There was a poor but good little girl who lived alone with her mother. They no longer had anything to eat, so the child went into the forest in the hope of finding some. There she met with an aged woman who felt for the hungry child, and gave her a little pot. The woman said, "When you tell the pot, 'Cook, little pot, cook,' it will cook good, sweet porridge, and when you say, 'Stop, little pot,' it will stop cooking."
The girl took the pot home to her mother and set it to work. Now they were freed from poverty and hunger and had sweet porridge as often as they chose.
Once when the girl had gone out, her mother said, "Cook, little pot, cook' all by herself.The pot cooked porridge for her and she ate till she was satisfied, but when she wanted the pot to stop cooking, she did not know the words to say. So the pot kept on cooking and the porridge rose over the edge of the pot, and still it cooked on, until the kitchen and whole house were full. Then the porridge streamed to the house next door, and then the whole street. There was the greatest distress, for no one around knew how to stop the pot but the little girl, and she was not around.
At last, when only one single house remained, the child came home. She said, "Stop, little pot," and it stopped cooking. All who wished to go back to the town had to eat their way back.
Above the route which leads from Meran to Botzen, not far from Terlan, are the ruins of the old castle of Maultasch, which was once the favourite dwelling of a princess of the same name. Some think the castle its name from her. while others say the princess derived her name from the castle.
There have been two different parts of this building, the main one was below in the valley to guard the route. On that spot there is still a hole in the rock, and the hole leads into an underground passage. Through it, Margaretha Maultasch, the last owner there, used to og up the upper part of it on the heights above, and that part was called Neuhaus.
In this passage is said to lie a hidden treasure, guarded by a fearful keeper who is said to be the devil himself. Many people have tried to get at this treasure, but no one has ever succeeded.
Those who live in the surrounding country recount that some years ago, two young peasants of Meran had resolved to go and take the treasure. On their way there, they said to one another, "Today the devil will not escape us." So they entered the passage and began to repeat the incantations they had learnt by heart for the purpose, while throwing around them consecrated powders. But all at once a huge black dog rushed on them. They fled away, terrified to death, believing that the devil himself was at their heels. Since that time no one has ever again tried to discover the treasure of Maultasch.
Once a peasant lived with his wife in the greatest poverty. The peasant was a very good-natured man, but his wife was so ill-tempered that she often beat him for mere trifles. One day she sent the patient man with corn to the mill. The miller, who knew their poverty, ground the corn for nothing.
When the peasant went home, a strong wind arose and blew all his corn away. Of course he fared very badly at home. His wife sent him to the wind that he might demand of it money or the meal. So he went on and came into a forest, where he met a little old mother. She asked him why he was so sad. Then he told her all, and she said,
"Follow me. I am the mother of the wind, and have four sons, the East, West, South, and North Wind. Which of these has blown away your meal?"
Then he said, "I believe the South Wind."
Then they went deeper into the forest, and came to a little hut, where the old woman dwelt.
After a while the old wife said to the peasant, "Wrap yourself well up, for my sons will soon come."
"Why should I wrap myself up?"
"The North Wind is very cold, and you might freeze."
Soon the sons appeared, and when the South Wind came his mother said, "There is a complaint against you."
Without answering, the South Wind gave the peasant a basket, furnished with all meats and drinks that one could desire. Who was merrier than the peasant? He went home and gave his wife the basket, and she convinced herself very soon that it was excellent.
One day a great lord rode by, and the woman bade her husband invite this lord to partake of something. He did so, but the lord laughed at the invitation, and only sent his servants in. They were greatly astonished on finding so nobly spread a table in so poor a hut. But they observed that the woman asked and got everything of the basket. Some days after they came again, brought another basket exactly alike, and exchanged it for that of the peasant.
When next day the woman asked everything from the basket, the poor man had again to smart for it, for she thought that the basket only served for a certain time.
The man bestirred himself and went again to the wind. When he came to the old woman, the mother of the wind, he complained of his wife. The old one told him that he must wait for her son, and he would soon come. The South Wind appeared, and the peasant began to complain to him of his wife.
Then said the wind, "You complain to me, old man, that you have such a bad wife, I will help you, and your wife shall do nothing more to you. Take this tub, and when you are at home, and your wife comes too near you, get behind the tub, and say, "Five out of the tub, beat my wife!" And when that is done say, "Five back into the tub!"
"The peasant went home, and said, "Wife, instead of the basket, you have a tub."
His wife lost her temper, and said, "What shall I do with your tub? Why have you brought no meal?" With these words she seized the baking-fork.
But he quickly ran behind the tub, and cried, "Five out of the tub, beat my wife!"
At once five fellows sprang out of the tub and did their duty. When the peasant thought she had had enough, he cried, "Five back into the tub!"Then they left off, and crept into the tub.
From that time on the wife became mild and gentle. The peasant had now time to think about his basket. He suspected that his guests had tricked him out of it, and took counsel with his wife as to how they should get the basket back again.
The wife said, "As you have now a magical tub, you can match not one man only, but hundreds. Go to the great lord, and demand your basket back."
The peasant went to the lord, and challenged him to a duel. The lord laughed at his folly, and answered, "Good! I will meet you tomorrow on the open field."
Next day the peasant took his tub under his arm and went into the field, where he waited. The lord soon appeared in the company of his servants. Coming up to him, the lord bade his servants give the peasant a sound thrashing.
The peasant saw that he was taken at a disadvantage, but, trusting in his tub he cried, "Give me my basket, or it will be the worse for you."
Then they fell on him, but the peasant cried, "Five out of the tub on every man of them!"
At once five fellows sprang on each of them, and began to beat them unmercifully.
Then the lord cried out loudly, "Dear peasant, make them leave off!"
Then the peasant gave command, "Back, fellows, all of you, into the tub!"
Then they left off, and crept into the tub. The lord at once bade his servants fetch the basket and give it up. It was done on the spot. The peasant took his basket, went home, and lived with his wife in perfect peace afterwards.
One day a poor woman of Lengenfeld, in the Oetz valley in the Tyrol, went up the mountains to meet her husband, who was guarding a flock of goats there. On her way she passed by a chapel and entered it. While she was praying, a large eagle swooped down and carried off in his claws her little son, who was amusing himself outside on the moss. But the eagle settled with his prey on a peak which was quite close to the goat-herd, who frightened off the bird with stones and saved the child. He did not know the child was his own, for he had not seen it since spring.
Without anyone else knowing it, three good fairies who lived in the neighbourhood of the Oetz Valley beneath an enormous mountain peak called the Morin, had been invisibly active in the saving of the goat-herd's boy.
The boy grew up and always bore in his mind an attraction to the highest peaks of the mountains. He became a hardy Alpine climber and clever mountain shot, and a secret impulse ever pushed him to the heights above Morin, for the legend said that there was a paradise for animals; there were herds of gazelles and stone-bucks, but no huntsman had ever succeeded in getting near them.
The foolhardy boy wished to try his luck anyway, and started his wanderings. One day he got lost and was in danger of his life. He didn't know where he was, and from the ice-covered peak that reaches into the clouds over three thousand metres high, he slipped down on a green Alp which he had been unable to see from above, and in the fall he fainted.
As he came again to himself he was lying on a beautiful bed in the crystal cave of the three fairies. They had saved him a second time. They stood round him, all shining, and their look awakened in him the sweetest sensations.
He remained now as a guest of the fairies, and was well cared for. He was allowed to look at their beautiful dwelling, their gardens, and their pets. He was told that his amiable hostesses were the protecting genii of all Alpine animals, and they made him promise never to kill or to hurt one of those innocent creatures, — no gazelle, no Alpine hare, no snow-hen, not even a weasel.
He was allowed to remain with them for three days. But then he had to promise three things if ever he wanted to return to them, or if ever he wished to live happily down in the valley. First, he was not to tell anyone that he had ever seen the three fairies or been with them. Second, he was never to do any harm to any Alpine animal. Third, never to let human eye see the way they were going to show him, and through which he might be the more easily able to return to where they lived.
Then, after a tender parting, the son of the Alps was taken into a steep mountain gully which led down to the valley of the rushing Achen, which tears along under bowers of Alpine rose-bushes.
The fairies now added that on every full-moon night he was allowed to pay them a visit for three days, and that he had only to enter through that gully, and give a certain sign that they acquainted him with.
The boy returned home completely altered; it seemed as though he was dreaming, and from now on he never took an Alpine stock in his hand, never went hunting, but every full-moon night he stole quietly to the chasm in the rock deep beneath the Morin, entered into the interior of the mountain, and was for three days happy with the fairies, listening to their wondrous songs as someone entranced.
At home his form shrank, he became pale and emaciated, and his parents and friends pressed him in vain to tell what was the matter with him.
"Nothing at all," he answered to these questions; "I am as happy as I can be."
As his father and mother had become aware of his secret strolls on the full-moon nights, they followed him once quietly. Close at the entrance of the chasm he heard his mother's voice. She called his name. At the same moment the rocks shut together before his eyes, and the mountains crashed down with the noise of thunder, so that rocks fell down on rocks.
The poor boy's happiness was gone for good. He returned to his native village, but he cared neither for his mother's tears nor his father's reproaches and remained apathetic and indifferent to everything. In this way he faded away till autumn came, till the herds were driven down into the winter stables of the village, and the beautiful summer life of the mountain world died and was covered with snow.
Then one day two friends of the goat-herd arrived and talked of a hunting excursion which they intended to make on the top of the Morin;. Then for the first time again the eyes of the pale young Alpine hunter became bright, the irresistible love of hunting awakened again in him, — perhaps there was some greater attraction too.
The youth prepared his hunting things, borrowed an Alpine stock, for his own had been left behind broken in his fall from the peak of the Morin, and then he joined the hunting excursion which started in early morning. First he walked with them, then he hurried before the others, higher and higher. His heart grew light as he ascended, for too long the heavy air of the narrow valley had oppressed him. He climbed as quickly as a goat, and at last he caught sight of a sentry gazelle, which whistled and disappeared behind the peak it had been standing on.
The young hunter climbed to the top of the peak. From there he saw down below him a little green spot where a large herd of gazelles were browsing. Only one of them came within range, and this one he pursued till the poor animal in her anxiety and terror was unable to get further, and stopped on the edge of a precipice that the huntsman in his excitement had not noticed. He levelled his rifle. The plaintive cry of a female voice resounded in his ears, but he paid no heed to it; he took deadly aim and fired.
Lo! at that moment he was surrounded by a halo of brightness, and in the middle of that light stood the gazelle unhurt, and before her floated the three fairies in dazzling splendour, but they looked severe and angry. They approached him, but on seeing their faces without one smile or look of love on them, the boy was seized with a deep horror. He staggered, — one step more - and fell backwards down the precipice three hundred meters from the edge where he had stood. Pieces of stone rolled down, and a tremendous wall of rock tore down after him with a fearful roar, and buried him.
The rock is still called "The Hunter's Grave.''
[Abridged and retold]
About two hundred years ago there lived at Lengenfeld, in the valley of the Oetz, a man of enormous size. He was called "the Adasbub", and was a monster, besides being a thief, glutton, sot, and fighter. He had been among the soldiery and fought in many wars, and had returned from them still more savage and wild than ever. He had also brought home large sums of money from foreign countries, money that he had stolen and extorted from people, and now he bought his own farm, which he began to manage in a way.
He was most of the time in the village inn. There he boasted as the first in Lengenfeld about his velvet jacket decorated with buttons made out of old pieces of silver money. The young fellows of the village soon became ashamed of their clothes, and wished to imitate the vain ideas of their paragon.*
The Adasbub had colossal bodily strength, and had at one time defeated fifty men who had attacked him. He who offended him had to fear what this dreaded man might do to him in turn. That man would have to fear the Adasbub would turn a mountain torrent on his farm, or roll down huge snowballs, with most likely rocks hidden in them, on his roof.
His loved to swear, drink, bluster, and injure his neighbours. He also surrounded himself with a gang of fellows who suited his tastes, and was their leader in carrying out the most fearful outrages. They tore the doors of the peaceful inhabitants from their hinges, and carried them away into the forests; hoisted the farmers' carts on the roofs of their houses; shut up goats in the little field chapels, and pulled down the crosses in the cemetery, which they stuck upside down in the ground over the graves.
A newly-concocted villany was to be carried out in a farm on the Burgstein, above Lengenfeld, and it had to do with the farmer's daughter. But her father came to hear of it, and determined to defend his home against the outrages of these cowardly villains. So he sharpened his axe, and as the Adasbub entered the house, he brought it down with tremendous fury on the head of the monster, who fell dead at his feet with a split skull.
On seeing their leader receive this unlooked-for welcome, his companions fled, and people from all parts swarmed up the Burgstein and thanked the farmer for having delivered the country from such a wretch.
They cut off the head of the Adasbub and dragged the body to the edge of a precipice. From there they pitched it down on to the road which passes by a much frequented sulphur bath, the Eumunschlung.
The head was thrown into the charnel-house of the cemetery of Lengenfeld, where it still lies, a terror and warning to all wicked men. The skull is nearly cloven in two, and from time it gets red hot all over. Many people say that when it is burning, it rolls from the charnel-house into the chapel, and then jumps again back to its place, where it slowly cools, and then looks just like any other skull.
* In the Tyrol it is the custom for the peasants to have their jackets and waistcoats decorated with rows of silver buttons, which are sewn on in such a manner that they overlap each other. These buttons, of which they are very proud, are all made of old silver money, and each row contains from fifteen to twenty of them.
The parents of a prince wanted him to marry. But he said: "I'll only marry a woman that I can honestly say is the most delicate and refined woman in the world."
His parents answered: "Go and find her!"
He went along and came to one who had bandaged her head and looked very ill.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked.
"Oh," she said, "this morning when the maid was combing my hair, a hair fell out. That's why I'm in such great pain."
But the prince thought to himself: "Maybe she's not the right one. I will keep looking."
He went on his way and found another. She had her whole body wrapped in the finest linen and looked very sad.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked.
"Oh," she said, "Last night there was a little fold in my bed linen. That's why I am ill."
But the prince thought, "Somehow I don't think she's the one either. There may still be a more delicate one for me."
He went further and came to a third. She was sitting in an easy chair, her foot bandaged. She wept bright tears and puckered her beautiful little face in pain. It was a pity to behold.
"What's the matter with you?" asked the prince.
"Oh," she moaned, "Early this morning when I walked in the garden, there came a breeze, and a little jasmine petal fell on my foot."
The prince thought a little and said, "You're the right one! I cannot get a more delicate woman than you!" And he married her.
Had he done well? Unfortunately, the story teller does not know, for she has run out of yarn.
[A tale from South Tyrol - from Christian Schneller's Märchen und Sagen aus Wälschtirol., 1867.]