Rübezahl (Part 1)


I am Rübezahl, you know me,
king of gnomes and king of elfin.
Purple mountains are my homeland,
dark green forests, valleys, rivers,
lace-blue skies with larks and thrushes –
here it is, my greatest pleasure
fills my heart with endless love.

I have ventured from my castle,
from within this marbled mountain,
where I see the valley bottom,
where I see a changing landscape –
trees in blossom, gone the fir-wood,
gone the aspen, gone the chestnut.
In their stead an orchard standing,
grassy meadows, fields for plowing,
cows for milking, horses grazing.

Not one soul asked for permission,
simply settled where they wanted,
built their roads and church and hostels,
built their houses, built their buildings
where they’d shelter sheep and cattle,
where they’d raise their worthy offspring.
I must visit them up closer,
scrutinize their ways and methods,
cast my eye upon these creatures,
see the young ones, see the elders,
see the youths and see the maidens.

I am Rübezahl, you know me,
artist in the ways of magic,
wondrous are my works – enchanting!
You will see me next as human
down among the valley farmers
where I’ll work as fieldhand, labor
like themselves from early morning,
feed the livestock, clean the stables,
tend to crops in fields and garden.

Ah, ungrateful was that farmer
even though he gained in profit!
Off I went to be a shepherd
on another farm downriver;
sedulous – his flock I tended,
nary one was lost or taken
by a wolf or raptor eagle,
yet this farmer too, a rascal,
didn’t pay my monthly wages
so I left him with his woolies,
took a job in Judge’s office.
All went well, the evildoers
soon departed from our valley,
but that judge threw me in prison
when I caught him being crooked!

I am Rübezahl, you know me,
artist in the ways of magic,
I escaped past bars and guardsman,
went back into my own castle;
home I went to peace and comfort
and away from human people.

Time would heal my disappointment
and again I ventured outward
down into my emerald copsewood
where a waterfall like silver
dazzles down its argent journey
to a lake – and rests unruffled.
It was there I saw the Princess
and her entourage of maidens…


© 2014 Eric Linden

Image: Wilhelm Stumpf [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Author’s Note

The whole story is very long – 5 legends and more going into folklore.  I’ve tackled the introduction, and will see how far I get along the way.   It’s a pity we have few such folk tales on this continent [North America], but then Europe has a history going back a thousand years and more, while ours is merely in the hundreds.


Merlin, I’m surprised to see this tale (with YOUR magician’s touch) cropping up on this site.  Ruebezahl is the mostly-friendly giant who tallies his turnips, and therefore his name.   Ruebe=turnip –  zahl=counter, or one who tallies turnips.

“In legends, Rübezahl is a capricious giant, gnome, or mountain spirit. With good people he is friendly, teaches medicine and gives presents. If someone derides him, however, his revenge is severe. He sometimes plays the role of a trickster in folk tales.” – Wikipedia Article

Jerry Kemp

This poem cries out to be recited. I can only imagine how your voice would sound, Merlin, especially on the lines, “I am Rübezahl, you know me”. The inflections you would create with that line alone would accentuate, punctuate, and exhilarate the piece. Then the oration of the stories and descriptions of each stanza would further carry the mysterious magic of the piece to full fruition. I guess that’s what makes this poem special — the way you created the “magic” of this character, both in his mythical lore, and in his mystical presence. If you ever find a way to record it, please do, and add it — here.  Hear, hear!

Katherine Michaels