Sunday, 24 May 2020

stockheimer warte

While researching something else, I chanced upon the identity of the now familiar landmark of my daily excursions (see previously), once part of a network of watch and signal towers though this one has since been obscured by the treeline that allowed authorities and magistrates to communicate with great alacrity even the late Middle Ages, atop a peak with its next link in the transmission line-of-sight being the Lichtenburg (see also). Inaccessible and well-preserved, I half suspected the fifteenth century, five-metre high watchtower to be some sort of folly or artificial ruin meant to lend atmosphere, with only the romantic suggestion of a staircase and like some place for a kept-maiden, but learned it not only was pressed into service but also has some local lore associated with it.
Once upon a time, a woman from the village went up to the summit to gather some blueberries and left her child to nap nearby on the moss-covered flagstones of the tower while she worked. The woman heard a shriek and ran to the base of the tower only to find her precious baby replaced by a monstrous imposter (eine Balg, a changeling). Seeing no choice but to carry on as if it were her own offspring, the woman took it back to the village, where despite wanting for nothing, it grew up (as she feared) crooked and simple but an otherwise upstanding citizen. A second tale relates that of a cobbler’s apprentice who fled his master distraught one evening and climbed into the tower, preferring exposure or starvation to the continued punishment and abuse by his master. The night grew darker and more foreboding, the wind picking up and the whole forest below seeming to surge around the tower, the sound of fleeing animals under the howl of the storm. There was a break in the wind and the tumult of noise was replaced by the raucous and lively sounds of a hunting party on horseback, the procession singing merrily songs of their adventures—which gave the boy comfort and resolve to enjoin society, even if it was a lowly shoemakers apprentice. As the hunting party receded and faded into the distance, the storm resumed, though less threatening than before and the boy drifted off to sleep. The next day, he was found by some lumberjacks who returned him to his workshop where he remained, becoming an expert cobbler himself.