Weather and Climate Legends

Translated by D. L. Ashliman. Copyright 1997.
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  1. The Thousand Years of Cold Are Coming (Italy/Austria, Joh. Adolf Heyl).

  2. The Eternal Jew on the Matterhorn (Switzerland, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  3. Aid and Punishment (Switzerland, Rudolf Müller).

The Thousand Years of Cold are Coming


Northeast from Welschnofen [in the South Tyrolian Alps] there are woods, pastures and meadows, but only a few planted fields. According to legend, the oldest farmyards in that region are on land that was formerly covered by vineyards. The people at the Hagner farm, for example, claim that the walled steps of old vineyard terraces can still be seen there.

They say that ages ago there was no snow there, not even frost. Then suddenly it began to get cold. Frost began to fall, and the Hagner farmer said, "Children, we must move down into the valley, for the thousand years of cold are coming." That was the end of wine culture there, and it became colder and colder.

Now they can scarcely get rye and oats to ripen up there.

The Eternal Jew on the Matterhorn


Mount Matter beneath the Matterhorn in Valais is a high glacier from which the Vispa River flows. According to popular legend, an imposing city existed there ages ago. The Wandering Jew (as many Swiss call the Eternal Jew) came there once and said: "When I pass this way a second time there will be nothing but trees and rocks where you now see houses and streets. And when my path leads me here a third time, there will be nothing but snow and ice."

And now nothing can be seen there but snow and ice.

Aid and Punishment


On the side of Mount Pilatus is a place name the Kastler-Alp, now covered with stones and rubble, but which once was verdant and fertile. The cause of the change was as follows:

The land there was formerly occupied by a farmer, a churlish, unfeeling man, who, though wealthy, let his only sister struggle with the greatest poverty in the valley beneath. The poor woman at length having fallen sick, and seeing no other resource, resolved to apply to her hard-hearted brother for the means of employing a doctor. She sent her daughter to him; but all the prayers and tears of the poor girl failed to move him, and he told her he would sooner than give her anything, see the Alp covered with stones and rubble. She departed, and as she went along, a dwarf suddenly appeared to her. She would have fled, but he gently detained her, and telling her he had heard all that had passed, gave her a parcel of herbs, which he assured her would cure her mother, and a little cheese, which he said would last them a long time.

On trial, the herbs quickly produced the promised effect; and when they went to cut the cheese they found the knife would not penetrate it, and no wonder, for it was pure gold.

There also came a sudden storm on the mountain, and the Kastler-Alp was reduced to its present condition.


Revised May 12, 1997.