Germany’s famous black forests and early society make it the perfect magic pot for campfire stories. Sinister, comical, mysterious and mythical happenings all form the German myths, legends and folklore tales still heard today. Warm your imagination with some of these fantastical favourites.
According to German folklore, atop a steep rock on the Rhine River, there once lived an exquisite nymph named Lorelei. She dressed in white and wore a wreath of stars in her hair. Not only was her physical beauty astounding, but the siren sang a song so haunting and hypnotising that no sailor could resist her aura. Enticed by her song, legend has it that no sailor who tried to reach Lorelei ever returned. Instead they would meet their final fate by crashing against the dangerous rocks. Today, a statue of Lorelei watches over the treacherous stretch of water near Sankt Goarshausen.
This is a set of important instructions told by Jacob Grimm, on how to protect your child from ‘changelings’ in German Mythology. First, place a key next to your baby and this will prevent him from being exchanged. Make sure the new mother is never left alone during the first six weeks after childbirth, as it’s during this time the devil has more power over the innocent. During this same period, mothers should not go to sleep until someone else can watch over the child. Apparently covering the child’s cradle with a pair of men’s pants will also prevent changelings from creeping in. Who knew?
Hold on, if you’re wondering what the heck we mean by changelings, let’s tackle that question with another German myth. Once upon a time, at Hessloch near Odernheim, a servant and the cook of a clergyman were living together as man and wife – but their newborn baby would not grow or gain weight. The mother was told to go to Neuhausen and give her baby water from the Cyriak Spring. It was believed that a visit to this spring would either restore the child back to health, or he would die within nine days. To cut a long story short, on route the infant became heavy and monstrous, and a traveller yelled out that the woman was carrying the devil on her back. The traveller said “Your child is at home in a new cradle behind the chest in the side room. Throw this monster into the brook!” Sobbing, the mother did as she was told, and a great howl bellowed from beneath the bridge, like the howling of wolves and bears. When the mother arrived home, she found her baby healthy and laughing in its new cradle. And that dear readers, is just one way the changeling can strike.
According to the legend, Morbach is the last place a werewolf was killed, around 1988. A single candle burns in the village as a reminder, but also as a warning. One night the candle went out and a wolf-like figure was spotted standing at a US airbase. He stood, staring at the soldiers before returning to the forest. The candle was re-lit, and has never gone out since. According to the townsfolk, if the candle ever goes out the werewolf will return. Yikes!
The Rosstrappe is a craggy hill in the Harz mountain range in Central Germany. At the very top of this treacherous climb, you’ll see hoof shapes imprinted into the rock on the edge of the cliff. The story goes that Princess Brunhilde was fleeing a forced marriage to Bodo The Giant, who chased her to the cliff edge. That’s when her brave white stallion jumped across to reach the other side, while Bodo didn’t quite make it, and plunged to his death.
Once upon a time, in the deepest corners of Southern Bavaria, there reigned a tyrannical king named Watzmann who enjoyed slavery and hunting local peasants. One day after a bloody day of killing, a curse was cast upon him and his family. They were all turned to stone, and it’s said they are still entombed within a range of seven mountains, near the town of Berchtesgaden. The Watzmann Mountain in the Bavarian Alps is the third tallest in Germany.
The well-known and much loved story of The Pied Piper luring rats away from the city with his sweet song has darker origins than the classic tale – a tale that can be traced way back to the Middle Ages. According to legend, in the small town of Hameln in Lower Saxony, masses of children disappeared at the same time without trace. No one knows where they went, but suspicions are with a rat catcher who bewitched the kids away after The Town Mayor refused to pay him for a job.