Schindalm in Stilluptal

Legend from the Stillup Valley

Are you familiar with this spooky story?

"Schindalm in Stillupp"

There is a so-called "Alp" (alpine pastureland used for summer grazing) in the Upper Zillertal Valley, where the snow sometimes doesn't melt until late season, rendering it unusable. But during the summers when the snow makes a timely retreat, this particular "Alp", situated in Stillupp (Stillupgrund), turns into a beautiful, green paradise for grazing cows; many moons ago, however, it was the scene of spiritual fest, celebrated by an alpine dairyman and two herdsmen. Not a Christian festival, but a pagan one, which is why they soon met with their comeuppance.

Legend of the Schindalm in Stilluptal
© Willi Seifert

First of all, they got rather drunk and gorged on food. They then played various games, before finishing up with a really rather strange one.

High-spirited and with a penchant for pagan rituals, the dairyman decided to carve a sculpture that they could make mischief with, which the two herdsmen thought was a great idea. They took the trunk of a stone pine tree, the wood of which is soft and easy to carve, and shaped it into a roughly human form. The dairyman then brought out his best butter and, laughing wildly, smeared it all over the sculpture's mouth. As the sculpture "refused" to eat, the dairyman kicked it around like a ball while everyone watched, laughing hysterically.

The wooden face was picked up again and given yet more butter to eat. When it still refused, the shepherds hurled it back down to the ground again.

The third herdsman began to feel uncomfortable with the whole thing and refused to take part any more; he sat back and played the silent spectator, sometimes laughing at the other two's antics. But after the dairyman and remaining shepherd hit the wooden face a few more times, it suddenly began to open its mouth.

Its eyes glistened wildly and glowed like fire and the sculpture began to devour everything in its path. The dairyman and shepherds were terrified, quickly abandoned their sacrilegious game and ran away in horror.

After night had fallen, the three shepherds lay down together in the "Schlemm" (shared bedroom). They were still uneasy about what had happened and none of them wanted to lie down at the bottom end of the bed. After much hesitation, the herdsman who stopped playing with the sculpture first agreed to do so, and the dairyman who created the sculpture lay at the back.

All was quiet in the hut until midnight, but no one could sleep. Suddenly, a figure entered the room, which they soon recognised as being the sculpture. The figure stretched its hands out towards the three men and shouted: "I'll find the first one, I'll smack the second one, and I'll throw the third one over the roof!" And so it happened; only the innocent herdsman was left unscathed by the spirit. The other two paid dearly for their misdemeanor.

SOURCE: Excerpt from the book "Zaubervolles Zillertal " - (Magical Zillertal - Legends and Facts by Michael Unterwurzacher. Erhältich bei Tyrolia (in German)

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