THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY
It was the belief, in some parts of Germany, that if a child
that was not thriving were taken to a place named Cyriac's Mead, near Neuhausen, and left lying
there and given to drink out of Cyriac's Well, at the end of nine days it would either die or
The butler and cook of one of the spiritual lords of Germany, without being married,
had a child, which kept crying day and night, and evermore craving for food and yet it never
grew nor throve. It was finally resolved to try on it the effect of Cyriac's Mead, and the mother
set out for that place with the child on her back, whose weight was so great that she hardly
could endure it. As she was toiling along under her burden, she met a travelling student, who
said to her, "My good woman, what sort of a wild creature is that you are carrying? I should
not wonder if it were to crush in your neck." She replied that it was her dear child which
would not grow nor thrive, and that she was taking it to Neuhausen to be rocked. "But,"
said he, "that is not your child; it is the devil. Fling it into the stream." But she
refused, and maintained that it was her child, and kissed it. Then said he, "Your child
is at home in the inner bedroom in a new cradle behind the ark. Throw, I tell you, this monster
into the stream." With many tears and, groans the poor woman at length did as he required
and immediately there was heard under the bridge on which they were standing a howling and a
growling as if wolves and bears were in the place. When the woman reached home she found her own
child healthy and lively and laughing in its new cradle.
A Hessian legend tells that as a woman was reaping corn at the Dosenberg, with her
little child lying near her on the ground, a Dwarf-woman (wichtelweib) came and took it and
left her own lying in its stead. When the mother came to look after her dear babe a great ugly
jolterhead was there gaping at her. She cried out and roared Murder! so lustily that the thief
came back with the child. But she did not restore it till the mother had put the changeling to
her breast and given it some ennobling human milk.1
There was, it is said, in Prussian Samland, an inn-keeper whom the underground folk
had done many good turns. It grieved him to see what bad clothes they had, and he desired his wife
to leave new little coats for them. They took the new clothes, but cried out, "Paid off! Paid
off!" and went all away.
Another time they gave great help to a poor smith, and every night they made brand-new
pots, pans, kettles and plates for him. His wife used to leave some milk for them, on which they
fell like wolves, and drained the vessel to the bottom, and then cleaned it and went to their work.
When the smith had grown rich by means of them, his wife made for each of them a pretty little red
coat and cap, and left them in their way. "Paid off! Paid off!" cried they, slipped on
the new clothes, and went away without working the iron that was left for them, and never
There was a being named a Scrat or Schrat, Schretel, Schretlein.2 This name
is used in old German to translate pilosus in the narratives of those who wrote in Latin, and
it seems sometimes to denote a House- sometimes a Wood-spirit. Terms similar to it are to be found
in the cognate languages, and it is perhaps the origin of Old Scratch, a popular English name of
There is, chiefly in Southern Germany, a species of beings that greatly resemble the
Dwarfs. They are called Wichtlein (Little Wights), and are about three quarters of an ell
high. Their appearance is that of old men with long beards. They haunt the mines, and are dressed
like miners, with a white hood to their shirts and leather aprons, and are provided with lanterns,
mallets, and hammers. They amuse themselves with pelting the workmen with small stones, but do them
no injury, except when they are abused and cursed by them.
They show themselves most especially in places where there is an abundance of ore, and
the miners are always glad to see them; they flit about in the pits and shafts, and appear to work
very hard, though they in reality do nothing. Sometimes they seem as if working a vein, at other
times putting the ore into buckets, at other times working at the windlass, but all is mere show.
They frequently call, and when one comes there is no one to be seen.
At Kuttenburg, in Bohemia, the Wichtlein have been seen in great numbers. They announce
the death of a miner by knocking three times, and when any misfortune is about to happen they are
heard digging, pounding, and imitating all other kinds of work. At times they make a noise, as if
they were smiths labouring very hard at the anvil, hence the Bohemians call them Haus-Schmiedlein
In Istria the miners set, every day, in a particular place, a little pot with food in
it for them. They also at certain times in each year buy a little red coat, the size of a small
boy's, and make the Wichtlein a present of it. If they neglect this, the little people grow very
In Southern Germany they believe in a species of beings somewhat like the Dwarfs,
called Wild, Wood, Timber, and Moss-people. These generally live together in society, but they
sometimes appear singly. They are small in stature, yet somewhat larger than the Elf, being the
size of children of three years, grey and old-looking, hairy and clad in moss. The women are of
a more amiable temper than the men, which last live further back in the woods; they wear green
clothes faced with red, and cocked-hats. The women come to the wood-cutters and ask them for
something to eat; they also take it away of themselves out of the pots; but they always make a
return in some way or other, often by giving good advice. Sometimes they help people in their
cooking or washing and haymaking, and they feed the cattle. They are fond of coming where people
are baking, and beg of them to bake for them also a piece of dough the size of half a mill-stone,
and to leave it in a certain place. They sometimes, in return, bring some of their own baking
to the ploughman, which they lay in the furrow or on the plough, and they are greatly offended
if it is rejected. The wood-woman sometimes comes with a broken wheel-barrow, and begs to have
the wheel repaired, and she pays by the chips which turn into gold, or she gives to knitters a
ball of thread which is never ended. A woman who good-naturedly gave her breast to a crying
Wood-child, was rewarded by its mother by a gift of the bark on which it was lying. She broke a
splinter off it and threw it into her faggot, and on reaching home she found it was pure gold.
Their lives are attached, like those of the Hamadryads, to the trees, and if any one causes by
friction the inner bark to loosen a Wood-woman dies.
Their great enemy is the Wild-Huntsman, who driving invisibly through the air
pursues and kills them. A peasant one time hearing the usual baying and cheering in a wood, would
join in the cry. Next morning he found hanging at his stable-door a quarter of a green Moss-woman
as his share of the game. When the woodmen are felling timber they cut three crosses in a spot
of the tree that is to be hewn, and the Moss-women sit in the middle of these and so are safe
from the Wild-Huntsman.4
The following account of the popular belief in the parts of Germany adjacent to
Jutland has been given by a late writer.5
In Friesland the Dwarfs are named Oennereeske, in some of the islands Oennerbänske,
and in Holstein Unnerorske.6 The same stories are told of them as of the Dwarfs and
Fairies elsewhere. They take away, and keep for long periods, girls with whom they have fallen
in love; they steal children and leave changelings in their stead, the remedy against which is to
lay a bible under the child's pillow; they lend and borrow pots, plates, and such like, sometimes
lending money with or even without interest; they aid to build houses and churches; help the
peasant when his cart has stuck in the mire, and will bring him water and pancakes to refresh him
when at work in the fields.
The Dwarf Husband
A poor girl went out one day and as she was passing by a hill
she heard a Dwarf hammering away inside of it, for they are handy smiths, and singing at his work.
She was so pleased with the song, that she could not refrain from wishing aloud that she could sing
like him, and live like him under the round. Scarcely had she expressed the wish when the singing
ceased, and a voice came out of the hill, saying, "Should you like to live with us?"'
"To be sure I should," replied the girl, who probably had no very happy life of it above
ground. Instantly the Dwarf came out of the hill and made a declaration of love, and a proffer of
his hand and a share in his subterranean wealth. She accepted the offer and lived very comfortably
with him, as he proved an excellent little husband.
Inge Of Rantum
The Friesland girls are, however, rather shy of these matches,
and if they have unwarily been drawn into an engagement they try to get out of it if they possibly can.
A girl named Inge of Rantum had some way or other got into an engagement with one of the
Underground people. The wedding-day was actually fixed, and she could only be released from her bond
on one condition--that of being able, before it came, to tell the real name of her lover. All her
efforts to that effect were in vain, the dreaded day was fast approaching and she fell into deep
melancholy. On the morning of her wedding-day she went out and strolled in sorrowful mood through the
fields, saying to herself as she plucked some flowers, "Far happier are these flowers than I."
As she was stooping to gather them, she thought she heard a noise under the ground. She listened and
recognised it as the voice of her lover, who, in the excess of his joy at the arrival of his
wedding-day, was frolicking and singing, "To-day I must bake and boil and roast and broil and
wash and brew; for this is my wedding-day. My bride is the fair Inge of Rantum, and my name is Ekke
Nekkepem. Hurrah! Nobody knows that but myself!" "Aye, but I know it
too!" said Inge softly to herself and she placed her nosegay in her bosom and went home.
Toward evening came the Dwarf to claim his bride. "Many thanks, dear Ekke Nekkepem," said
she, "but if you please I would rather stay where I am." The smiling face of the bridegroom
grew dark as thunder, but he recollected how he had divulged his secret, and saw that the affair was
The Nis of Sutland is called Puk7 in Friesland. Like him he wears a pointed
red cap, with a long grey or green jacket, and slippers on his feet. His usual abode is under the
roof, and he goes in and out either through a broken window, which is never mended, or through some
other aperture left on purpose for him. A bowl of groute must be left on the floor for him every
evening, and he is very angry if there should be no butter in it. When well treated he makes himself
very useful by cleaning up the house, and tending the cattle. He sometimes amuses himself by playing
tricks on the servants, tickling, for example, their noses when they are asleep, or pulling off the
bedclothes. Stories are told of the Puk, similar to some above related of the Juttish Nis.
Ein Mägdlein kam tin Abendglanz,
Wie ich's noch me gefunden.
A maiden came in Evening's glow,
Such as I ne'er have met.
The Wilde Frauen or Wild-women of Germany bear a very strong
resemblance to the Elle-maids of Scandinavia. Like them they are beautiful, have fine flowing hair,
live within hills, and only appear singly or in the society of each other. They partake of the piety
of character we find among the German Dwarfs.
The celebrated Wunderberg, or Underberg, on the great moor near Salzburg, is the chief
haunt of the Wild-women. The Wunderberg is said to be quite hollow, and supplied with stately palaces,
churches, monasteries, gardens, and springs of gold and silver. Its inhabitants, beside the Wild-women,
are little men, who have charge of the treasures it contains, and who at midnight repair to Salzburg
to perform their devotions in the cathedral; giants, who used to come to the church of Grödich and
exhort the people to lead a godly and pious life; and the great emperor Charles V., with golden crown
and sceptre, attended by knights and lords. His grey beard has twice encompassed the table at which
he sits, and when it has the third time grown round it, the end of the world and the appearance of
the Antichrist will take place.8
The following is the only account we have of the Wild-women.
The inhabitants of the village of Grödich and the peasantry of the neighbourhood assert
that frequently, about the year 1753, the Wild-women used to come out of the Wunderberg to the boys
and girls that were keeping the cattle near the hole within Glanegg, and give them bread to eat.
The Wild-women used frequently to come to where the people were reaping. They came down
early in the morning, and in the evening, when the people left off work, they went back into the
Wunderberg without partaking of the supper.
It happened once near this hill, that a little boy was sitting on a horse which his father
had tethered on the headland of the field. Then came the Wild-women out of the hill and wanted to take
away the boy by force. But the father, who was well acquainted with the secrets of this hill, and what
used to occur there, without any dread hasted up to the women and took the boy from them, with these
words': "What makes you presume to come so often out of the hill, and now to take away my child
with you? What do you want to do with him?" The Wild-women answered:
"He will be better with us, and have better care taken of him than at home. We shall
be very fond of the boy, and he will meet with no injury." But the father would not let the boy
out of his hands, and the Wild-women went away weeping bitterly.
One time the Wild-women came out of the Wunderberg, near the place called the Kugelmill,
which is prettily situated on the side of this hill, and took away a boy who was keeping cattle. This
boy, whom every one knew, was seen about a year after by some wood-cutters, in a green dress, and
sitting on a block of this hill. Next day they took his parents with them, intending to search the hill
for him, but they all went about it to no purpose, for the boy never appeared any more.
It frequently has happened that a Wild-woman out of the Wunderberg has gone toward the
village of Anif, which is better than a mile from the hill. She used to make holes and beds for herself
in the ground. She had uncommonly long and beautiful hair, which reached nearly to the soles of her
feet. A peasant belonging to the village often saw this woman going and coming, and he fell deeply in
love with her; especially on account of her beautiful hair. He could not refrain from going up to her;
and he gazed on her with delight; and at last, in his simplicity, he laid himself without any
repugnance, down by her side. The second night the Wild-woman asked him if he had not a wife already?
The peasant however denied his wife, and said he had not.
His wife meanwhile was greatly puzzled to think where it was that her husband went
every evening, and slept every night. She therefore watched him and found him in the field sleeping
near the Wild-woman:--" Oh, God preserve thy beautiful hair!" said she to the Wild-woman;
"what are you doing there?"9 With these words the peasant's wife retired and
left them, and her husband was greatly frightened at it. But the Wild-woman upbraided him with his
false denial, and said to him, "Had your wife manifested hatred and spite against me, you would
now be unfortunate, and would never leave this place; but since your wife was not malicious, love her
from henceforth, and dwell with her faithfully, and never venture more to come here, for it is
written, 'Let every one live faithfully with his wedded wife;' though the force of this commandment
will greatly decrease, and with it all the temporal prosperity of married people. Take this shoefull
of money from me: go home, and look no more about you."
As the fair maiden who originally possessed the famed Oldenburg Horn was probably a
Wild-woman, we will place the story of it here.
The Oldenburg Horn
In the time of count Otto of Oldenburg, who succeeded his
father Ulrich in the year 967, a wonderful transaction occurred. For as he, being a good sportsman,
and one who took great delight in the chase, had set out early one day with his nobles and attendants,
and had hunted in the wood of Bernefeuer, and. the count himself had put up a roe, and followed him
alone from the wood of Bernefeuer to the Osenberg, and with his white horse stood on the top of the
hill, and endeavoured to trace the game, be said to himself for it was an excessively hot day,
"Oh God! if one had now but a cool drink!"
No sooner had the count spoken the word than the Osenberg opened, and out of the cleft
there came a beautiful maiden, fairly adorned and handsomely dressed, and with her beautiful hair
divided on her shoulders, and a garland on her head. And she had a rich silver vessel, that was gilded
and shaped like a hunter's horn, well and ingeniously made, granulated, and fairly ornamented. It
was adorned with various kinds of arms that are now but little known, and with strange unknown
inscriptions and ingenious figures, and it was soldered together and adorned in the same manner as the
old antiques, and it was beautifully and ingeniously wrought. This horn the maiden held in her hand,
and it was full, and she gave it into the hand of the count, and prayed that the count would drink out
of it to refresh himself therewith.
When the count had received and taken this gilded silver horn from the maiden, and had
opened it and looked into it, the drink, or whatever it was that was in it, when he shook it, did
not please him, and he therefore refused to drink for the maiden. Whereupon the maiden said, "My
dear lord, drink of it upon my faith, for it will do you no harm, but will be of advantage;"
adding farther, that if the count would drink out of it, it would go well with him, count Otto, and
his, and also with the whole house of Oldenburg after him, and that the whole country would improve
and flourish. But if the count would place no faith in her, and would not drink of it, then for the
future, in the succeeding family of Oldenburg, there would remain no unity. But when the count gave
no heed to what she said, but, as was not without reason, considered with himself a long time whether
he should drink or not, he held the silver gilded horn in his hand and swung it behind him, and poured
it out, and some of its contents sprinkled the white horse, and where it fell and wetted him the hair
all came off.
When the maiden saw this, she desired to have her horn back again, but the count made
speed down the hill with the horn, which he held in his hand, and when be looked round he observed
that the maiden was gone into the hill again. And when terror seized on the count on account of
this, he laid spurs to his horse, and at full speed hasted to join his attendants, and informed them
of what had befallen him. He moreover showed them the silver gilded horn, and took it with him to
Oldenburg, and the same horn, as it was obtained in so wonderful a manner, was preserved as a costly
jewel by him, and by all the succeeding reigning princes of the house of Oldenburg.10
Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing' ich winder.
Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.
The Kobold11 is exactly the same being as the Danish
Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin.12 He performs the very same services
for the family to whom he attaches himself.
When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition
of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the
milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that
the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the
house as long as there is one of the family alive.
The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is
going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so,
things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.
The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann will give most full and satisfactory information
respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny
it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm
gives us the following abridgement of it. 13
1. Grimm, Dent. Mythol., p. 437.
2. See Grimm, utt sup., p. 447 seq.
3. Deutsche Sagen, from Praetorius., Agricola, and others.
4. Grimm, Deut. Mythol., pp. 451, 881.
5. Kohl, Die Marschen und Inseln der Herzogthűmer Schleswig und Holstein.
6. These terms all signify Underground folk.
7. The Puk is also called Niss-Puk, Huis-Puk, Niske, Niske-Puk, Nise-Bok, Niss-Kuk---all compounds or
corruptions of Nisse and Puk. He is also named from his racketing and noise Pulter-Clsss, i.e.
Nick Knocker, (the German Poltergeist,) Class being the abbreviation of Nicolaus, Niclas.
8. All relating to the Wild-women and the Wunderberg is given by MM. Grimm from the Brixener Volksbuch,
1782. For an account of the various Bergentrückte Helden, see the Deutsche Mythologie, ch.
9. In a similar tradition (Strack, Beschr. von Eilsen, p. 120) the wife cuts off one of her fair long
tresses, and is afterwards most earnestly conjured by her to restore it.
10. Given by Büsching (Volks-sagen Märchen und Legenden. Leipzig, 1820), from Hammelmann's Oldenburg
Chronicle, 1599. Mme. Naubert has, in the second volume of her Volksmärchen, wrought it up into
a tale of 130 pages.
The Oldenburg horn, or what is called such, is now in the King of Denmark's
11. This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave,
which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any
writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see
12. In Hanover the Will-o'the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s.e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his
name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.
13. Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann's work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.