The Norgen were a mighty folk in olden time in Tirol, we are told. About 23 centimetres tall, in their little bodies was a power that no man could resist, no matter how stalwart and well-limbed he was. But they were also for the most part a peaceable race, and more inclined to assist than to obstruct the industrious inhabitants of the country in their labours. As long as they were treated with respect and deference they seldom interfered with anyone. Then they were generally scrupulously honourable, and strict keepers of their word. A service rendered one of them was sure to be repaid a hundredfold. An injury brought a corresponding retribution, and scorn, contempt, or ridicule roused their utmost vengeance. Some of them were mischievous, and indulged in wanton tricks not altogether free from malice.
They were most often to be met in lonely paths and unfrequented fastnesses of nature, but a solitary Nörglein could also occasionally stray within the haunts of men, at times asking hospitality at their hands, and at others getting into the bedrooms at night, and teasing the children in their sleep. From this comes the common proverb:
Shut the door closely to,
In German it runs like this:
Schliess die Kammer fein,
And at other times, again, they would take part in the field and household labours, as if they found it sport. The name of Norg was chiefly appropriated to them in South Tirol; in Vorarlberg the analogous cobbold went by the name of Rutschifenggen. Every locality, every valley, every hamlet, and almost every farm, had its own familiar dwarf whose doings were handed down as household words.
There was once a countrywoman who lived in a lonely farm of the Passeierthal, standing over her stove and preparing a pancake for her husband's dinner. As he was a great eater she used a large number of eggs – three dozen and more – in his pancake. As fast as she broke the eggs into the pan, she threw the shells behind her.
Three Norgs came by as she was occupied with this, and they amused themselves with playing with them and arranging them into all kinds of patterns. The housewife was a grumpy sort of woman, and instead of finding pleasure in the glee of the little people, she grew cross with them and scattered the dirty black ashes among the egg-shells they had arranged so prettily.
Offended at this ill-natured treatment, the Norgs left her, but first laid the thread of the good wife's spinning-bobbin as a snare across the floor. Then they waited outside the window to see what happened.
Soon the husband called to know if the pancake was ready. The wife came running to satisfy him. With both hands she held the dish with the huge pancake on it, but then her feet were caught in the thread. She fell flat on the ground with her face in the dish while the three Norgs laughed.
The Village Church
In popular tradition it is said that the ancient church of the village of St. Peter near the Castle of Tirol was built by Norgs. It was not without difficulties, though, for while they were at work, a giant who lived in the Tirol Castle used to come every night and destroy what they had done in the day.
At last the Norgs agreed to gather, all on the same day, and build the whole church in one day, for when the church was finished, the giant had no more power over it.
If the bells sound all the time, no one listens to them any more. (Proverb from Tyrol)