Once there lived a married couple who had one son. He was still young when his mother died. Not long after, the father married again. But the young woman looked on her step-son with unquenchable hatred because he was the image of his deceased mother. She persecuted him in every way, and went so far in her hatred as even to plot against his life. But she did not succeed. Then she begged her husband to turn his son out of doors, saying that otherwise she could not live with him. After a long resistance the father at last agreed. He led his son away into a remote forest, and when they were in the middle of a wild thicket, the father said to the son,
"Wait here a moment, we have missed our way, and I will see if I cannot find it again."
He went away and the boy waited. Hour after hour passed by, till the poor boy saw that he was betrayed. As night came on he climbed up a high tree. Then he became aware of a great fire. Quickly he came down, went to the spot, and found a huge old man sitting by the fire. At first the boy was terrified, but hunger gave him courage; so he went up to the giant with a good heart, and begged that he might stop with him.
The old giant asked in astonishment how he had come into this wilderness. The boy told all, and the old man kept him with him, and taught him to hunt.
One morning as he was about to go hunting, the old man said to him that he might shoot any wild beast, but no raven must be harmed. He had already slain animals of every kind, when he took the fancy into his head just for once to shoot a raven. One evening he did so; and as he ran to pick it up, he saw three drops of blood in the snow and a black feather. He looked at it, and said to himself, "I would fain have a wife whose body should be white as snow, her cheeks as red as blood, her hair as black as a raven's feather."
Returning home he repented of the shot, and confessed his disobedience to his foster father. At first the old man was angry; but as the boy had so openly confessed his fault, he became good-tempered again, and the boy told him of the words which he had spoken over the dead raven.
Smiling at this, the old man said, "Such a wife you may have, if you follow my counsel. Go about the twelfth hour to that pool in the wood I have shown you. About that time three maidens, bearing crowns on their heads, will bathe in it. As soon as they go into the water, they will lay down their crowns. Then slip up and take the crown of the first, and run home without looking back."
The son did as the old man advised; but as he was about to run away with the crown, he was pursued by the owner, who called after him to stop and look round. Forgetful of his father's words, he stopped and looked round. Then the maiden gave him a heavy blow and snatched the crown from him.
He went home in great trouble.
The next day the same thing happened. But the third day he took the crown of the third maiden, and ran home with it without looking round. The maiden followed him, and he chose her for his wife.
For some time they lived peaceably and pleasantly together. But one day they were invited to a wedding. There was dancing, and the young woman danced the best of all, and filled all that were present with wonder. Noticing this, she begged her husband to give her the crown just for the day. He went and fetched it; but hardly had she got the crown on her head than she flew away swift as an arrow. At this mischance her husband was very sad. Departing, he took a pilgrim's staff, and went forth to seek his beloved wife.
After he had wandered for a long time, he was in the middle of a dark forest. Here he saw three devils who were quarrelling violently. He asked the devils what their difference was, and they told him their father was dead, and had left them nothing but a club, a cap, and a cloak. By means of the club any of them might be turned into a stone pillar. The cap made him who put it on invisible. And the cloak, had the property that anyone might be swiftly carried in it wherever he wished.
About these articles they could not agree, because each wished to have all three. The wanderer proposed to act as judge between them. All three were to go to the mountain opposite, and at a given sign were to run toward him. The first that came up should have all three articles. But meanwhile the club, the cap, and the cloak must remain with him.
The devils agreed to the proposal, and went. But as they hurried back towards him, they became all too rash and fell into a crevice and broke their necks. The young man went further with his magical booty. As night came on, he wrapped himself in his cloak, lay down on the earth, and thought if only he might awake tomorrow before the house-door of his beloved wife.
And next morning he woke before a strange house. The door opened and a beautiful woman came out. It was his dear wife.
Many are those who, once wealthy and rich, now live on the alms of other people because of their passion for treasure-seeking. In their infatuation they neglected their domestic work, and almost without knowing it, stood on the verge of beggary.
There are treasures in all parts of the country, on the mountains, in the valleys, under rocks and trees, in the lakes, in the cellars, even beneath the hearths and behind the walls. The ruins of once powerful strongholds generally hidel treasure in different forms, and there is not one ruin in the whole Tyrol that does not possess its treasure tradition.
It is said that a treasure on some days give off a blue light, or a green light, or a yellowish-green light.
This is what once happened on the post-route from Imst to Landeck, close by the hamlet of Starkenbach. On this spot several people had noticed at different times a green light which lasted from two to five minutes. However, when they approached, it dissolved into mist and disappeared.
Some men of Starkenbach happened to be at work on the very same spot one autumn over a hundred and fifty years ago under the supervision of the road-maker, when one of the men pulled up a piece of turf and was joyfully surprised when some two hundred silver coins lay at his feet. Most of them well-preserved Roman coins bearing the inscriptions of emperors and empresses. The coins were all of the same size.
"Such treasures," declare Tyrolians, "are lying in thousands all over the country, if it were only possible to lay hands on them, as on those Roman coins."
The Floitenthal, near the Ziller valley, is surrounded by such terrific mountains; chasms, and rocks, as are nowhere else to be seen; the mountains of Floitenthurrn and Teufelseck especially attract the attention of the traveller. The latter mountain is called "Teufelseck" (devil's corner) because it is said that at certain times the devil is seen descending from it in the form of a huge fiery dragon. He then flies through the Bleiarzkar, a narrow hole in the rock, which leads through the Stilluppe into the Zillerthal. This hell-dragon is called the Alber, and whenever he appears, plague, famine, and war are the sure consequences.
It once happened that during a pitch-dark night, two men climbed the cherry-tree which stands close to the Mission Cross of Algund, near the village of Meran. One of them, the tailor Hanser, was a most wicked man, an idle vagabond and debauchee; and just on that dreadful night he had made a bet with some of his worthless companions to fetch home cherries from the tree near the cross; but as he was a rank coward, he did not dare to go alone, and so he persuaded a good villager, old Sepp, to accompany him.
Sepp climbed the tree first, but could nowhere find any cherries, so he climbed higher and higher, almost to the very top, and he was very much astonished at not being able to discover the least sign of fruit, for he knew the tree to be loaded. As he climbed, he noticed a peculiar, disquieting noise among the leaves.
Hanser, in the meanwhile, had remained on a lower branch, where he found cherries by the hatful. At last Sepp shouted to him, "Hanser, can you find any?"
Hanser replied, "Oh! yes, wherever I put my hand they hang in clusters."
So Sepp climbed down to help his friend in gathering, but could not find one single cherry, while Hanser was filling his basket as fast as he could from the abundance thatsurrounded him.
Sepp began to feel very uncomfortable, and as he stood on the bough close to Hanser, he all at once saw the Alber fly by, lighting all around with the brilliancy of an electric fire. At this sight the tailor trembled so much that Sepp had to hold him to prevent him from falling, and said, "Has it already gone so far with you, Hanser, that the devil not only gives you his blessing, but lights you also to find all the cherries? Then may God preserve you."
He then shouted to the fiery Alber, "Hi there! Wait a little till I can find some cherries too."
But the devil flew off with the speed of lightning.
Even now people admire the courage of Sepp, who dared to accompany the worthless tailor on such an errand. But Sepp was such a good man that the devil had no power over him, and there was no reason to punish him for not stealing anything either.
To the Golden Star hotel at Innsbruck there once came a very rich foreign princess. She was suffering from a terrible disorder that had baffled every doctor that had tried to cure her. Now the princess had heard of Dr. Theophrast, and had come to Innsbruck to consult him there. But he too said it was a malady that he had no control over, even though people said he was a wonder doctor. This was a terrible shock to the princess who had travelled so far in hopes of a cure.
One day when she was lying inconsolable in her bed, a tiny little man came into the room and offered his services. He also gave her a potion, and told her it would restore her to health.
But the little fellow added that on that day next year he should return, and if she had forgotten his name, which was Hahnenkikerle, she must promise to marry him and to live with him under the Hottinger Gorge.
The princess gladly accepted this proposition, and she awoke on the following morning as fresh and healthy as a May rose.
She remained in Innsbruck, where she gave feast after feast, and in this way the year soon passed by. All at once she remembered her promise to the little dwarf, whose name had escaped her, and every effort to recall it was in vain. "Oh, why didn't I write it down at once and read it over several times?" she lamented.
She went on and asked many people, but no one could tell her. She confided her anxiety to her friends, but they could neither help her nor give her any advice. Only a poor servant girl, who came to hear of it, decided to try and help the princess.
So she went into the Gorge, hoping to hear something certain there. She listened as she crept about all over, and at last she heard in the depth of the Klamm a joyous shouting, and down below she saw the dwarf jumping and singing, "Hurrah! the princess in the Golden Star hotel doesn't know that my name is Hahnenkikerle."
The girl hurried home as fast as she could, and told the princess all she had heard. Now the princess remembered the name, and when the day came and the dwarf appeared, she called out to him, "Hahnenkikerle!"
At hearing this the dwarf rushed away raging into the mountain.
The girl was rewarded by the princess; and when she married an honest burgher of Innsbruck, she received a princely dower.