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. [a]
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 he; especially on account of her beautiful hair. He could not refrain from going up to he; 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?" [b] 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.
[a] 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. xxxii.
[b] 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.