Myths and folk tales of the Harz Mountains

Walpurgis Night and much more

Some regions have their special legends, others have a particular figure like the mountain spirit Rübezahl or Baron Münchhausen, and some places are simply beautiful to look at – the Harz region has them all. Indeed, the Harz mountains are home to many myths and folk tales. Some of these are more ‘earthly’: the old tales associated with the emperors such as Frederick Barbarossa, Henry the Fowler and Henry IV. This bygone age tends to be portrayed as more attractive and romantic than it really was, and some people even long for its return. Moreover, of all the smaller mountain regions in Germany the Harz is most associated with the ‘unearthly’: as a refuge and hotbed of devilish activity and witchery. The Brocken mountain plays a key role here, while almost every location in the Harz has a story to add to this myth.
The third and final realm of legend in the Harz is the subterranean world of the mines and their strange denizens such as the powerful mine spirit, the secretive Venetians and of course the ambivalent dwarves. These main storylines are augmented by a wide range of lively local legends. The tales presented here are just a selection of the treasury of Harz legends.
Walpurgis Night is probably the best-known event, celebrated each year in the last night of April. During this night the witches gather on the Brocken, also known as the Blocksberg. One explanation given in the legends is that the devil invites his witch and warlock servants to the most important witches' coven where he maligns God, his teachings and the angels. Another legend is that the witches drive out the winter and greet the spring. The high point of the spectacle is the dance around the fire. Even today, this tradition is continued in many places in the Harz with a Walpurgis fire and celebration.

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