Region of Fribourg

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Tales and Legends

A folk tale accounts for the origins of Lake Schwarzsee.

Lake Schwarzsee: A wonderful cobalt from within the crown of the Fribourg Alps. Sunny meadows, dark woods line its lakeside and the nearby peaks reflect their proud heads in its clear water. Calm and peacefulness everywhere. The noise of the excited world stays outside of this solitariness. The origins of Lake Schwarzsee are passed on in a legend.

Many centuries ago there was no lake in this valley. In its place, a marvellous meadow spread and a river went through. Sumptuous meadows furthermore stretched up the right side of the valley to the mountain peak, which used to be called Geisserich. All mountain estates from the bottom of the hill to the top belonged to Bernhard Riggi. He was the wealthiest man of the area. Nevertheless his big property neither made him proud nor hard-hearted. Bernhard was friendly to everyone and supportive to the needy. Thus he was held in high esteem by the whole population.

In spring, when the foehn swiped the snow from the Alps and dressed the meadows in fresh green, Bernhard Riggi migrated with his cattle to the heights. What a sight it was, when the tunefully chiming cows walked in endless rows through the valley. Bernhard Riggi loved the summers as a simple herdsman up on Riggisalp. He was always doing well. His herd was never affected by a disease. No animal ever fell in an abyss either, since Bernhard had looked around for good guardians; dwarfs they were. They minded the animals at night, they helped milking them, they helped preparing the cheese and the butter. They helped everywhere. As a reward every night the herdsman put them a jar of cream below a fir. At night the little tribe came and slurped the delicious drink. Chamois and roe deer existed in large numbers back then. No one chased them. They were completely tame and trusting, grazed with the cattle and approached without timidity the huts, where they licked the salt from the cracks, which the herdsmen scattered. Like this, men and animals lived together peacefully and nowhere else in the world men seemed as happy as up there.

Apparently no one is totally happy on this earth however. Also Bernhard Riggi had something that caused him grief; it was his son Ubald. He did not follow the wisdom and example of his father. He was proud, grim and reserved. He did not enjoy cattle minding. He had a low opinion of it. Instead he aimed higher. He wanted to be a nobleman. As Bernhard lay dying, he called his son and spoke: "I feel the end approaching. It was a beautiful life. I thank the Lord for it. He blessed my hands with work, he amply gave me goods, he saved me from misfortune and gave me his peace. My belongings and my wealth are all yours now. Please do not admit pride to your heart though, Ubald, and serve God with a humble heart. Be helpful and friendly towards fellow men. Be generous to the poor. Be good also to the dwarfs, since we owe them a lot. Ubald, will you promise me that?" The son vowed it.

Bernhard died and Ubald was his heir. At first, things seemed to go rather well. Only after a few years however he forgot his vow and did his own things. Ubald became a hunter. Armed with bow and arrow he waited close to the salt cracks. Whenever chamois and roe deer approached, they were pierced with an arrow. The wild animals deserted the meadows and withdrew to the peaks, ridges and abysses of the mountains. But the daring hunter found their most concealed hiding places. Everywhere he went, he brought death and doom. On the peak of Kaiseregg the proud ordered a hunting castle to be built. With contempt he looked down on the herdsmen and the little tribe. He left the herdsmanship in the farmhands' hands. He no longer tolerated dwarfs on his estates and he forbade the herdsmen to put cream below the fir. The outraged dwarf tribe considered him ungrateful, left the area forever and settled in another valley, where better men resided. Now no one minded the cattle anymore. The animals fell off rocks and abysses. Diseases and epidemics broke out.

Then Ubald raged, swore at God, mocked the devoutness of his father and cursed dwarfs, herdsmen and herds. Divine judgement is due. On a high summer's afternoon dark clouds formed behind the mountains. In the distance first rumblings could be perceived. They came closer all the time. The wind howled. Now the thunderstorm was brewing over the mountain. It turned all dark. A sequence of lightnings flashed through the clouds. It seemed as if it was raining fire. Thunder crashed in the mountains and the ground shook incessantly. The cattle bellowed in the barns. The herdsmen flew thinking the end of the world had come. Now the clouds broke. Hail pelted down and whole torrents of rain. Dirty and yellow the torrents rolled down to the mountain pasture, where they united themselves to a raging river.

High up in the Kaiseregg castle Ubald stood at the window and looked out on the terrible raging of the elements. Suddenly the floor underneath him swayed. A terrible thunder and racket rumbled at his ear. Then darkness enveloped him. The mountain split and part of it, including the castle and the hunter, slid to the valley sweeping away huts, woods and cattle. The rain was still pouring down. The wild river swelled yet to new extremes. Down in the valley the landslide's masses of mud and rock barred the water's way. It rose continuously and became a deep, dark lake - Lake Schwarzsee.

Once the terrible catastrophe was over, the entire region was a scene of utter devastation. Gradually men were looking to gain land again on this waste. But at the breaking off of Kaiseregg mountain a dragon appeared. His gluttony cost the lives of men and animals. On the River Kalte Sense, in Gutmannshaus (literally good-man's-house), resided a devout hermit called Remigi. The herdsmen hurried to him, told him of their troubles and asked him for help. The devout man came and he exorcized the monster with the sign of the cross. The dragon threw himself in the water from the rocks at the top of the lake and has not been seen ever since. This rock is called to this day Drachenfluh (literally dragon-rock-face).

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