The Dwarfs in Schalk Mountain


Schalk Mountain (Schalksberg), between Ettenbüttel and Wilsche, near Gilde on the Aller River, is only a little mole hill today, but formerly it was a high and narrow mountain in which the dwarf people made their home.

At that time no people lived here yet, and the dwarfs liked that, for they could carry on as they wished either above or below ground, and not be disturbed. They had a good life. For them every day was Sunday, with a holiday in the middle of each week. They ate and drank, played and danced, and at times did metalsmithing as well. Even today people often find the slag from the hard coal that they used in their work.

When the first herder came to this region he found nothing but fields of peas surrounding the mountain, and the most beautiful music sounded from within the mountain without interruption. However, when his sheep approached the pea fields, they jumped about as though someone were secretly pinching them. Moreover, his dog would often begin to yelp, and refused to approach the place again.

However, more and more people came here, establishing villages and conducting business. They often came into contact with the dwarfs, who were sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile, just as it happened. The underground people complained most of all about the humans’ noisy activities, and, on the other hand, the humans complained about the thefts commtted by the underground people.

But still, they often lent one another a helping hand, and whenever the humans did something for the dwarfs, they were rewarded with red gold.

Thus there was once a poor but pious servant girl who was busy cleaning out the house. Just as she about to carry the sweepings outside, she discovered a letter lying in her dustpan. It was addressed to her. Standing her broom against the wall, she read it. In the letter she was summoned to stand in as a godparent for a dwarf child the next day, and was promised that no harm would come to her.

She did not want to do this, but her employers told her that she must not decline, for if she did so, it would not go well for her. Thus she went forth that night, for that was when she was told to come. At twelve o’clock the mountain opened, and now she was just as pleased as she earlier had been afraid, for down there it was magnificent. Everything was made of pure gold, and everyone was friendly and well disposed toward her.

After giving the child a name, they laid it into a golden cradle, and the musicians played until it fell asleep again. Then they had the best things to eat and drink, after which they danced and sang until morning on a large meadow. After they were tired, the girl said that she wanted to return home, but the dwarfs begged and begged until she finally agreed to stay three more days, and all three days were filled with pleasure and joy.

When she finally started out for home, the dwarfs rewarded her most generously and told her that the golden cradle would be saved for her forever. Then they opened the mountain and let her go.

The servant girl went home and took the broom from the wall in order to sweep out the entranceway. But behold, the house had changed completely during the three days. The entranceway was completely different. The cows had a different sound and a different color, and her good old white horse was gone. Some people approached her, but she did not know any of them. They spoke differently and wore different clothing styles. And no one knew anything about her. She told them all about her employers, but no one remembered them. And they all stared at her.

Now in Gilde there lived an old shepherd who himself did not know how old he was, and no one else knew it either. When he heard about the girl, he came over and said that his grandfather had told him that when his father was young, a girl had gone to the dwarfs and had not returned.

That instant the girl turned into an ancient woman, collapsed, and was dead.

Schalk Mountain is now almost completely gone. The dwarfs departed, but they left behind the cradle filled with gold. Many have searched and dug for it, but no one has found it. Someday, however, a swineherd, the servant girl’s last relative, will drive his herd this way, and a sow will root out the cradle, and with part of the gold the herder will have a church built in Ettenbüttel. Its tower will be higher than the Andreas Tower in Braunschweig, in other words, just as high as Schalk Mountain formerly was. He will present the golden cradle to the king, and with the remaining money he will live comfortably until he dies.

  • Source: Carl and Theodor Colshorn, Märchen und Sagen (Hannover: Verlag von Carl Rümpler, 1854), pp. 114-117.
  • Note the close similarity between this tale and The Servant Girl and the Elves, as recorded by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
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