Denn da hielten auch im lande
Noch die guten Zwerglein Hans;
Kleingestalt, doch hochbegabet,
Und so hülfreich liberaus!
For then also in the country
The good Dwarflings still kept house;
Small in form, but highly gifted,
And so kind and generous!
WE now arrive at Switzerland, a country with which are usually associated ideas of sublime and romantic scenery, simple manners, and honest hearts. The character of the Swiss Dwarfs will be found to correspond with these ideas. For, like the face of Nature, these personifications of natural powers seem to become more gentle and mild as they approach the sun and the south.
The Dwarfs, or little Hill- or Earth-men [a] of Switzerland, are described as of a lively, joyous disposition, fond of strolling through the valleys, and viewing and partaking in the labours of agriculture. Kind and generous, they are represented as driving home stray lambs, and leaving brush-wood and berries in the way of poor children. Their principal occupation is keeping cattle--not goats, sheep, or cows, but the chamois, from whose milk they make excellent and well-flavoured cheese. This cheese, when given by the Dwarfs to any one, has the property of growing again when it has been cut or bitten. But should the hungry owner be improvident enough to eat up the whole of it and leave nothing from it to sprout from, he of course has seen the end of his cheese.
The Kobolds are also to be met with in Switzerland. In the Vaudois, they call them Servants, [b] and believe that they live in remote dwellings and lonely shiels. [c] The most celebrated of them in those parts is Jean de la Boliéta, or, as he is called in German, Napf-Hans, i. e. Jack-of-the-Bowl, because it was the custom to lay for him every evening on the roof of the cow-house a bowl of fresh sweet cream, of which he was sure to give a good account. He used to lead the cows to feed in the most dangerous places, and yet none of them ever sustained the slightest injury. He always went along the same steep path on which no one ever saw even a single stone lying, though the whole side of the mountain was strewn as thickly as possible with boulders. It is stifi called Boliéta's Path. [d]
Rationalising theory has been at work with the Swiss Dwarfs also. It is supposed, that the early inhabitants of the Swiss mountains, when driven back by later tribes of immigrants, retired to the high lands and took refuge in the clefts and caverns of the mountains, whence they gradually showed themselves to the new settlers--approached them, assisted them, and were finally, as a species of Genii, raised to the region of the wonderful.
For our knowledge of the Dwarf Mythology of Switzerland, we are chiefly indebted to professor Wyss, of Bern, who has put some of the legends in a poetical dress, and given others in the notes to his Idylls as he styles them.[e] These legends were related by the peasants to Mr. Wyss or his friends, on their excursions through the mountains; and he declares that he has very rarely permitted himself to add to, or subtract from, the peasants' narrative. He adds, that the belief in these beings is strong in the minds of the people, not merely in the mountain districts, but also at the foot of Belp mountain, Belp, Gelterfingen, and other places about Bern. [f]
As a specimen of Mr. Wyss's manner of narrating these legends, we give here a faithful translation of his first Idyll [g]
[a] In Swiss Härdmandle, pl. Härdmändlene.
[b] Wyss, Reise in das Berner Oberland, ii. 412. Servants is the term in the original.
[c] This Scottish word, signifying the summer cabin of the herdsmen on the mountains, exactly expresses the Seunhütten of the Swiss.
[d] Alpenrosen for 1824, ap. Grimm, Introd. to Irish Fairy Legends.
[e] Idyllen, Volkssagen, Legenden, und Erzählungen aus der Schweiz. Von .J. Rud Wyss, Prof. Bern, 1813.
[f] In Bilder und Sagen aus der Schweiz, von Dr. Rudolf. Müller. Glarua, 1842, may be found some legends of the Erdmännlein, but they are nearly all the same as those collected by Mr. Wyss. We give below those in which there is anything peculiar.
[g] The original is in German hexameters.