Rübezahl

Rübezahl - The mountain spirit that had to count turnips

According to legend, a powerful mountain spirit lived in the Giant Mountains and everyone knew him only as Rübezahl. This mountain spirit took great pleasure in playing tricks on people. In doing so, he always helped poor and good-natured people, but chastised anyone who was mean and hard-hearted. This legend tells us how he came to get such an unusual name.

When watching the lovely princess Emma bathing under a waterfall, he fell in love with the girl and carried her off to his subterranean realm. Because he wanted to win her love, he lavished attention on her there. But Emma longed to see the friends she knew. To cheer Emma up, the mountain spirit collected some turnips from the field and laid them in a pretty basket. "These are magic turnips", he told the princess. "With each turnip you can magic up a person whom you would like to have with you." First Emma conjured up her friends and then the whole court. After a few days the magicked-up people became more and more limp and lifeless, as they wilted like turnips. To soothe Emma's anger, Rübezahl promised to collect new turnips from the field in spring.

Over winter Princess devised a plan for how she could return home to her Prince. When new turnips were coming up in spring, she promised to marry Rübezahl if he succeeded in doing the following: "Go out to the field," she said, "and count how many turnips grow there. If you don't succeed, you must let me go." The mountain spirit hurried out to the field and counted the turnips. To be quite sure, he counted them again once more, but arrived at a different result. So he began from the beginning again. In the meantime the imprisoned Princess fled to her Prince on a turnip she had turned into a horse. She mocked the spirit by calling him Rübezahl. The mountain spirit gets very angry even today if you address him with this derisive name, because it means "the one who counts turnips".