Weather and Climate Legends
Translated by D. L.
Ashliman. Copyright 1997.
- The Thousand Years of Cold Are
Coming (Italy/Austria, Joh. Adolf Heyl).
- The Eternal Jew on the
Matterhorn (Switzerland, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).
- Aid and Punishment (Switzerland,
Northeast from Welschnofen [in the South Tyrolian Alps] there are woods,
pastures and meadows, but only a few planted fields. According to legend,
the oldest farmyards in that region are on land that was formerly covered
by vineyards. The people at the Hagner farm, for example, claim that the
walled steps of old vineyard terraces can still be seen there.
They say that ages ago there was no snow there, not even frost. Then
suddenly it began to get cold. Frost began to fall, and the Hagner farmer
said, "Children, we must move down into the valley, for the thousand years
of cold are coming." That was the end of wine culture there, and it
became colder and colder.
Now they can scarcely get rye and oats to ripen up there.
- Source: Joh. Adolf Heyl, Volkssagen, Bräuche und Meinungen
aus Tirol (Brixen: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Kath.-polit.
Pressvereins, 1897), p. 354.
- A similar legend about a previous age of warm climate in the high Alps
is found on page 233 of the same collection.
Mount Matter beneath the Matterhorn in Valais is a high glacier from which
the Vispa River flows. According to popular legend, an imposing city
existed there ages ago. The Wandering Jew (as many Swiss call the Eternal
Jew) came there once and said: "When I pass this way a second time there
will be nothing but trees and rocks where you now see houses and streets.
And when my path leads me here a third time, there will be nothing but
snow and ice."
And now nothing can be seen there but snow and ice.
- Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsche Sagen, no. 344.
On the side of Mount Pilatus is a place name the Kastler-Alp, now covered
with stones and rubble, but which once was verdant and fertile. The cause
of the change was as follows:
The land there was formerly occupied by a farmer, a churlish, unfeeling
man, who, though wealthy, let his only sister struggle with the greatest
poverty in the valley beneath. The poor woman at length having fallen
sick, and seeing no other resource, resolved to apply to her hard-hearted
brother for the means of employing a doctor. She sent her daughter to
him; but all the prayers and tears of the poor girl failed to move him,
and he told her he would sooner than give her anything, see the Alp
covered with stones and rubble. She departed, and as she went along, a
dwarf suddenly appeared to her. She would have fled, but he gently
detained her, and telling her he had heard all that had passed, gave her a
parcel of herbs, which he assured her would cure her mother, and a little
cheese, which he said would last them a long time.
On trial, the herbs quickly produced the promised effect; and when they
went to cut the cheese they found the knife would not penetrate it, and no
wonder, for it was pure gold.
There also came a sudden storm on the mountain, and the Kastler-Alp was
reduced to its present condition.
- Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology, Illustrative of the
Romance and Superstition of Various Countries (London: H. G. Bohn,
1850), p. 277. I have slightly revised Keightley's translation.
- Keightley's source: Rudolf Müller, Bilder und Sagen aus der
Schweiz (Glarus, 1842).
Revised May 12, 1997.