the art of sorcery which could be found were burnt. As they were thrown into the flames it roared and thundered dreadfully, aud there was such a terrific heat that the lead in the window-frames melted and ran down in streams, and during this noise the man died.
Near the village of Kitzbühel used to stand a magnificent forest. Two peasants had a lawsuit over it for several years. It ended when the judge, who had been bribed by one of the two peasants, awarded the land to him and sent the one the forest really belonged to, off with no hope of ever regaining his right.
The lengthy trial and corrupt verdict had made the losing party poor. He could not rest, but constantly wailed over his misfortune, saying that he had been cheated and unjustly condemned.
But the other, hearing the constant complaining of the poor, injured man, one day called out, "Well, then, by all the devils, keep on crying. If I have unlawfully gained the forest, may it sink a thousand metres beneath the ground."
These words had scarcely gone out of his mouth, when an earthquake happened, and along with it a fearful thunderstorm, The majestic forest sank beneath his feet, and black waves rolled over it.
Though very deep as the See [lake] is, during certain kinds of weather the forms of trees can be clearly seen far down below.