Tales and Legends of the Tyrol | Annotated Tale

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Pious Herdsman, The

ABOUT three miles above Uderns, in the valley of the Ziller, lies the Asten or Voralp, also called the Stuben, upon which a poor spirit used to wander, seeking its redemption.

               The proprietor of the Asten was unable to find any one who would undertake to guard his cattle on the mountain, for every one was afraid of the ghost. At last, a poor brave boy offered himself for this purpose, and was of course gladly accepted.

               One day as he was driving his cows upon the mountain, he saw a tall dark figure wandering about a few steps from the door of his little hut, which is called in the Tyrolian dialect the schlamm. The boy instantly spoke to the apparition, and asked whether he could not do anything to release him from his pain, to which the ghost answered, yes, he could, if during a whole year, without omitting one single day, he would devoutly repeat a rosary, and promise during that time never to swear or do a bad action, and always to say the rosary at the same hour every day.

               The honest son of the Alps conscientiously fulfilled his duty for a very long time, until one day in the summer a pretty little village girl came up the mountain and begged the cowherd to stand godfather to her sister’s child, for they were very poor, and knew no one who would be likely to accept the office but him. The good herd promised directly that he would; and when the day of the baptism arrived, he well fed his cows and then set off down the mountain to Uderns. After the ceremony was over, he had intended to return immediately up the Asten, as it is the custom in the Tyrol to feed the cattle four times a day. But the mother of the child implored him to remain a little longer with them, and so one thing and another prevented him from starting so soon as he had wished. It happened therefore that he remained in the village until evening had set in, for they insisted on serving him with good liqueurs, which to the poor cowherd were a great treat, as it is very seldom one of his position has the chance of tasting such a thing. At last he set off on his return, and as he climbed the mountain he remembered that he had forgotten the hour of his prayers, and was so grieved at this omission, that he cried bitterly, and repeated aloud the neglected rosary as he went along. Then the idea struck him that he would also offer up his baptismal work for the benefit of the poor spirit.

               When he arrived at his hut he proceeded immediately to the stables, thinking to himself, “how hungry the poor cattle must be,” but great was his astonishment when he saw that the best food had been placed before them, and that everything was in the most perfect order; but far greater was his surprise when after he had retired to rest, the poor spirit appeared before him, clad in snow-white garments, and told him that he was now redeemed, and that which had been principally instrumental in his redemption, was the offering which the good cowherd had made of the baptism of the child. After this the spirit disappeared, and has never been seen again. Since this fact became known, it has been, and still is the custom in all parts of the Tyrol for godfathers and godmothers to make an offering of the baptismal rite on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Pious Herdsman, The
Tale Author/Editor: Günther, Comtesse Marie A. von
Book Title: Tales and Legends of the Tyrol
Book Author/Editor: Günther, Comtesse Marie A. von
Publisher: Chapman and Hall
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1874
Country of Origin: Austria
Classification: unclassified

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