Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Myths & Legends: The Wolf Stone

It's time for a bed-time story in the form of a legend from the lands of Germany, included in the work of Alexander Schöppner who lived in the 19th century.

* * *

In a valley in the Fichtel mountains, a shepherd once was tending to his herd in a green meadow. A few tmes it happened that after he brought them back home, he discovered that one of the animals was missing. All searching was to no avail - the sheep always vanished into thin air.

The shepherd decided then to observe his herd more attentively and at one such time he noticed a huge wolf come out of the forest and grab one of the lambs. Angered, the shepherd began chasing after the wolf, but it was too fast and before he could do anything, the wolf disappeared with its prey.

The next time, he brought along a marksman. The wolf appeared again, but no matter how much he would shoot, the bullets would just bounce off of the animal. At that moment the shepherd procured an idea to load the gun with the dried pith of an elder bush. The next day they managed to hit the wolf-thief which then fled, howling, back into the forest.

In the morning the shepherd met with an old neighbour of his, who he was not on the best terms with. Seeing that she was limping, he asked:

"Neighbour, what happened to your leg? It does not want to go along with you."

"What business is it of yours?" she replied and hurried away.

The shepherd remembered that. The woman had been suspected of practising black magic for a while and people claimed to have seen her on Heuberg in Schwaben, on Köterberg, and on Hui near Halberstadt*.

And so he reported her to the authorities. She was then arrested, interrogated and subsequently submitted to lashings - a punishment carried out on all those suspected of witchcraft who denied the charges. After that she was chained up, but one day out of the blue the woman disappeared from prison and nobody knew where she could have gone to.

Some time passed and the poor, unexpecting shepherd saw the hated wolf again come out from the forest. This time, however, the wolf did not come to attack the herd, but the shepherd himself. A fierce battle ensued - the shepherd gathered all his strength against the fangs and claws of the bloodthirsty beast and would have surely been killed had it not been for a huntsman who appeared on the scene at the last moment. He fired at the wolf, but to no avail, so he decided to stab it with his hunting knife. The moment blood gushed out of the wolf's side, the old woman appeared before their eyes in the meadow, writhing and kicking in pain. Together, they finished her off and buried her twenty feet under the ground.

On the spot where they buried the woman, they erected a large stone cross which they named the "Wolf Stone" in memory of these events. The area surrounding the stone, however, was never peaceful. The Malicious Messenger (der Tückebote) or the Burning Man (der brennende Mann), in the language of the people, still goes about his dangerous business here.

Alexander Schöppner, Sagenbuch der bayerischen Lande: Aus dem Munde des Volkes, der Chronik und der Dichter, München, 1874, II/165f 

* These names most probably refer to mountainous areas/towns that were considered gathering places for witches during the sabbath.

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