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Tyrol, Tirol map from Wikimedia Commons. Modified

Tirol or Tyrol, a landscape in the Alps, consists of four parts: North Tyrol and East Tyrol (red) are in western Austria, while South Tyrol (orange) and Trentino (blue) form an autonomous province in Italy.

Tyrol, Tirol map from Wikimedia Commons
A more detailed Tirol map

Today, Tyrol (Tirolo) is a federal state (Bundesland) in western Austria. There are valleys, tall Alps and a few passes. Tyrol comprises the Austrian part of the historical Princely County of Tyrol and the present-day Euroregion Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino. The capital of Tyrol is Innsbruck. Tyrol today is popular for famous ski resorts, and has international road, rail and air connections.

Tirol is the name used in the county itself. Three languages are spoken in Tyrol: German, Italian and Ladin. Tirol's past has been turbulent: the region has been its own and it has been divided among up to three different countries. Today, Austria and Italy share it.

The Brenner Pass is a mountain pass through the Alps along the border between Italy and Austria, and has been much coveted throughout history. Dairy cattle graze in alpine pastures there throughout the summer. Farmers log pine trees, plant crops, and harvest hay for winter fodder. Many of the high pastures are more than a thousand metres above the sea level, and some are 2,000 metres above sea level. It meant much to the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire to travel through the Brenner Pass in Tyrol to and fro crownings of emperors in Rome.

Tirol tales collected by Rachel H. Busk

Rachel Harriette Busk (1831–1907) was a British traveller and folklorist. She collected tales in Tyrol some time after Austria had built a railway though the Brenner Pass. Tyrol's borders at her time had been established in 1803, and restored in 1815. Some boundaries are different today.

Folklore of admirable people

A great part of the text that follows, is abstracted from her introduction to Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, or, Popular Myths of Tirol (1871).

Something of the deep, strong attachment to their native mountains which is innate in the children of the Alps stealt over her when she thought of her pleasant journeyings in Tirol, a little, out-of-the-way region in the middle of Europe, she opens with. "The character of its people has a claim to our esteem and admiration." Hardy, patient, and persevering; patriotic and loyal to a fault; honest and hospitable. . . .

"At their mother's knee they had learnt . . .

They learnt Tyronean versions of tales that are part of the stock of German and European folktales, tales formed by districts, mountains and remote valleys where stories were placed and in part peopled with beings of Tyrolean folklore.

Norgs and kobolds

The Norgs were a mighty folk in olden time in Tirol, we are told. In their little bodies was a power that no man could resist. But they were also for the most part peaceable, and more inclined to assist than to hinder the hard-working people in the area. 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 seldom visited vastnesses 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,
Or the Norg will come through.

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 used about them in South Tirol. Every locality, every valley, every hamlet, and almost every farm had its own familiar one, writhes Rachel Busk. In her opinion, the Norg is a kobold: "The name of Norg was chiefly appropriated to them in South Tirol; in Vorarlberg the analogous cobbold went by the name of Rutschifenggen." Norgs are "span-high", says Busk also. That is, about 23 cm (1871, 13). For all that, there are few or no hard facts to draw on. Let us instead focus on what folklore sources maintain about kobolds on the basis of various beliefs:

In German folklore the kobold is usually invisible - and the most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of four-year-old children or less. It varies. Kobolds are grouped and classified:

  1. Those who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants and sometimes perform domestic chores. They play malicious tricks if insulted or neglected.
  2. The kobolds on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing and help sailors. Such a kobold enters a ship via the wood used to build it, and may appear as a ship's carpenter.
  3. Underground kobolds in mines and so on, may share their origins with creatures such as gnomes and dwarves. Some stories claim that these kobolds live in the rock, just as human beings live in the air.

Kobold beliefs mirror legends of similar creatures in other regions of Europe. The kobold's origins are obscure. Sources equate the domestic kobold with creatures such as the English boggart, hobgoblin and pixy, the Scottish brownie, and the Scandinavian nisse or tomte; while they align the subterranean variety with the Norse dwarf and the Cornish knocker.

Such European spirits often dwell among the living. Local names for kobolds are many and varied, and so are the descriptions.

A tradition from Perleberg in northern Germany says that a homeowner must follow specific instructions to lure a kobold to his house. He must go on St John's Day between noon and one o'clock, into the forest. When he finds an anthill with a bird on it, he must say a certain phrase, which causes the bird to transform into a small person. The figure then leaps into a bag carried by the homeowner, and he can then transfer the kobold to his home. Even if servants come and go, the kobold stays.

Kobolds bring good luck and help their hosts as long as the hosts take care of them. In return, the family must leave a portion of their supper (or beer, for the bierasal) to the spirit and must treat the kobold with respect, never mocking or laughing at the creature. A kobold expects to be fed in the same place at the same time each day, or maybe once a week and on holidays.

House kobolds usually live in the hearth area of a house, although some tales place them in less frequented parts of the home, in the woodhouse, in barns and stables, or in the beer cellar of an inn. At night, such kobolds do chores that the human occupants neglected to finish before bedtime: They groom the cattle and horses, scrub the dishes and pots, and sweep the kitchen.

A kobold can bring wealth to his household in the form of grain and gold. A family coming into unexplained wealth was often attributed to a new kobold moving into the house.

Even friendly kobolds are rarely all angels -, and house kobolds may do mischief for no particular reason. They hide things, push people over when they bend to pick something up, and make noise at night to keep people awake.

German writers have long borrowed from German folklore and fairy lore for both poetry and prose. Narrative versions of folktales and fairy tales are common, and kobolds are the subject of several such tales. A kobold is musically depicted in Edvard Grieg's lyric piece, opus 71, number 3.

(Source: Wikipedia, "Kobold")

Three languages and a variety of names for hidden beings

Bright Perchta, Holda and Berchtold go together

In their landscape, the folks envisaged or personified such beings as as Perchta or Berchta (English: Bertha). Her name may mean "the bright one". Miss Busk says in another of her books that Grimm and others will tell that "Perchta is 'brightness, daughter of Dagha, the daylight' Or, in another of her books: "Peratha (the bright), daughter of Dagha (the day)." (Rachel H. Busk. The Valleys of Tirol: Their Traditions and Customs and how to Visit Them (Longmans, Green and Co, 1874:120)

Or Perchta may stem from an old German word for "hidden" or "covered". Jacob Grimm held that Perchta is Holda's southern cousin or equivalent, for they both share the role of "guardian of the beasts" and appear during the Twelve Days of Christmas, when they oversee spinning. Grimm says Perchta or Berchta was known "precisely in those Upper German regions where Holda leaves off, such as Austria.

Perchta had many different names in different eras and regions. Grimm listed Berchte first, and also Berchta and about a dozen others. Furthermore, in southern Austria, was a male form of Perchta. Grimm thought that her male counterpart or equivalent was Berchtold.

(Wikipedia, "Perchta")

Alpine woman protectors

They say these spoken-of but largely hidden folklore beings smile on the overburdened peasant, beguile his labour by singing to him, show him visions of beautiful landscapes, bestow wonderful gifts – loaves which never diminish, bowls and skittles, charcoal and corn of pure gold. To the husbandman they give counsels in his farming; to the good housewife an unfailing store – bobbins of linen thread which all her weaving never exhausts; they help the youth or the maiden to get the return of the love they have longed for, and have some succour in store for every weary soul.

Alpine male protectors

The people recognise male helpers too: so-called Nörgl, Pechmannl, Pützl, Wiehtmännlein, Käsermännlein, and Salvanel. These beings are thought to be ready to do people a good turn when it lay in their way – lift weights, carry burdens for them up the steep heights, and protect the wild game. And, also, they love to play people a mischievous trick. for example to make off with the provision of loaves prepared for the mowers; sit, while remaining invisible, on their sledges and increase their difficulty and confusion in crossing the mountain-paths lost in snow; entice them into the woods with beseeching voices, and then leave them to wander perplexedly; overturn the farm-maids' creaming-pans; and roll the Senner's cheeses down the mountain sides. So they get the blame for mishaps -

The Wild Man, wild and lawless, and Trude - to explain away accidents

Worse tricks than these are those of the Wild Man. When the soil is sterile and ungrateful; when any of the wonted promises of nature are unfulfilled; when the axe of the lonely woodman rebounds from the stubborn trunk and wounds him; when the foot of the practised mountain-climber fails him on the crisp snow, or the treacherously sun-parched heather; when a wild and lawless wight (vette for such there are even in Tirol) illtreats the girl who has gone forth to tend her father's flock upon the mountains, trusting in her own innocence and Heaven's help for her protection – it is the Wild Man – in some places called the Wilder Jörgel, in others, the Lorg, the Salvang or Gannes, the Klaubaut or Rastalmann, in Vorarlberg, Fengg, Schrättlig, Doggi, and Habergâss – The wild and lawless one is given the blame for misfortunes or misdeeds without given a fair chance to defend himself against a charge if he is still around.

His female counterpart is called Trude and Stampa, and the Langtüttin. She too is subjected to "lame blame" -

Legends and beings surrounding folks

The mineral riches of the country, and the miners occupied in searching for them, are told of as of hidden treasure sought after or revealed by the Bergweib and the Bergmannlein, or Erdmannlein, the Venedigermannlein and the Hahnenkekerle. The stories of the strength and generosity, cupidity and spite of these folklore beings, are many; while the mountain echoes are the voices of sprites playfully echo the sounds of human life.

Mountains, forests, lakes and torrents are given their share of personifications.

Many legends, some natural beauties are understood as the smiles and the helpful acts of the Wasserfraülein, while mischances which occur at the water's edge are ascribed to the Stromkarl (the man in the stream) and the Brückengeist (bridge-sprite).

Nature strikes back and other themes in folklore

In the folklore, castles and forests owned by wicked rich men are sunk beneath the waters of lakes so that their foundations may never again be set up, and their place be no more found.

Perhaps a curse pursues those who try to dig out the ill-gotten treasure.

Villages are recorded to have been swallowed by the earth or buried by the snow-storms when their people have taken up wicked ways of living, and evils abound.

Good may be repayed handsomely - Good deeds done to the poor are thought to pay off somehow, one way or another. However, conniving and calculating ones may not be rewarded for their seemingly good deeds. Further, at times the benefits of a reward depends on oneself, whether one is able to handle it well, as when one is given a wish -

Justice is meted out

Belief in deep justice and that some have not gone quite to hell because of some good in them, wander around and can be met. Thus, as some shepherds return from their lonely watches on the Alpine pastures, they could have stories to tell about meetings - when they met the fiery Sennin who broke the Sunday rest [which by the way may be just fine, since the Bible's Sabbath rest is not Sunday rest.]

Other scary folklore beings are Tscheier Friedl who was cruel to the cattle in his charge; or the büssender Hirt who stole the widow's kine; or the Markegger who removed his neighbour's landmark; or the Pungga-Mannl who swore a false oath; or the feuriger Verräther who betrayed the mountain pass to the Roman legions. We can see what matters and what not to do!

Protectors suggest a need of protection

On the other hand, heroes in the Alps are interested in the people's welfare. There are saints for such roles also: St. Nothburga and St. Isidore watch over the husbandman, and St. Urban over the vinedresser; St. Martin over the mower. And St. Martha, St. Sebastian, and St. Rocchus are asked to stop plagues. St. Anthony and St. Florian similarly protect against fire. The helping saints receive special veneration for their help, by festivals, by setting up their tokens in homestead and house, in vineyard and in field, on bridge and by the wayside.

In some seemingly simple events and things there are big issues at stake

Good tales to tell may amount to take lives out of the humdrum, telling a good moral lesson with charming simplicity and hopes that events should turn out even so.

Miss Bush has selected some of these Alpine tales and dressed them in English. The language, customs and mythology in Tyrol around 1870 are well intermingled, she found. She also says "The Rose-garden of King Lareyn," reflects ideals coming down from the Middle Ages, and is the county's chief popular epic."

This Collection

In this collection, some account of the Norg folk and some samples of Norg legends comes first, then a tale of the last Norg-king. And then come the rest of the tales.


Tales of Tirol, Tyrol stories, Tyrolean tales, Literature  

There are some tales from Tyrol in Crane's Italian Popular Tales; Vernaleken's Alpensagen; Vernaleken's In the Land of Marvels; Vernaleken's Kinder- und Hausmärchen; Zingerle's Kinder- und Hausmärchen and Zingerle's Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus Süddeutschland - while the other books in the list are devoted to Tyrolean tales of various kinds.


Busk, Rachel Harriette, coll, ed. Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, or, Popular Myths of Tirol London: Griffith and Farran, 1871. ⍽▢⍽ The main source of many of these reworked tales.

Crane, Thomas Frederick. Italian Popular Tales. Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1885.

Günther, Marie Alker, comtesse, coll. Tales and Legends of the Tyrol. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

Henderson, Bernard Lionel Kinghorn. Wonder Tales of Old Tyrol. London: Philip Allan, 1925.

Raff, Helene. Tiroler Legenden. Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 1924.

Schneller, Christian, coll. Märchen und Sagen aus Wälschtirol, Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Sagenkunde. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1867.

Vernaleken, Theodor. Alpensagen: Volksüberlieferungen aus der Schweiz, aus Vorarlberg, Kärnten, Steiermark, Salzburg, Ober- und Niederösterreich. Wien: Seidel, 1858 (Neuausgabe, Graz: Verlag für Sammler; 1993)

Vernaleken, Theodor. In the Land of Marvels: Folk-tales from Austria and Bohemia. London: S. Sonnenschein and Co., 1889.

Vernaleken, Theodor. Kinder- und Hausmärchen dem Volke treu nacherzählt: Aus Österreich, Böhmen und Mähren. 3. Auflage, Wien/Leipzig, 1896. (Nachdruck Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1980)

Zingerle, Ignaz und Joseph. Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus Süddeutschland. Regensburg: F. Pustet, 1854.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. König Laurin und der Rosegarden in Tirol. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1850.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. Sagen aus Tirol. Gesammelt und herausgegeben von Ignaz V. Zingerle. 2nd enl. ed. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1891.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Tirol. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1859.

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