Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.
On returning to his palace, the king learned that he had been absent for two hundred years, which had passed as one night, whilst he was in the mountain, with the dwarf. Some of the retainers jumped off their horses and fell to dust, but the king and the rest ride on till the bloodhound bounds from the saddle, which will be at the Last Day.
The story is current in the village, that "old Winchcombe," as they call him, was very fond of hunting, and, as in many other versions of the tale, was not content with six days in the week for his favourite pastime, but devoted Sunday also to the chase; and that after his death he might be heard at night with his hounds, careering over the neighbouring country, until he was finally "laid by twelve parsons."
I did not ascertain the date of this last event, but it is significant that the village is on the edge of Otmoor, formerly the haunt of innumerable wild fowl, which of course we know are in many places termed "Gabriel hounds," in their nocturnal flight, from the resemblance of their cry to that of a pack of hounds, and the moor having been (within the last century) drained, they are of course no longer heard.
After a considerable run, they had so gained upon him, that on looking back -- oh, horror! -- he could distinctly see hunter and dogs. The former was terrible to look at, and had the usual complement of saucer-eyes, horns, and tail accorded by common consent to the legendary devil. He was black, of course, and carried in his hand a long hunting-pole. The dogs, a numerous pack, blackened the small patch of moor that was visible; each snorting fire, and uttering a yelp of an indescribably frightful tone.
No cottage, rock, or tree was near to give the herdsman shelter, and nothing apparently remained to him but to abandon himself to their fury, when a happy thought suddenly flashed upon him, and suggested a resource.
Just as they were about to rush upon him, he fell on his knees in prayer. There was strange power in the holy words he uttered; for immediately, as if resistance had been offered, the hell hounds stood at bay, howling more dismally than ever ; and the hunter shouted "Bo shrove!" "which," says my informant, "means, in the old language, the boy prays." At which they all drew off on some other pursuit, and disappeared.
He lived the life of the traditional "jolly friar." He ate and drank of the best the land could give him, or money buy; and it is said that his indulgences extended far beyond the ordinary limits of good living. The priest Dando was, notwithstanding all his vices, a man liked by the people. He was good-natured, and therefore blind to many of their sins. Indeed, he threw a cloak over his own iniquities, which was inscribed "charity," and he freely forgave all those who came to his confessional.
As a man increases in years he becomes more deeply dyed with the polluted waters through which he may have waded. It rarely happens that an old sinner is ever a repentant one, until the decay of nature has reduced him to a state of second childhood. As long as health allows him to enjoy the sensualities of life, he continues to gratify his passions, regardless of the cost. He becomes more selfish, and his own gratification is the rule of his existence. So it has ever been, and so was it with Dando.
The sinful priest was a capital huntsman, and scoured the country far and near in pursuit of game, which was in those days abundant and varied over this well-wooded district. Dando, in the eagerness of the chase, paid no regard to any kind of property. Many a corn-field has been trampled down, and many a cottage garden destroyed by the horses and dogs which this impetuous hunter would lead unthinkingly over them.
Curses deep, though not loud, would follow the old man, as even those who suffered by his excesses were still in fear of his priestly power.
Any man may sell his soul to the devil without going through the stereotyped process of signing a deed with his blood. Give up your soul to Satan's darling sins, and he will help you for a season, until he has his chains carefully wound around you, when the links are suddenly closed, and he seizes his victim, who has no power to resist.
Dando worshipped the sensual gods which he had created, and his external worship of the God of truth became every year, more and more, a hypocritical lie. The devil looked carefully after his prize. Of course, to catch a dignitary of the church was a thing to cause rejoicings amongst the lost; and Dando was carefully lured to the undoing of his soul.
Health and wealth were secured to him, and by and by the measure of his sins was full, and he was left the victim to self-indulgences -- a doomed man. With increasing years, and the immunities he enjoyed, Dando became more reckless. Wine and wassail, a board groaning with dishes which stimulated the sated appetite, and the company of both sexes of dissolute habits, exhausted his nights. His days were devoted to the pursuits of the field; and to maintain the required excitement, ardent drinks were supplied him by his wicked companions.
It mattered not to Dando, provided the day was an auspicious one, if the scent would lie on the ground, even on the Sabbath, horses and hounds were ordered out, and the priest would be seen in full cry. One Sabbath morning, Dando and his riotous rout were hunting over the earth estate; game was plenty, and sport first-rate. Exhausted with a long and eager run, Dando called for drink. He had already exhausted the flasks of the attendant hunters.
"Drink, I say; give me drink," he cried.
"Whence can we get it?" asked one of the gang.
"Go to hell for it, if you can't get it on earth," said the priest, with a bitter laugh at his own joke on the earth estate.
At the moment, a dashing hunter, who had mingled with the throng unobserved, came forward, and presented a richly mounted flask to Dando, saying, "Here is some choice liquor distilled in the establishment you speak of. It will warm and revive you, I'll warrant. Drink deep, friend, drink."
Dando drank deep; the flask appeared to cling to his lips. The strange hunter looked on with a rejoicing yet malignant expression, a wicked smile playing over an other wise tranquil face.
By and by Dando fetched a deep sigh, and removed the flask, exclaiming, "By hell! that was a drink indeed. Do the gods drink such nectar?"
"Devils do," said the hunter.
"An they do, I wish I were one," said Dando, who now rocked to and fro in a state of thorough intoxication, "methinks the drink is very like --" The impious expression died upon his lips.
Looking round with a half-idiotic stare, Dando saw that his new friend had appropriated several head of game. Not withstanding his stupid intoxication, his selfishness asserted its power, and he seized the game, exclaiming, in a guttural, half-smothered voice, "None of these are thine."
"What I catch I keep," said the hunter.
"By all the devils they're mine," stammered Dando.
The hunter quietly bowed.
Dando's wrath burst at once into a burning flame, uncontrolled by reason. He rolled himself off his horse, and rushed, staggering as he went, at the steed of his unknown friend, uttering most frightful oaths and curses.
The strange hunter's horse was a splendid creature, black as night, and its eyes gleamed like the brightest stars, with unnatural luster. The horse was turned adroitly aside, and Dando fell to the earth with much force. The fall appeared to add to his fury, and he roared with rage. Aided by his attendants, he was speedily on his legs, and again at the side of the hunter, who shook with laughter, shaking the game in derision, and quietly uttering, "They're mine."
"I'll go to hell after them, but I'll get them from thee," shouted Dando.
"So thou shalt," said the hunter; and seizing Dando by the collar, he lifted him from the ground, and placed him, as though he were a child, before him on the horse.
With a dash -- the horse passed down the hill, its hoofs striking fire at every tread, and the dogs, barking furiously, followed impetuously. These strange riders reached the banks of the Lynher, and with a terrific leap, the horse and its riders, followed by the hounds, went out far in its waters, disappearing at length in a blaze of fire, which caused the stream to boil for a moment, and then the waters flowed on as tranquilly as ever over the doomed priest.
All this happened in the sight of the assembled peasantry. Dando never more was seen, and his fearful death was received as a warning by many, who gave gifts to the church. One amongst them carved a chair for the bishop, and on it he represented Dando and his dogs, that the memory of his wickedness might be always renewed.
There, in St. German's church, stands to this day the chair, and all who doubt the truth of this tradition may view the story carved in enduring oak. If they please, they can sit in the chair until their faith is so far quickened that they become true believers.
On Sunday mornings early, the dogs of the priest have been often heard as if in eager pursuit of game.
Cheney's hounds and the Wish hounds of Dartmoor are but other versions of the same legend.
When the wild hunt drew nigh, the woman whispered to the soldier, "Ride without me, ride without me, there he comes."
The soldier, however, continued holding her fast by the hair, but she tore herself away and fled, leaving her long tresses in his hand. But the huntsman soon caught her and threw her across his saddle, so that her head and arms hung down on one side, and her legs on the other.
Next morning, when he entered the town, the soldier related his adventure and showed the hair on his arm. The people at first would not believe him, but went and opened the coffin, and there found the body lying without hair.
"God preserve us, here's the Wild Huntsman!" said the sober countryman; but the drunkard laughed and said, "I would fain know what the foul fiend catches," and then in a loud voice cried, "Holla Sir Hunter, pray give me part of your game."
At this the other crossed himself, and they pursued their way home.
On the following morning, when the drunkard's wife would go out to fetch water, she found, on opening the door, the hind quarter of an ox that had died in the village about a month before, and had been thrown on the common laystall, and which stank horribly, and was full of worms and maggots.
When the old peasant at length lay on his deathbed, he had his son called to him, for the purpose of giving him a last Christian exhortation. He came not, but whistling to his dogs, went out into the thicket.
At this the old man was struck with terrific despair, and he cursed his son with the appalling words, "Hunt then forever! Aye forever!" He then turned his head and expired.
From that time the unhappy son has wandered restless about the woods. At night he is frequently heard crying, "Jacko! Jacko! Jacko!" and then the whole neighborhood re-echoes with the noise of the huntsman and the baying of dogs.
Others say that the huntsman was, by his father's malediction, transformed to a bird of prey, and flies about in that form, following and attacking both men and beasts, and constantly crying, "Jacko! Jacko! Jacko!"
In these latter years the old woods about Wynendael have been grubbed up, since which time the huntsman has gone further up.
One night a drunk peasant was returning home from town. His path led him through the woods. There he heard the wild hunt with the huntsman shouting at his noisy dogs high in the air.
A voice called out, "In the middle of the path! In the middle of the path!" But the peasant paid no attention to it.
Suddenly a tall man on a white horse bolted from the clouds and approached him. "How strong are you?" he said. "Let's have a contest. Here is a chain. Take hold of it. Who can pull the hardest?"
Undaunted, the peasant took hold of the heavy chain, and the huntsman remounted. Meanwhile the peasant wrapped his end of the chain around a nearby oak tree, and the huntsman pulled in vain.
"You wrapped your end around the oak tree," said Wod, dismounting.
"No," responded the peasant, quickly undoing the chain. "See, here it is in my hands."
"I'll have you in the clouds!" cried the huntsman and remounted. The peasant quickly wrapped the chain around the oak tree once again, and once again Wod pulled in vain. Up above the dogs barked, the wagons rolled, and the horses neighed. The oak tree creaked at its roots and seemed to twist itself sideways. The peasant was terrified, but the oak tree stood.
"You have pulled well!" said the huntsman. "Many men have become mine. You are the first who has withstood me. I will reward you."
The hunt proceeded noisily, "Halloo! Halloo!" The peasant crept along his way. Then suddenly, from unseen heights, a groaning stag fell before him. Wod appeared and jumped from his white horse. He hurriedly cut up the game.
"The blood is yours," he said to the peasant, "and a hind quarter as well."
"My lord," said the peasant, "your servant has neither a bucket nor a pot."
"Pull off your boot!" cried Wod.
He did it.
"Now take the blood and the meat to your wife and child."
At first his fear lightened the burden, but gradually it became heavier and heavier until he was barely able to carry it. With a crooked back and dripping with sweat he finally reached his hut, and behold, his boot was filled with gold, and the hind quarter was a leather bag filled with silver coins.
One time she stayed in Goslar longer than usual, not leaving until it was already half dark. But she knew every step of the way, so she lifted her pack basket filled with earthenware to her back, and proceeded merrily on her way toward Clausthal. It was slow work going uphill, but at last she reached the summit where the Zipollen field is.
Tired from her heavy load and the long uphill climb, she decided to sit down and take a decent rest. Suddenly she saw a large fire and noticed some people. Thinking they must be charcoal burners or woodcutters, and being very thirsty, she approached them to ask for some water to drink. But as she came closer, she saw to her great fear that it was a giant huntsman and his companions seated around the fire--a terrifying sight.
They were roasting a huge stag on a spit above the fire. But worst of all, some horribly large dogs were running about, and they suddenly chased up to her, jumping at her until she could feel their hot breath, and snapping at her coat as though they wanted to tear her apart. The men just sat there, paying no heed to the terrified woman. Everything was so uncanny, so quiet.
She ran as fast as she could to escape from the beasts' claws. She ran, driven by terror, until she at last collapsed and lay there unconscious beneath her pack basket.
When she finally awoke she saw a man standing over her. He was wearing a green miner's hat and a black jacket, and was carrying a large torch in his hand. He helped her up and asked her what she needed. She tearfully told him what had happened and that because of her running and her fall her earthenware had probably broken to pieces. She was very poor, and all that she owned was invested in this trade, and today in particular, it was all in this pack basket. Now everything was in pieces, and she did not know what she would do.
The juryman, for this is who the woman thought was standing before her, felt sorry for her. He pulled her coat away from her pack basket and looked inside with his torch. He told her that everything was in order. Then wishing her good luck [He uses the expression "Glückauf," a traditional miner's greeting.], he set off in the direction of Goslar.
The woman, filled with sorrow and feeling like she had been beaten, continued on her way to Clausthal. It was after daybreak when she arrived home. She went into her little kitchen, set her pack basket on the table, and fell exhausted onto the bench. But she could not resist looking into the pack basket to see what had happened to her earthenware, to see if anything could be salvaged.
Looking inside, she was startled to see, instead of broken pieces, or pots and jars, nothing but shiny coins. She immediately ran to her landlady, a clever old woman. After hearing the story, she said, "Those beings by the fire were the wild huntsman with his followers and his dogs. The juryman, however, was the Mine-Monk. Consider yourself lucky that you escaped alive."
The woman used the money to buy a small house and a few cows. And from that time forth she never again brought earthenware from Goslar.
If you want to hunt,
You can join the ride!
At the same time someone threw a woman's leg at the worker, a woman's leg wearing a red shoe. The worker quickly retreated into the mill. It is said that the next morning he buried the leg beneath the mill platform.
Outraged by the insolence of the knight, who then and there slew his game, the priest solemnly cursed him. At the same moment the ground opened beneath the hunter's feet, and a pack of hounds from the infernal regions fell upon and tore him to pieces.
Ever since then, on stormy nights, this sabbath-breaker's restless ghost hunts wildly through the air, followed by a spectral train of huntsmen and hell hounds, for he can find no rest, though dead, and is condemned to lead the wild hunt forever.
This legend, which originated in the myth of Odin, leader of the Raging Host, is told with slight variations of many places along the Rhine, where sudden wind storms, rising during the night, are still considered by the credulous peasantry as the passing of a mysterious heavenly host.
One Sunday, while the people were at church, and King Jon was hunting in its neighborhood, his dogs started and followed a hare, which, to conceal itself, ran into the church, and up before the altar. Both the dogs followed at its heels, and of course greatly disturbed divine service, as the priest was just in the middle of his sermon, but the confusion was made still worse, when King Jon came riding into the church to get hold of his prey, which the hounds had already secured.
The priest grew angry at this, and said that he thought it highly unbecoming thus to disturb the service, but the King did not trouble himself for that.
"If I may only keep my hunting both here and after my death," said he, "other folk may well keep both divine service and heaven for me."
Having by this time got hold of the hare, he turned his horse in front of the altar and trotted out of the church.
He died some time after this, but can find rest nowhere, and on clear summer evenings he rides in the air followed by his hounds. The sound of this can often be heard, and it is bad to meet him when one is alone.
They then ran away again, but it was not for nothing that she had been so friendly with them, for when she went outside after daybreak she found a gold horse-shoe lying outside one of the doors.
A man beside Lyngå had gone out early one morning to shift his horses; when he had done this and was about to return home, to his alarm he heard a loud rushing sound in the air. This drew nearer and nearer, and all at once a man on horseback stopped in front of him.
"Hold my hounds," he shouted, and the man obeyed.
There were three of them, fastened together with a silken leash, and the peasant examined them closely until the hunter returned after a few minutes' absence, having two elf-women, tied together by their long hair, hanging over his horse's back.
"Give me my hounds," said he, "and hold out your hand here, till I give you some drink-money."
The man did so, and the hunter stuck the points of his three fingers into the peasant's hand, where they left large burned spots behind them. Then he rode off with the same rushing noise, accompanied by the screams of the elf-women and the barking of the dogs.
The man continued on his way, until he was met by one on horseback, who was no other than Jons the hunter.
"Did no one meet you?" he asked of the man.
"Yes," said he, "there came two little things running as hard as they could."
"What did they say to each other?" asked the horseman.
"They said, 'he won't catch us yet, for he's not clean.'"
He took water in his hand and washed himself, and then said to the man, "If you will lie down now and put your fingers in your ears, I shall pay you well for it when I come back again in a little while."
The man did so, but began to think the time long, and wanted to take his fingers out of his ears. First he took one finger out, and heard some one fire a shot, though at a considerable distance; he thought it might be as far as Hobro. At this he lay down again for a little, but once more he grew tired of lying like this, and so raised himself from the ground and took the other finger from his ear. Again he heard a shot, but this time as far away as the neighborhood of Horsens. At this he made haste to put his fingers into his ears again, and lay down in his old place.
Soon after that the horseman rode up with the two women, tied together by the hair and hung over the horse's back, one on each side, and said to the man, "You shall have good payment, but it should have been better You have taken your fingers out of your ears, and that did me so much damage that I had to ride from Hobro to Horsens to catch the last of them. My horse has lost a shoe on the road there, which you can go and pick up, and that will be payment enough for you."
When the man reached the spot and found it, it proved to be of gold.
In the Skrzynka Woods, which are part of Wyrth Forest in the Stargardt region, there is a high mountain named Buller Mountain. The Wild Huntsman frequents this mountain on St. Bartholomew's Night [August 24]. Many people have experienced how he rides through the woods with a frightful clamor.
One time the head forester of the district was passing through these woods on this night, and he heard the noise. In the belief that he was pursuing some poachers, he followed the sound. Although he exerted himself to the utmost, he was unable to overtake the huntsmen, and he uttered a blasphemous curse. Suddenly there was a frightful commotion above his head. He heard the words "Here is something for you from our hunt!" and a human leg was thrown into his carriage.
If anyone calls back "haho," that evening the wild huntsman will throw the hind quarter of a horse through his window. It gives off a horrible smell, and one cannot get rid of it. However often one throws it away, it always reappears in the same place. But if one cooks it and buries it beneath the roof drain, it will disappear as soon as raindrops fall on it. (Dr. Ruschko from Neubistritz)
Forester Grünwald from Studena tells that he once saw the wild hunt passing over him. Instead of throwing himself to the ground he fired his gun at them. A terrible bang followed, and a large owl fell wounded at his feet. (B. Pick from Studena)
In Schönlinde the wild huntsman is called Banditterch (Berndietrich). He is said to conduct his hunt with wood-dogs [wolves] in Schweinsgründen and in Budersdorf. (A. Stellzig from Schönlinde)
In the Braunau district he is called the forest huntsman. On certain days he rides around in the wooods with four fiery dogs. Four glowing chickens run ahead of him, which are said to be deceased souls from hell. (F. Kahler from Braunau)
In the Riesengebirge Mountains they say that the wild huntsman's followers are Frederick the Great's Prussian soldiers who were killed there. Every year on certain days they are said to rise up and attempt to return through the air to Prussia. However, they cannot find their way out of Bohemia and therefore turn around with horrible shouts. They kill anyone they meet who does not throw himself down with his face to the ground.
It is said that a peasant was returning home from town at midnight when he suddenly heard hunting cries behind him. Turning around he saw an old man who shouted to him to be careful. The peasant threw himself down with his face to the ground, and the procession passed him by without incident.
Another time a tradesman was walking through a forest by night. Suddenly he heard barking dogs and an unusual commotion in the woods. He threw himself down with his face to the ground. Before the procession flew past him he curiously looked up, and from that hour onward he was insane. (O. Hussa)
Return to the table of contents.
Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.
Revised March 27, 2013.